Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen

I didn’t get into the Sex Pistols at the time they came out. They were not as big over here as they were in the UK. I did find them later on. I can’t say I’m a huge fan but I do recognize that the Ramones and Sex Pistols help start the Punk rock movement… and they stirred up the rock music industry when it needed stirring up.

This was originally called “No Future.” The band played it live and recorded a demo version with that title, but changed it when lead singer Johnny Rotten got the idea to mock the British monarchy.

The U.K. Parliament threatened to ban all sales of the single. Despite the controversy, as major retailers like Woolworth refused to sell “God Save The Queen,” the record was selling up to 150,000 copies a day.

“God Save the Queen” peaked at #1 on the NME charts, but only peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Charts right behind Rod Stewart’s  I Don’t Want To Talk About It. Many people have claimed since that 

It was released right before Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee though drummer Paul Cook has said it wasn’t written specifically for the Queen’s Jubilee. He claimed they weren’t aware of it at the time… it wasn’t a contrived effort to go out and shock everyone.

Johnny Rotten: “There are not many songs written over baked beans at the breakfast table that went on to divide a nation and force a change in popular culture.”

“You don’t write ‘God Save The Queen’ because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you’re fed up with them being mistreated.”

From Songfacts

This song is about rebelling against British politics. A lot of young people felt alienated by the stifling rule of the old-fashioned royal monarchy, and the Queen (Queen Elizabeth), was their symbol.

“It was expressing my point of view on the Monarchy in general and on anybody that begs your obligation with no thought,” lead singer John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) told Rolling Stone. “That’s unacceptable to me. You have to earn the right to call on my friendship and my loyalty.”

The British national anthem is called “God Save The Queen.” This mocks it in a big way, which did not go over well with English royalty.

Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren released this to coincide with The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, a celebration commemorating her 25th year on the throne. The Sex Pistols and their fans detested the monarchy and this celebration.

The Queen’s Silver Jubilee took place on June 7, 1977. On that day, The Sex Pistols attempted to play this song from the Thames river, outside of Westminster Palace. It was a typical Malcolm McLaren promotional stunt, as they played up how the band was circumventing a “ban” by playing on the river instead of setting foot on ground. The performance never took place, as they were thwarted by authorities.

God Save The Queen

God save the Queen
The fascist regime,
They made you a moron
A potential H-bomb

God save the Queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
And England’s dreaming

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future
No future
No future for you

God save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our Queen
God saves

God save the Queen
‘Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
All crimes are paid

When there’s no future
How can there be sin
We’re the flowers
In the dustbin
We’re the poison
In your human machine
We’re the future
You’re future

God save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our Queen
God saves

God save the Queen
We mean it man
There is no future
And England’s dreaming

No future no future no future for you
No future no future no future for me
No future no future no future for you
No future no future for me

Rod Stewart – I Don’t Want to Talk About It

Rod Stewart has gone through many phases of his career. He started off as a rocker and his voice was one of the best around in an era of great voices in the late 60s and early 70s. I liked the Faces era and his early solo acoustic-based songs a lot. His Mercury albums are for the most part very good.

This song was on the B side of the UK single of The First Cut Is The Deepest in 1977 and it peaked at #1 in the UK…In America, it wasn’t released until 1979 and it peaked at #46 in the Billboard 100 in 1980. I didn’t’ hear the song until I got the Greatest Hits.

Danny Whitten wrote this song while he was in Crazy Horse.  Danny was a creative force in the group as their rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist. Whitten was battling a heroin addiction at the time and died a year later when on November 18, 1972 he overdosed and died. Crazy Horse released a self-titled album with this song included.

Rod Stewart recorded this song for his 1975 album Atlantic Crossing, which was produced by Tom Dowd.

One interesting note…

The Sex Pistols topped the charts of most major British music publications with “God Save The Queen,” which mocked the monarchy and the celebrations. The Sex Pistols’ song suspiciously stalled at #2 on the official chart, placing behind Rod Stewart’s version of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It.” There were many accusations that the chart was rigged to avoid embarrassment in the week of the jubilee.

From Songfacts

Nils Lofgren, who was also in Crazy Horse, recalls in the book 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: “Danny was a very soulful man and a good man and he was the one who got me in Crazy Horse. I loved his song, ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It,’ and I think it is one of the greatest ballads ever. It has a very haunting lyric and put two lines into the song because Danny was so ill when he recorded it. He could still sing and play but he wasn’t bothered with much else. We said, ‘Danny, we’ve got to do this song, it’s a great song’ and he said, ‘It needs a second verse’ and this went on for months. He never could get it together and then we were in the studio and got in an argument, and he said, ‘Okay, well, one of you write it.’ I left the studio and wrote a couple of lines quickly and I said,’What about these” and he said, ‘Fine, let’s do it’. Danny and I sat opposite each other with acoustic guitars and Ry Cooder was playing slide on his lap and it came out beautifully.”

