The contract ceremonially signed by the Sex Pistols in the above photo lasted just one week before the group were thrown off A&M records for bad behaviour. Advance copies of their would-be first single, "God Save the Queen", now sell for a small fortune. They eventually released the single, with its notorious front cover, on Virgin.
"God Save the Queen" was as much an event as a song. Its comprehensive rejection by the mainstream became its selling point, with its crude anti-monarchist message met by a similarly crude rejection as it was allegedly kept off the top spot. On the occasion of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, 6 June, the Sex Pistols played on a boat on the Thames before police boarded the boat and ended the gig.
More anarchy than politics, the song is a perfect reflection of the group: a vitriolic shambles that barely holds itself together. Beneath its "no future" sneer lies an empathy in lines such as "They made you a moron" and "Don't be told what you want/Don't be told what you need".
"God Save the Queen" is more English than the national anthem, just as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" is more American than Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". It is an honest anthem for the unrepresented, and a bullet aimed at the elite. John Lydon later said of it:
You don't write a song like '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 of seeing them mistreated.