Jun 08

THE SEX PISTOLS – “God Save The Queen”

FT + Popular212 comments • 12,938 views

#405.5, 7th June 1977

Did it get to number one? I don’t know. Would it have made any difference either way? It might have accelerated the opprobrium, naturally there would have been questions in the house, a headline or twenty… but in this case a close call was enough. Malcolm McLaren was in a win-win situation, of course: “God Save The Queen” is easily as powerful as a martyr single as it would have been as a chart-topper. Witness the NME’s recent, risible attempt to get it to its “rightful” position – it landed at #42. All crimes are paid, indeed. The Pistols’ failure to hit the top is much more a badge of pride – “they” (whoever “they” were) were worried! – than an injustice to be righted.

A Pistols Number One might have taken us in two directions – both of which happened anyway. It would have underpinned the triumphalism that’s become a characteristic of the long aftermath of punk: an eruption that’s become a touchstone, a definition of the terms in which radical change can and should happen in pop. Those terms, of course, can never be met – the fond endorsement when something tries is as stifling as the harrumphing when something fails.

The establishment and industry responses to punk may have been the same initially: appalled recoil (shared by a vast number of non-punker kids, in fact). But they soon diverged – the music biz didn’t think “this mustn’t happen again”, quite the opposite: “this must and will happen again, and this time we’ll be there”. Similarly the critical and tastemaker response: punk made heroes of its vanguard, gifting some of them long careers. “I will see it coming next time” became a new hero story. And as the post-punk settlement rolled into place, so too came a reinforcement at all levels of the business of the eternal truth about music, whose temporary overthrow was the mid-60s’ great achievement: it’s the crap stuff that sells. Or, in the words of Malcolm, “Of course the real fans aren’t buying it.”

The other direction is more positive: a Pistols number one would also have reinforced the link between punk and pop – a shock and a challenge, yes, but at the same time a novelty, something else to be assimilated into the great gleeful tapestry of pop music. By covering “God Save The Queen” I’m paying lip service to punk’s sense of exceptionalism, but I’m also trying to deny it: this is pop, like anything else. The apparent rejection of punk by the charts was a smokescreen – the renewed attention to the 7” single would reinvigorate the Top 40. And of course it wasn’t just punk – almost all the most interesting music for the next 20 years happens on single, across a bunch of genres just now poking their heads above commercial water, creeping up on us while we fuss about fixes and safety pins and spit. I occasionally think of Popular as a three-act story: this is the end of Act I, the false start of the second great age of singles, which was also the world that shaped me as a listener.

And at the end of all that, is it a great single itself? Oh yes. Someone – Mark or Mike – perceptively noted in the comments box how “punk” was a wild many limbed-thing, internally riven and never any kind of agreed movement: they identified two pertinent wings, the “back to basics”, pop-rejecting end of it and the more millennial, year zero end. “God Save The Queen”’s power is in how well it appeals to both – the rowdy monarch-baiting working as a broad-based “fuck you” to the nobs, before the amazing shift to the more visionary “flowers in your dustbin” material that so excited people like Greil Marcus (and me).

Straddling these is Johnny Rotten, gleeful and vicious. He’s one of those performers whose physicality and voice are completely inseparable – you simply can’t hear the cackles and digs on “Queen” without seeing his bug-eyed goading stare. His performance makes the song explode: his iconic contempt on “we mean it, maaan”, his straight-backed ranting on “there cannot be sin”, and the way half his lines – “we’re the future, your future” – are as much tease and come-on as attack. The other Pistols? The guitarist is fine when not dicking around with glam divebombs, the drummer is doing a good job nudging Johnny from point to point, if there’s a bassist here I’ve never paid him attention. More than the band’s other singles, this is Rotten’s show.

As the record finally detonates, there is a world of difference between “There is no future in England’s dreaming” – so wake up then! – and “There is no future, an’ England’s dreaming” – bye bye. The two hearings are two summaries of punk’s impact. I’ve never checked which Johnny Rotten actually sings: I’m not sure which I want to be real.


  1. 1
    Doctor Casino on 6 Jun 2008 #

    First in!!!!

  2. 2
    Tom on 6 Jun 2008 #

    This isn’t Newsarama you know!

  3. 3
    Doctor Casino on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Wonderful writeup, Tom; I’m sure this straddling of the gap is long-planned and I quite like it. Some stuff worth thinking about here. The idea that punk is and always was pop is very appealing to me, partly because it suggests that pop is and always was punk. The thing that elevates poptimism (in my reading) above camp and contrarianism is the recognition that, just like sweaty basement punk shows with passionately enthusiastic kids clapping their hearts out, great pop singles can stir the spirit, make us scream, and call forth wet cries from the bottom of the heart when you least expect them. The differences between the basement screamers, the Ramones, the “pop-punk” acts of the early 2000s, and ABBA seem smaller than the intersections…

    The only problem for me is that I’ve never much gone for “God Save The Queen.” I kinda can’t remember how it goes in fact. “Anarchy in the UK” was how I got to know them, from occasional “retro” plays on alt-rock radio in the mid-90s. “EMI” and “Holiday In The Sun” are the most fun, and an absolute blast to do at karaoke – bug-eyed R-trilling and all.

  4. 4
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 6 Jun 2008 #

    haha Happy Birthday to me! i’m sure i will have a ton of stuff to say here when i’m less tired and busy but for now — there are dozens of pop-stars i’ve had flings with before and since, and remain enormously fond of, but lydon is my one true and lasting love: he just opened the door to and flooded right in

  5. 5
    Ben on 6 Jun 2008 #

    I tend to agree with your assessment, Tom, that ‘God Save The Queen’ marked the end of the first phase of pop music, the era that began with Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones. From 1977 onwards, the record labels, as you say, sat up and took note that there was a substantial record-buying public that wanted more than just Abba’s candy-pop. The late 70s and 80s were characterised by a vast swathe of chart hits that would be classed as punk, ska or rock (The Clash, The Jam, The Specials, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith etc etc).