The Crazy Horse album was an assemblage of top-tier musicians and producers. Along with Danny Whitten and Nils Lofgren, Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina played on it, and it was produced by Nitzsche and Bruce Botnick.

It enjoyed just modest sales, but was adored by critics, including John Mendelsohn, who called this song an “unexaggerably lovely ballad” in his Rolling Stone review.

Whitten never got to perform the song with Crazy Horse, as his addiction pushed him out of the group. He was replaced by George Whitsell, who played on the group’s next album, Loose, released in 1972. Whitten picked up again with Neil Young’s band, but again his addiction led to his dismissal.

However, at the Christmas concerts Stewart gave in London that year, he was taken aback when his fans started singing the chorus to “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” along with him – continuing even when he dropped out to watch them. Because of their obvious enthusiasm for this song, Stewart’s label decided to issue it as his next single. Since so many of Rod’s followers already had Atlantic Crossing, a track from Night On The Town, “The First Cut Is The Deepest,” was included on the flip side and issues as a double-A side disc. The single went to #1 for four weeks in the UK.

In 1988 the duo Everything But The Girl recorded a cover version which bought them their first UK Top 10 hit when it climbed to #3.

They recorded the song at a time when they were frustrated with the lack of success from their first three albums and the constant criticism revolving around their change of sound with every record. Ben Watt of the duo explained to Q in 1996 that covering this song was in response to never being able to please everyone, stating: “When we did ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It,’ we were almost trying to say, ‘F–k you then! We’ll do a cover version, that’s what you really meant.'” Watt angrily continued, “And of course it went to #3, and completely backfired again!”

EBTG vocalist Tracey Thorn echoed Watt’s thoughts in 2012 to The Quietus when asked about the annoyance of the song being added to the beginning of their album Idlewild when it became an unexpected success. Said Thorn: “Obviously the trouble with having a hit with something like a cover of a ballad, you attract a whole new set of listeners. Which is great, but on the other hand they start to pigeonhole you a little bit, and there was a period around that time where for a few years after where we did pick up an audience that began to get older and expect certain things from us.”

Stewart sang this song as a duet in his concert One Night Only! Live at Royal Albert Hall, with Amy Belle. Stewart told the audience, “A week ago this girl was busking the streets of Glasgow,” and he felt that it was his right to bring her into the limelight because “I was discovered busking at a train stop.”

Nils Lofgren recorded a new version of this song for his 2015 solo album UK2015 Face the Music Tour.

 

I Don’t Want To Talk About It

I can tell by your eyes
That you’ve probably been cryin’ forever
And the stars in the sky
Don’t mean nothin’ to you, they’re a mirror

I don’t wanna talk about it
How you broke my heart
If I stay here just a little bit longer
If I stay here, won’t you listen to my heart?
Whoa, heart

If I stand all alone
Will the shadow hide the color of my heart?
Blue for the tears, black for the night’s fear, heart
And the stars don’t mean nothin’ to you, they’re a mirror

I don’t wanna talk about it
How you broke my heart
If I stay here just a little bit longer
If I stay here, won’t you listen to my heart?
Whoa, heart, my heart, whoa, heart

I don’t wanna talk about it
How you broke my heart
If I stay here just a little bit longer
If I stay here, won’t you listen to my heart?
Whoa, heart, my heart, whoa, heart
My heart, whoa, heart, my heart, whoa, heart

The Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK

I was a little too young to get the Sex Pistols when they were together. They did have a huge influence while only releasing one album…Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. I never was a big fan but this song is alright for what it is.

John Lydon talked about the song: “It flowed quite naturally to me. These are just long, long-term motivations that are there and you can’t, can’t, can’t ever underestimate the sheer driving energy poverty will bring you. Being denied everything and access to everything. Government, schools, the lot, tell you that you don’t count. You are scum. Go with flow or else. That’s an incredible driving energy, to be better than their estimation of you.”

From Songfacts

Anarchy is a society without government or law. The Sex Pistols were very anti-establishment (as were many young people in England), but the song isn’t actually advocating anarchy. “I have always thought that anarchy is mind games for the middle class,” frontman John Lydon told Rolling Stone. “It’s a luxury. It can only be afforded in a democratic society, therefore kind of slightly f–king redundant. It also offers no answers and I hope in my songwriting I’m offering some kind of answer to a thing, rather than spitefully wanting to wreck everything for no reason at all, other than it doesn’t suit you.”

This was the Sex Pistols’ first single, and it caused quite a stir in England with its lyrics advocating violence against the government. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols was not released until a year later, partly because of distribution concerns: after hearing “Anarchy In The UK,” some organizations refused to ship the album. >>

Sid Vicious, who died of a drug overdose in 1979 and was the subject of the 1986 film Sid and Nancy, had not yet joined the band. Vicious replaced original bass player Glen Matlock after this was released. Along with the rest of the band, Matlock is a credited writer on the track.

