35 Years Ago: God Save the Queen
Sixty years ago this weekend, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the British throne. Thirty-five years ago this weekend, The Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" was the number one single in Great Britain. Well, sort of: the official #1 that week was Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want to Talk About It," but it's been accepted as fact ever since that the Pistols song (officially #2 on the UK singles chart that week) outsold it, despite an airplay ban by the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Despite the song's numerous controversies, it remains probably the Sex Pistols' finest three minutes, and Jamie Reid's notorious artwork is still the defining image of the first wave of British punk.
In one of manager Malcolm McLaren's most inspired publicity stunts, the Pistols hired a boat called the Queen Elizabeth to do a guerilla-style performance of the song on the river Thames during the 1977 Jubilee celebrations. As the video below shows, McLaren's orchestrated outrage worked quite well: he and partner Vivienne Westwood, among others, were arrested when the boat docked, although the Pistols themselves got smuggled out a side door to avoid the constables.
|Sex Pistols Thames Cruise, June 1977|