    Can I guess that your Popular Act II might end (and Act III begin) with the rise of Britpop, coupled with the Spice Girls, boybands, the technological shift of the early 21st century and the subsequent demotion of the importance of the single as an art form? Maybe ‘Country House’ is the first #1 single of Act III? Or maybe I’m way off the mark here!

  6. 6
    Doctor Casino on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Yes, the Acts thing deserves a little more spelling-out – mainly because I’m interested in the idea of the greater continuity that would connect everything from the 50s through Rod Stewart. I gather that this is as much about record-buying practice as it is about content, which would seem to suggest many smaller chapters (rise of the LP, etc…).

  7. 7
    Tom on 6 Jun 2008 #

    The Acts thing is a conversation-starter more than anything – there is probably a “Prelude” and then you can cut the acts however you like, and there are “Interludes” in my schema too. Ben: it’s not “Country House”, I will say no more as the spoiler bunny has long ears, even if one of them now has a safety pin stuck through it.

    Any dividing line is going to be more than half arbitrary. For instance, you can just as much see the ‘story’ of Popular as a succession of relationships and tensions that drive pop development and push each other out:

    – the relationship between song and performance
    – the relationship between teenager and adult
    – the relationship between single and album
    – the relationship between the charts and outside the charts
    – the relationship between celebrity and interactivity

    etc etc

    The failure of rock discourse tends to be the attempt to apply the models of previous tensions/relationships to the current one.

  8. 8
    lex on 6 Jun 2008 #


    I don’t agree that this song is so special or unique as to be any more unjudgeable than any other song…

  9. 9
    Tom on 6 Jun 2008 #

    It wasn’t an official #1 so it’s not officially on the marking scheme. (I tried putting N/A in the date and # section but that put it at the top of the Populist chronology, which I didn’t want. But X puts it out of the way at the bottom of the marks list, which I’m happy with.)

  10. 10
    Tom on 6 Jun 2008 #

    (X is also a mark too, of course, though IX is probably what I’d have given it)

  11. 11
    vinylscot on 6 Jun 2008 #

    “Q” magazine (I’m pretty sure it was Q) – had a large feature about 10 years ago on the 50 (or maybe 100)intros that changed everything.

    Shuffling past the “Smoke on the Water”s and “Layla”s we came to GSTQ, which, “Q” informed us, heralded the beginning of a new age. Their writer then went on to describe the same “hairs on the back of the neck” sort of stuff which I myself had felt – although I felt it when I first heard “Anarchy in the UK”!!

    I couldn’t believe that such nonsense could be written – and missed by the editors.

    That was when I gave up on “Q” and a lot of the music press – most of these guys didn’t know what they were writing about. They were writing articles because their bosses wanted these articles, not because they had any love, or even any great knowledge, of the music.

    I was/am also in the punk = pop camp. I like a lot of punk music, but I also like a lot of pop music, heavy metal music, hiphop, opera, and many other genres, and I see no reason why I should not continue to do so.

    I loved GSTQ as a pop record, but it didn’t have the same effect on me as “Anarchy” did – “Anarchy” (to me) heralded the arrival of another kind of music to enjoy, a type which had been hinted at by the likes of The Damned, The Ramones and several other Peely-types. GSTQ was just a good example of this new genre, nothing ground-breaking to me; as far as I was concerned the ground had already been broken.

    I don’t know if it sold enough to be #1 – we spoke about this recently on another thread – but I certainly wouldn’t have grudged the Pistols the honour, especially considering the alternative, a rather sterile pair of Rod ballads!

  12. 12
    Tom on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Those sterile Rod ballads of course had 2 or 3 quite legitimate weeks at #1 and are sitting mournful and uncommented upon!

    The difference between Anarchy and GSTQ is surely that the former was a low-30s hit and this one almost (or did) hit the top – that’s why I’d single it out as the punk=pop moment rather than it’s possibly more hair-raising forerunner.

  13. 13
    Tom on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Oh and Lex at #8: go and listen to “Free” by Deniece Williams, which featured a couple entries ago – I think you’d really like it!

  14. 14
    vinylscot on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Tom #12

    I take your point about “Anarchy” being only a low 30s hit, but it wasn’t exactly unknown. Despite the radio ban, everyone got to hear it, and I believe opinions were formed at that time, not six months later.

    I was sixteen at the time, probably the optimal age to be when this was going on. Everyone in my class knew “Anarchy”, and most had made up their minds by then whether they were going to embrace this punk rock thing or not.

    I’ll admit GSTQ was the one that hit the mainstream – the record company didn’t bottle it, as EMI did with “Anarchy”. – but there were other things working in favour of GSTQ. The Bill Grundy incident and the A&M controversy had ensured the public at large were aware of the band well in advance of the single coming out; the jubilee celebrations came along at the perfect time; and the inevitable radio bans duly arrived, all factors creating a “perfect storm” for this record.

    But, at the time, hearing GSTQ wouldn’t have done that much for you. If you were the type of person to be affected by it, you would already have been affected by “Anarchy”.

    It was a better “pop” record than “Anarchy”, but not as good (a pop record) as “Pretty Vacant” by which time the Pistols were really little more than a rather noisy pop band, a fate which (un)fortunately befell so many of the torch-bearers of this “New Wave”.

  15. 15
    admin on 6 Jun 2008 #

    ha – i did worry about the data issue and how the populist index would read. i like how X gets a ‘by score’ section of it’s own at the bottom of the page :-D

  16. 16
    grange85 on 6 Jun 2008 #

    I love the singles from “…Bollocks” but no more or less and certainly no differently than I loved Sweet and Slade and T Rex before them…I didn’t notice the great big sea-change that happened in 76/77 – to me they were just another pop band and maybe they pissed off my parents more than my earlier fascinations but they never really seemed to do anything more than that. I can’t help but wonder at the ridiculousness of the concept that punk was “needed”, that music was in such a woeful state that punk had to come along and sweep away the drudgery of 70s rock. Surely punk was more about chart music than rock music and by my reckoning the charts were not so much better afterwards…although I guess we’ll see about that.