The Sex Pistols were dropped by two record companies before finally releasing the Never Mind The Bollocks album with Virgin Records. Virgin had a hard time promoting this song because no one would let them advertise it. The subsequent record store and radio bans helped generate publicity that was more valuable than what they could have bought.

The manager of The Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, put them together to deliberately cause controversy. He knew the band would stir up trouble and get a lot of media attention in the process. That’s what happens when you have a lead singer named Johnny Rotten singing that he was an “anarchist” and the “Antichrist.”

Recording this song proved rather difficult. The first sessions were produced by Dave Goodman, who was the band’s sound man for concerts. “He had never really produced anybody properly, so he didn’t have enough clout or wherewithal to tell Malcolm McLaren not to be in the studio,” Glen Matlock said in a Songfacts interview. “And Malcolm was like the devil at his ear, going, ‘It’s not exciting enough – it’s got to be faster.’ And it was getting faster and faster, and losing all its groove. 

In the end, we effectively went on strike, and said, ‘No, it’s fine,’ and we got a different guy in, Chris Thomas, who has done some fantastic work over the years. We set up, started playing, and he said, ‘I think we’ve got it now.’

The first part of the song is from take three, and the second part is from take five. We were waiting for Rotten to turn up and do the vocals, and he didn’t rush down because he was like, ‘You’re useless, you can’t play. You’ve been in there for weeks.’ And we said, ‘No. We’ve done it.’ We were right all along – we just needed the right person to realize it. And then Steve loaded up the guitars over the next few days.”

The line, “I use the enemy” is a play on words: “Enemy” is actually “NME,” a British magazine called New Musical Express. The Sex Pistols were famous for manipulating the media, and NME apparently took the bait: they said in their review of this song, “Johnny Rotten sings flat, the song is laughably naïve, and the overall feeling is of a third-rate Who imitation.”

After this was released, the band went on a British talk show where they repeatedly swore at and berated the host, Bill Grundy. This caused a great deal of controversy, which resulted in their record company, EMI, dropping the band and pulling the single.

Here’s an explanation of the alphabet soup in the lyrics:

MPLA: A political group in Angola – the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola.

UDA: The loyalist supporters in Ireland conflict. The UDA (Ulster Defence Association) supported Britain and opposed unification of Ireland.

IRA: The Irish Republican Army, who opposed Britain and were in favor of unification in Ireland.

As a publicity stunt, the band performed this song on the Thames River from a boat called “The Queen Elizabeth” on June 7, 1977. Celebrations were underway for the Silver Jubilee, celebrating the Queen’s 25 years on the throne. Two days later, she was scheduled to ride on the river as part of the ceremonies, so the Sex Pistols decided to make a mockery of it.

The plan was to perform the song as they were floating by the House Of Parliament, but they didn’t get close, as police intercepted the boat. The record company executives who organized the event were arrested when they docked.

The stunt got them plenty of press and boosted their punk rock bona fides. “That came about, oddly enough, just as a giggle because of not getting gigs,” Johnny Rotten explained in Melody Maker. I had in my mind not the slightest knowledge of there being a Jubilee at all. I was quite stunned by it all.”

Mötley Crüe often played this song in concert, and they recorded it for their 1991 compilation Decade of Decadence. While their version is still titled “Anarchy in the U.K.,” Vince Neil sang it as “Anarchy For the USA,” with the lyrics changed to make references to American entities, including the PMRC, an organization that led a crusade to keep albums with explicit lyrics from being sold to minors.

Glen Matlock told Mojo magazine that this is his favorite Sex Pistols’ statement. He explained: “Everything about it is just right. It’s one of those rare moments captured, the vibe, the groove, and the bass ain’t bad! It still sounds outrageous.”

Megadeth did a popular cover of this song that was included on their 1988 album So Far, So Good… So What! and also released as a single. A video was made for this version directed by David Mackie.

Guitarist Steve Jones told Mojo that he thought when the specific moment when he felt the Pistols had clicked was when “Anarchy in the UK” came into the fold. He explained; “We had the riff and Rotten was in the corner writing words and McLaren started grooving on it. It felt like we were onto something then.”

the Sex Pistols re-recorded this song for the video game Guitar Hero 3.

Anarchy in the UK

Right now ha, ha, ha, ha, ha
I am an anti-Christ
I am an anarchist
Don’t know what I want
But I know how to get it
I want to destroy the passerby

‘Cause I want to be anarchy
No dogs body

Anarchy for the U.K.
It’s coming sometime and maybe
I give a wrong time, stop a traffic line
Your future dream has sure been seen through

‘Cause I want to be anarchy
In the city

How many ways to get what you want
I use the best, I use the rest
I use the N.M.E.
I use anarchy

‘Cause I want to be anarchy
Its the only way to be

Is this the MPLA
Or is this the UDA
Or is this the IRA
I thought it was the U.K.
Or just another country
Another council tenancy

I want to be anarchy
And I want to be anarchy
(Oh what a name)
And I want to be an anarchist
(I get pissed, destroy!)