    I guess if anything punk (and metal for me at least) exposed that there was music “out there” that was different from the music I was hearing on the radio so if anything this was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the mainstream and with “the charts”. And was that because of punk or because I was 13 years old?

  17. 17
    rosie on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Well, here we are then. The moment I’ve been dreading. And after it’s gone, we can carry on as we were.

    Because, you see, that’s what it’s all about in the end. It’s become a myth, and because I’ve never submerged myself in the literature and the musical press, I’ve never been to all that many gigs, and I’ve never much frequented discos or other forms of communal contemporary dance, so I haven’t exposed myself to the creation of the myth so all I know is the pop music I’ve experienced, and I’ve done my experiencing through the mainstream radio and the jukeboxes of the sort of pub I used to inhabit (which tended to be the sort that didn’t have jukeboxes anyway.) And what I see in 1977 is not a seismic shift in popular culture. I see an attempt to shock, but that’s nothing new. The Beatles were shocking once; the long-haired, irreverent scouse gits certainly upset my grandparents generation if not my parents (“But Mum, if you think the Beatles are scruffy, look at the Rolling Stones!” and heavens, the Stones were models of decorum compared, say, to The Pretty Things, who are still going after almost fifty years and provide a direct link between Bo Diddley (whose death we mark this week) and the Sex Pistols.) There’s nothing that I see in this that wasn’t in My Generation or All Day And All Of The Night, so any attempt to shock fell flat I’m afraid.

    What do I hear? Something that does very little for me, as it happens, besides setting my teeth on edge. That doesn’t mean I don’t accept that it could and did to a lot for others (I can well imagine the thrill of hearing it in a dark, sweaty basement club – the original Cavern, maybe), but there was certainly no sense that I perceived that there was a universal clasping of hands to brows and saying, my god something amazing is happening. I hear a puerile tantrum, but as somebody else has said there’s nothing out of the ordinary in a pop song being puerile. I don’t hear innovation, nor enligtening insights.

    And in the wider world, we all had an extra bank holiday (although we didn’t because there was no May Day holiday in 1977). The queen is still with us, having outlived Sid Vicious by a long way, as well as he infamous daughter-in-law, object of other alleged conspiracies, whom we haven’t heard of in 1977. Genial Jim Callaghan’s “fascist regime” staggered on for another two years before being replaced by something much worse – was that the seismic shift that the Pistols set off? More likely than it seems, I’d suggest. Did the fascist regime do to John Lydon and co what fascist regimes traditionally do? Ha! worse than that for the nihilists, they were absorbed into the mainstream. They even appeared where the Beatles and Stones had previously, on a revamped Juke Box Jury. (My main memory of that sad and mercifully brief experiment was my eyes popping out when I saw on its panel the louche young man with the floppy cap who peddled noxious substances in the underground coffee bar in the Liverpool students’ union – he was calling himself Nicky Tesco and I’m sure that means more to others than it does to me.)

    The trouble with shock is that whatever impact it may have had impact is necessarily brief. Listening now, I can only wonder what all the fuss was about. Meanwhile there is a new golden age of pop about to dawn on us. The difference for me is that it is no longer “my” music in the way that the pop of ten years earlier was, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate it. Whether it would have happened without the Sex Pistols may be a moot point, but I really think it was going to happen anyway along with the Pistols, because the conditions were right for it.

  18. 18
    DJ Punctum on 6 Jun 2008 #

    (Author’s Note: as I am being an especially busy sod today I have to ‘phone this comment in, adapted especially from my forthcoming book on the relationship between the British acting profession and the pornographic film industry of the seventies, Too Many Gielguds (Not Enough Colin Gordons)…)

    “I mean, it was number one and Woolworth’s wouldn’t even post our name or the name of our record on their fucking board. What the fuck was that all about? Nothing at number one! At number one…a blank space!”
    (John Lydon)

    And a lie of all sorts was exposed, finally and in a raw, distressed and distempered state. That blank space at number one was as shatteringly significant as the “Blank” in Richard Hell’s “Blank Generation”; you fill in the void, you fucking decide.

    “Don’t be told what you want and-ah don’t be told what you need!”

    No hindsight was needed in 1977 to know that this had to happen; think of all those grindingly deathly chortling ballads and romps leading up to this, all those cynical strips torn off nine months in a tax-free studio because making an album’s a pleasant change from sniffing one’s nose into non-existence…and meanwhile, the world burned, or more pertinently Britain burned


    It was a seethingly dangerous place, Britain in 1977; shut up and absorb your anaesthetic, and just watch what happens if you blink an eye out of synch. Everyone watching the next but one person walking behind them; seep into state-sponsored blandness or watch your blood seep out of the battered black seat of a Black Maria – David Peace’s Black Mass of a thriller Nineteen Seventy-Seven catches the sunnily horrible mood with precise sparseness. Consume and shut up…well, what’s the use in recapitulating; you’ve read Bangs on the Clash and he got it so fucking right about the poor fucking Teddy Boys; hustle them into a corner and take every scrap of memory and power away from them so that they’ve no option left but to kick out at the punks, the only stratum of society in a worse state, aesthetically and romantically, than them.

    But maybe I need to recapitulate, because really we’re talking about England here rather than Britain as such; up in Glasgow it was as grim and violent as it had ever been, but for the usual tiresome historical Battle-of-the-fucking-Boyne reasons. Nonetheless, the wider matrix still applied. Britain clinging to the edge of the bankruptcy cliff, having to rely on the coldly rationalist International Monetary Fund to pay for its education and health systems, or whatever parts of them the IMF deemed profitable (or at the very least they wouldn’t lose anything), and yet eager and ready to donate ample funds to marking the twenty-fifth year of the existence of Britain’s most prominent tourist attraction.

    “God save the Queen/’Cos tourists have money!”

    Sometime in the spring of 1978, The Prisoner began a late-night rerun on Scottish TV, which was the first time I had seen it; every episode a breathless warning from McGoohan NOT TO TAKE THEIR SHIT and yet backtrack nine or ten months to every fucking body you saw was thrilled and ecstatic about taking tea and scones in Union Jack tupperware parties in the street, like it was still May 1945 and Germany really didn’t come out in the end richer and happier than us and Vera Lynn was going to ride to somebody’s rescue but certainly not yours or mine

    “There’s no future for you!”

    The absolute bloody shame of it all. On the Saturday afternoon at the beginning of Silver Jubilee Week there was a parade of sorts down Uddingston Main Street but I wanted nothing to do with it; detoured into the library for some heavy relief (as I recall, William Empson’s Seven Types Of Ambiguity and Koestler’s Tonight At Noon, if we’re talking disillusioned socialists and apologies to Alastair Gray by the way if he’s reading this). And on the previous Saturday I had gone into Glasgow to buy “God Save The Queen.” I saw the disgusted looks that the 40-year-old assistants in Boots gave to any punters who requested a copy. I saw the sideways sneer from the cunt behind the till at HMV in Union Street when other punters asked for the Pistols; not real music, not like Frankie Miller or the Average White Band. So I had to go to Listen Records up the road in Renfield Street, which not only had a copy placed very proudly right in the centre of their front window, but were actually playing it, very loudly, as I walked in. I paid my 59p and got the thumbs up from the guy behind the counter.

    I couldn’t stop listening to it that whole entire week, and my dad was extremely dubious about its motives, but damn me if I knew instinctively that this was A Moment. I’d got “Anarchy” at the same time as the Damned’s “New Rose,” just before Christmas ’76, and remember feeling deflated and disappointed at the ponderous plod of the former; rather than The Future, this seemed too damned polite, too much like Queen if truth be told (the fact that they recorded it at the same time as Queen were working on A Day At The Races in the next studio just adds to the signifiers), whereas “New Rose” was madly and gloriously all over the fucking place, squirting out like suppressed semen, Dave Vanian’s double-tracked voice rarely in synch with its double, Rat Scabies thrashing his cymbals ceaselessly so that cymbals were all you heard, like Sunny Murray backing Ayler, Nick Lowe’s NOW NOW NOW production, the opening quote from “Leader Of The Pack” which seemed so fucking right and perfect. It was 1976’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll single, and next to it “Anarchy” seemed like A Statement, and wasn’t that what we were supposed to be getting rid of?

    But from the alarm calls of guitars and drums at the beginning, you copped that “God Save The Queen” was the real deal. Musically it’s just about perfect; Steve Jones’ massed guitars blur into a ceaseless conduit of oscillation, so dense and linear that sometimes you forget that there are guitars there. There is a solo, but it’s mixed right down so that it’s just another element of the overall kaleidoscope, and that in itself was a slap in the face of Page and Clapton; this is how important all that shit really is. And Paul Cook’s drumming is crisp and pertinent – note the elation which comes when he accentuates the ride cymbal on the final part of each chorus, right on the beat.

    The genius of “God Save The Queen”’s music is that it is such a confident, self-contained world. It starts precisely as it means to go on, and it finishes with a quick feedback whine and then an abrupt shut-off, but not a cutoff like the end of “Anarchy”; you hear the song finishing, the band putting their instruments down and raising their eyebrow at the listener: “what do you think?” or better still “beat that” or best of all “do better than us.” It is inevitably more polished and pristine than the Dave Goodman demo, but it has to be – to have any impact, to make any sense at all, “God Save The Queen” had to be a big and brilliant pop record.

    And then there’s Lydon. Without THAT voice – whatever cynics said at the time, his was the most startling and frightening voice in rock since early Dylan, and maybe the most startling and frightening voice in any arena of music since Cathy Berberian – it would be efficient rock, bloody brilliant rock in fact, but still essentially studium rock. So Lydon has to make it matter by sneering, crying and screaming at the listener, and possibly even himself.

    “God save the Queen/The fascist regime/It made you a morrrrrr-on/Potential ‘H’ bomb.”

    This went hurtling asteroids past “School’s Out” – yes, Lydon might have got the job by miming to “I’m Eighteen” on the jukebox, but you never believed corny old Alice Cooper was really serious about blowing up institutes of education; no, it was a custard pie pose like every other piece of Gerald Ford rock slop he ever slopped out. But this was a total and utterly unambiguous threat.

    “God save the Queen/She ain’t no human being/There is no future/In England’s dreaming.”

    Virgin were talking a quarter of a million advance sales – Virgin, the epitome of everything that punk was intent on destroying, except of course it wasn’t, because Virgin was also the home of Kevin Coyne, and Henry Cow, and eventually Peter Hammill, and all that other avant-garde stuff to which John Lydon had actually been listening (much to the annoyance of Year Zero McLaren). A&M had them for a couple of weeks, then got scared and dropped them, though, as I said previously, Herb Alpert went on to sign Ornette Coleman shortly afterwards, which in itself was pretty punk rock, and some of us still believe that ultimately Dancing In Your Head was the real beginning of punk, apart from Horses, that is, and Rocket To Russia, and Machine Gun, and Christopher Marlowe, and

    But anyway, there was a real chance that this BLASPHEMY OF A RECORD was going to get to number one, after all of those miserable polite chart-toppers, even though radio, except for John Peel, wouldn’t touch it, half the chart return shops wouldn’t stock it, and even Radio Luxembourg banned it from its own chart, and as far as I was concerned that was pretty much the end of the latter for me. Pop protest? Fine if it’s 1965, we’ve sanctioned that now, but in 1977? For real?

    “If the Sex Pistols are to destroy the morals of our society, then the Sex Pistols ought to be destroyed first.”

    “If there’s no future, how can there be sin?”

    And then on Tuesday the single blasted into the chart at number 11 and I did a jig straight into my Latin class. Now I know that these days going into the chart at number 11 means that you’ve sold 11 records, but back in ’77 number 11 was the kind of entry position to which the likes of Abba and David Soul were accustomed. It kept on selling throughout that whole week, was streets ahead of boring old glumster Rod the Nod on sales, and it looked on course to be number one for Jubilee Week, the definitive protest of all those people who looked upon this wretched spectacle and wanted to express their disgust and abhorrence of it in the most democratic way they knew how.

    (N.B.: I’ve left the following two paragraphs as they originally stood, since blood needs fire, sometimes in contravention of admitted rationality)

    And the British Phonographic Industry twisted the truth in the most brutal way they knew how. Come the following Tuesday, “God Save The Queen” was number two, to everyone’s surprise, and on the Tuesday after that had fallen back to number four. The facts of the matter are that, in the week leading up to the Silver Jubilee, “God Save The Queen” and the Rod double A-side were both distributed by CBS, and figures confirm that the Pistols were outselling Stewart by something like four to one. But the BPI coined another ruse. They introduced a special rule which stated that no record shops connected with record labels – i.e. HMV and Virgin, the chain stores where most of the Pistols singles were being sold – were to be discounted from the final chart return figures for the purposes of chart compilation. That rule was revoked the following week, by which time it was, intentionally, too late.

    The NME chart for that week – it still carried a faint tinge authority in 1977 – had “God Save The Queen” at an unequivocal number one. But everything points to the conclusion that The Industry fiddled the charts so that “God Save The Queen” would not be number one in Jubilee Week, would not embarrass Radio 1, would not leave a ghastly silence at the end of that week’s Top Of The Pops – does anyone else recall poor old Neil Innes dragged onto the show to perform his well-meaning non-ironic non-hit “Jubilee”? And the whole point and purpose of the singles chart was thrown into profound question; of course we all knew that there was always some fiddling going on, favours for PR favours, quid pro quo, all the rest of it, that many number one singles had not honestly reached there. But the Pistols, despite having been set up to promote a clothes shop, were in the end, and indeed practically in the beginning, not about The Industry; far more so than the Arctic Monkeys or Lily Allen, they demonstrated that, despite their record being prevented from being heard by the people who most needed to hear it, despite all the attempts by authority and thugs – frequently interchangeable – to silence the Sex Pistols and all who sailed in them by brute force. As Charles Shaar Murray pointed out in his NME review of the single: “If someone tries that hard to stop you from hearing something, you owe it to yourself to find out why.”

    And, despite McLaren’s chortling hindsight-enabled conman routine, the Pistols were real and popular in a way which nobody can really balance now. The Ting Tings? You know that they’ve already been assessed, codified and filed; there are no outraged lorry drivers kicking in their TV screens. They will rise and sustain and fall in a reasonably predictable way. Nothing will really change as a consequence of their existence.

    But with punk and the Pistols, everything changed in ways which permeated right down through several subsequent ages; the free pass for kids to start making music again, the green light for female musicians to have equal status and honest independence, the intertwining with reggae and dub, whose consequences continue to echo through the caverns of contemporary grime and dubstep.

    And of course there’s the philosophy. In an era where writers who try to praise music and musicians in ways and by the use of comparisons which go beyond the cosy Denmark Street world of marketable categorisation are routinely ridiculed and besmirched by failed television presenters masquerading as music critics, the achievement of “God Save The Queen”’s lyric is all the more remarkable. Back then, at thirteen, I was only just getting to grips with notions like Situationism and Anarchy with a Capital A, not to mention Adorno and the CoBrA Group of artists (from which latter movement Jamie Reid’s graphics derived considerably), but Lydon namechecks and summarises them all (“God save your mad parade,” “All crimes are paid,” “We’re the poison in the machine”). You wouldn’t get that now, or if you did…well, it’s in a perilous state; if Lester Bangs were starting out now he wouldn’t get past the reception desk at King’s Reach Tower, all those canting sycophants at Uncut and Mojo bemoaning the loss of the Golden Days of Real Rock Writing, such writing as would never be compatible with their 80-word capsule starred the-customer-is-king review system…

    But there is an escape hatch; the line “We’re the flowers in the dustbin.” In other words, we are the last precious moment, we are your only chance of potential salvation (“We’re the future! YOUR future!”), and so its closest blood brother is “Something In The Air,” which was a gentle clarion call of a scream trying to persuade the stoned of 1969 to get off their backsides and fucking change things. “God Save The Queen” had to be more remorseless by necessity, seizing the listener by the scruff of their complacent neck and trying to shout sense into their stuffed heads of unthinking acceptance. So it stands apart, even tore the meaning of the chart apart, just for a second, opening the curtain and peering through it, revealing what could be done if only we wanted it. Every number one which follows it has difficulty escaping its shadow, for better or worse. It is alone. And it was, and is, number one, in so many infinite and important ways, if only because, by declaring “NO FUTURE,” the Sex Pistols actually gave everybody, me included, a future.

  19. 19
    Billy Smart on 6 Jun 2008 #

    As luck would have it DJ Dale will be “celebrating the music of this week in 1977” on Sunday, so I think that I’ll lay off commenting until I’ve heard both songs in their original context (or at least as close as a bowdlerised Radio 2 version will want to get to their original context…)

  20. 20
    DJ Punctum on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Might be w/e 4th June, though, in which case Dale could get away with passing over it at #11, “No Charge”-style.

  21. 21
    Billy Smart on 6 Jun 2008 #

    Radio 2 website says “Featuring music from The Sex Pistols”! Even people with only a superficial interest in pop history are aware of the significance of this record by this stage, I suppose

  22. 22
    pink champale on 6 Jun 2008 #

    great writeup and some great comments. i was three at the time and so there was never THE MOMENT when i first heard the sex pistols and they changed my life. they were always a background presence (one of my earliest memories is of being in the car with my parents and older brothers and saying something about the six pistols to a perplexing embarrased silence) but by the time i really heard them they were a safely commodified piece of rock history, something that came pre-approved as something important, something that people once found shocking and revolutionary, just as they had the stones and the who and bill hayley. but the thing is, thirty years on, if i listen to GSTQ, or especially if i hear it unexpectedly, it doesn’t sound like a historical fact, it sounds like a real and urgent threat, it sounds like something is happening right now and i’d better watch out. as pete townsed said “it sounds like some one shouting “the germans are coming! and we can’t stop them”.

    no doubt this record has changed my life by changing lots of other people’s lives (not least the people who made the records in the coming golden age of pop), but hearing it now doesn’t feel like i;m in a world shaped by GHSTQ and the changes have already happened, it sounds like year zero is being declared all over again and i’d better do something about it.

    this is glorious pop music but it has a quality which goes outside pop music and feels even now like a shock, like society is being attacked, like i personally am under threat. ‘anarchy in the uk’, ‘bodies’ and ‘holidays in the sun’ also have this, but i can think of pretty much nothing else in any artistic field which does – even other punk records, even the other sex pistols records, are just rock music, GSTQ is something else.

  23. 23
    Waldo on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Okay, I think most people might be done now. Many a catharsis and I posted mine on Rod’s. The only thing I would like to add is that despite the fact that I was indeed outraged by the blatant blocking of GSTQ (I really can’t understand why there is a debate about this at all), it was (and still is) my firm view that punk per se was far more tongue-in-cheek than many people fervently believed. All this talk of “why punk had to happen” produces a bit of a wry smile, I’m afraid, as I never for one moment held it to be a dark force. This appeared to be shared by Peter Cook and his appearances on “The Tube”, where he used to take the piss mercilessly and consolidated this with an equally dismissive swipe at the movement on one of the Derek and Clive albums. Punk was what it was, simply another fad, no different from bubble gum, new romantic, Brit pop and all the rest of it. The most damning thing I can say about punk, perhaps, is that I (who as a mid/late teen caught the eye of the storm totally) actually enjoyed the ride. And I don’t think I was supposed to do that, was I?

  24. 24
    Doctormod on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Rosie #17/Waldo #23–

    Spot on, both of you. Life and ever-increasing age have taught me to be deeply suspicious of mythology, especially self-mythology. I agree with Waldo that “punk per se was far more tongue-in-cheek than many people fervently believed.” Though far away from the epicenter of it all, my observations of the “punks” I’ve known (or taught) in the ensuing years have suggested that a certain factor of self-amusement was somewhere in their motivations and that none of them even remotely believed that they were making any huge contribution as far as changing society and overthrowing the status quo were concerned.

    Personally, my fave Sex Pistols’ song is “L’anarchie dans l’U.K.” (Mais oui! En français!), a cover by the pseudo-Brazilian (actually Australian) cabaret singer Pastel Vespa. (I know, I know–I can hear the roar of disapprobation coming from the “purists,” but it’s hard for me to respect those who suffer from acute irony deficiency syndrome. Obviously, the ironic Ms. Vespa understands the tongue-in-cheek element all too well.)

    I am grateful to John Lydon for one thing: He named his next group after a Muriel Spark novel–even though his explanation for doing so suggests that he missed more than half of Spark’s point.

    And I don’t think I was supposed to do that, was I?

    But you were, Waldo, you were.

  25. 25
    Waldo on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Ha haa!! “L’anarchie dans l’UK” sounds fabulous. I can only wonder what those who sponsor a far more serious crossview of punk would think of this. I wonder if there is a Welsh version too…

    I can remember just before the 1998 World Cup some scurrilous knave producing a “phrase book” for English hooligans. These included: “The referee’s a wanker”, “You’ll never make the station” and, of course, the seminal “You’re going to get your fucking heads kicked in”.


  26. 26
    richard thompson on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Rod Stewart said in Q mag that he wasn’t aware that he had kept the Pistols from no 1 and it was just Lydon who appeared on Juke Box Jury when he was with Public Image, Sid was medically speaking dead by then, Johnny even voted everyting a miss I believe.

  27. 27
    Billy Smart on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Lydon now comes over as being noticeably more human than anybody else on that edition of Juke Box Jury. His performance was memorably described by Paul Morley: “He looked at Noel Edmunds with the same expression with which, eventually, the whole country would look at him”

  28. 28
    Billy Smart on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Re 18. Amazing piece, as always, but was being in England in 1977 really that terrifying, I wonder? For the majority of people? In inner cities and small towns, perhaps. If you were black, or queer, or something of a misfit, yes. I reckon that there may have been more of a sense of threat from strangers than subsequently, but also more of a sense of the reliability of the goodwill of strangers. But then I was only 4 at the time…

    I think that chronologically, though, the economic nadir of the Callahagn government was in 1976 with the IMF crisis, and that the country was experiencing a modest upturn, the jubilee celebrations coinciding with a comparatively optimistic mood. One important thing to remember is that the gap between rich and poor was at its narrowest in 1977, which may be a good indicator of the conditions most needed for a cohesive society.

    If he hasn’t already read it, I think that Marcello would find Andrew O’Hagan’s ‘Personality’, about a Lena Zavaroni type figure in 1977, worth investigating.

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Aha! This actually follows on from a strand of the great ‘No Charge’ heated debate, but now fits in better here…

    I’ve found my copy of the NME for December the 4th 1976. The Kursaal Flyers are on the cover. The two big news stories are “WAKEMAN REJOINS YES” and “FLOYD: 8 CONCERTS”.

    There is no single of the week, Cliff White awarding ‘Anarchy In The UK’ “Conversation piece of the week”. He didn’t like it very much, but saw some merit in it;

    “Admittedly Johnny Rotten sings flat, the song is laughably naive, and the overall feeling is of a third-rate Who imitation, but even so there’s a certain neurotic aggression that distinguishes it from the rest of this week’s insipid bunch”

    That seems like a pretty fair assessment to me. So what were this insipid bunch of competitor records? They include;

    ‘Shake Some Action’ by The Flamin’ Groovies! “Reminiscent of The Searchers and The Hollies” This would certainly have been my single of the week…

    Ringo Starr – Hey Baby

    Dolly Parton – Shattered Image

    Bernard Cribbins – Country Music

    Chris Hill – Bionic Santa

    Lene Lovich – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

    Can – Silent Night

  30. 30
    Billy Smart on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Move forward six months to May the 28th 1977, though and the NME world clearly orbits around the Sex Pistols. In addition to a classic cover, they take up a further 8 pages. There’s even a safety pin running through the masthead!

    This is the issue with CSM’s rave for ‘God Save The Queen’. Other singles reviewed that week include;

    The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

    Nick Lowe – I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass

    Bob Seger – Get Out Of Denver

    Parliament – Tear The Roof Off The Sucker

    The Clash – Remote Control

    The Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks

    The Vibrators – Baby Baby

    The Police – Fall Out

    ELP – Fanfare For The Common Man

    The big news story of the week is “BAD COMPANY: JULY 2 EARLS COURT CONCERT”

  31. 31
    will on 7 Jun 2008 #

    I first heard God Save The Queen sometime during the early 80s. You see, in my case the bans had worked. My tender 7 year old ears were prevented from hearing that nasty Mr Rotten leering about ‘the fascist regime’, though I saw them play Pretty Vacant on TOTP a few weeks later and loved it.

    And now? Well I can’t add much more to what’s already been said, except to say it’s up there on my personal Desert Island list. In cultural terms, it’s quite possibly the most important British pop single of all time.

  32. 32
    DJ Punctum on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Various Billy S xposts:

    Lena and I are looking forward very avidly to imagining the look on Dale’s face when he has to play “GSTQ” tomorrow!

    Indeed I am familiar with O’Hagan’s work of upmarket slasher fan fiction (much better in my opinion than, say, Gordon Burn’s similarly themed Alma Cogan</i), which is in part why I have never published my own marathon dissertation on the tragic Ms Zavaroni (originally it was going to the final entry on my 1974 A-Z Koons project, if you remember that far back) – also in part because that piece goes far too deep on a personal pain basis even by my standards; there’s a limit to the amount of confessionalising any writer can do. Plus I’m happy now and life is different so I don’t really feel the need to publish it, let alone the urge.

  33. 33
    DJ Punctum on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Oh, and that NME “Anarchy” review was written by Cliff White, soulboy to the max, and of course by slagging the record off he was arguably more “punk” than the record was!

  34. 34
    LondonLee on 7 Jun 2008 #

    The hairs on the back of my neck didn’t stand up until ‘Holidays In The Sun’ because my ears were a little behind the curve on punk (Marcello seems awfully precocious for such a wee bairn and I’m two years older). I thought ‘Anarchy’ was a horrible noise and I don’t remember ever hearing GSTQ until a years or two later. The Jam were my entree into punk, being just that little more tuneful, then when I did “get” it I was blown away. Life changed, ELO records in the bin, flares chucked out..all that good stuff.

  35. 35
    lonepilgrim on 8 Jun 2008 #

    Before punk my friends and I prided ourselves on being outside the musical mainstream because we listened to ‘challenging’ music, rather than admitting that we were a bunch of pretentious nerds. When punk came along there was a moment when we could aspire to be both ‘challenging’ and mainstream. I remember feeling outraged that GSTQ was kept off the top spot having rushed out to buy it but in many ways that outrage was more satisfying than if it had been left alone.

  36. 36
    Waldo on 8 Jun 2008 #

    It always struck me peculiar that the Pistols actually harmonise on the chorus of “Anarchy”, which surely flies in the face of the whole concept of the song. The only explanation, it seems to me, is that Lydon was being sneeringly ironic, which I suggest puts money in the bank for the Waldo “Punk was far more tongue-in-cheek…” theory, since irony indicates humour, even though it isn’t quite the same thing.

  37. 37
    Tom on 8 Jun 2008 #

    There’s a lot of comedy stuff on the Great Rock N Roll Swindle, of course (including a Frenchified Anarchy IIRC!)

  38. 38
    Waldo on 8 Jun 2008 #

    Yes, of course you’re right, Tom. “A band that could not play…”

  39. 39
    lonepilgrim on 8 Jun 2008 #

    ..and today I spotted a five year old in the supermarket dressed in a ‘billy is a punk’ t-shirt with the words spelled out in a debased version of Jamie Reid’s blackmail typeface. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

  40. 40
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jun 2008 #

    About Swindle: both Lydon and McLaren were very friendly with Peter Cook and did their damnedest to persuade Cook to write the screenplay but it never quite came off, and indeed Cook even out-punked Lydon one evening when he came round to Cook’s place and was proferred a bowl of Smarties, at the bottom of which was a selection of what I will diplomatically term “Blue Meanies.”

    At the time Cook was also writing a weekly column for the Daily Mail (he didn’t believe a word he wrote in it but said that he just wrote what he thought the Mail people wanted) including one searing, ultra-right wing anti-punk rock tirade which he sat up and co-wrote with McLaren the night before.

  41. 41
    Waldo on 8 Jun 2008 #

    Cooky’s working for the Daily Mail. It’s a steady job but he wants to be a … oh no, wait, we’ve done that one!

  42. 42
    Billy Smart on 8 Jun 2008 #

    So – Dale Winton’s verdict – “You know, given all the fuss at the time, it actually stands up as a good record”

    It might be preferable for the single’s historical reputation if people still were prepared to condemn it as a seditious and despicable racket. Which is a reaction that some people might still have if, say, ‘We Are All Prostitutes’ or ‘Reality Asylum’ came onto mainstream radio.

    Dale is kind of right, though. By this juncture, The Sex Pistols are such a familiar cultural landmark that only people exposed to this music for the first time realise what a weird and bizzare thing Rotten’s voice was, as unique and unprecedented as Mick Jagger or Bryan Ferry.

    A particular delight is how every single line is phrased in an odd way, you can’t anticipate where the emphasis is going to be, drawing and compelling the listener in. The definitive Rotten vocalism is the mirthless cackle, a tone that you can never be certain if its guying you or genuinely unhinged. I think that this uncertainty is best shown in the balance between the “your future” and “no future” lines here.

    People cite these lines so often that you can forget how amazing they are. There’s a burning incisive intelligence combined with an uncertainty about what to do next that evokes both living in a time of decay and also what it feels like to be a teenager. I think that you have to hold both interpretations concurrently in your head to really feel this song. You could say that it was a petulant whine, or a situationist artwork, but its brilliance lies in it being both.

    And doesn’t this recording sound big? Everything is separated out and made to seem hugely exciting. It doesn’t plod or bludgeon, but it rages!


  43. 43
    rosie on 8 Jun 2008 #

    There’s been a long and sometimes honourable tradition of newspapers frothing at the mouth at what they perceived as ‘seditious and despicable’, but I’m not at all sure that most thinking people (ie those who don’t take what they read in the paper as gospel) agreed with them. And I find one of the most fascinating things to have arisen in this thread is that Malcolm McClaren – that supreme self-publicist – collaborated with Peter Cook on a ferociously anti-punk op-ed. Just what was needed to make the escapade perfect! I bet they were laughing as they went into Coutts together!

    And if the ‘fascist regime’ (this is just laughable) really found Mr Lydon such a threat to the system, do they arrest him and send him to Rockall, or Stornoway, or Basingstoke? Does he suddenly disappear from the archive, never to be spoken of again? Is he publicly hanged, drawn and quartered at Speakers’ Corner? Is he shot in the Palace of Westminster rifle range? Perhaps he’s bumped off in a freelance operation by Peter Wright and his chums?. He is not. The best the system can come up with is making him only the second best-selling single of one week in June, 1977. Gee! How humiliating! How it irreparably damaged his reputation!

    Frankly, I don’t give a toss whether it was number one or number two It was thirty-one years ago after all, and the pop charts aren’t exactly of world-shattering importance. Nobody got dead (except Sid and that was self-inflicted stupidity.) I’m human and not, of course, beyond feeling aggrieved about a chart even several years beyond this (I’m wary of marauding lapines but the one I have in mind concerns a place I once visited for one day only for the sole purpose of riding on a ferris wheel)

    I don’t care if there was or wasn’t a conspiracy, any more than I care whether the good Generalissimo scuppered poor Cliff ten tears earlier, but given the amount of heat generated by the issue I’m apt to wonder, like the wannabe barrister I once was, cui bono?. Not Queen Elizabeth, I’m sure of that. She would have been more concerned with the placement of her horses at Epsom. Not genial Jim Callaghan, who had other things on his plate. Not the BBC – they invited Mr Lydon to appear on Juke Box Jury after all, and they had form in handling a banned number one with insouciance. But Mr Lydon, who found fame and notoriety and not a little money (I’ve been trying to ascertain from the song what exactly he wants and knows how to get, and I can’t be sure but I suspect that he’s been quite happy with fame and fortune) has done very nicely, thank you. And Mr McLaren made a killing in bondage gear.

    Anyway, enough rambling. How about a FOIA application to settle the matter once and for all? Or would that run the danger of killing a potent myth stone dead?

    Meanwhile, The Pistol’s philosophy of “I know what I want and I know how to get it” was about to become political hegemony for the next twenty years – some might say longer than that. Was that what they wanted? Doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me. I saw more than a few Johnny Rottens when I was supporting a City dealing room some years after this. “Comes into Liverpool Street” was the scathing put-down of the old guard.

  44. 44
    Chris Brown on 8 Jun 2008 #

    @ Rosie 43: Excellent post, most of which I agree with, but I always thought he was singing “Don’t know what I want”. It’s pretty clear what he did want though.

  45. 45
    Waldo on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Yes, Dale was surprisingly comlimentary about “GSTQ”. I was actually ready for extended claws but no. I think he dealt with “the fuss” with an element of charm: “The Sex Pistols on Radio 2 on a Sunday afternoon! Who would have thought?!” Quite.

    Rosie, I too did the Harry Lime bit back in 1991. Whilst my girle (who’s still my girlie) rode that with me, she wisely chose not to join me on the “Hochbahn”, a truly terrifying experience which I would never repeat even in exchange for a night with Katherine Jenkins.

  46. 46
    Waldo on 9 Jun 2008 #

    “Cui bono?” Bono.

  47. 47
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #


    We were listening, and noted Judge Dale’s qualification: “it actually stands up as quite a good record.” That “quite” says it all.

    We wondered whether the deliberate passing over of most of the decent records in the Jubliee Week Top 20 was a cunning plan on Phil n’ Dale’s part to prove exactly why “GSTQ” was so important; most of what was played was so sterile and static and prematurely senile that it demonstrated exactly how much of an Exocet this record was – it OBLITERATED the previous 45 minutes, made it null and void.

    It could have been a more pleasant listen, of course, if, say, “Got To Give It Up” or “Lido Shuffle” or indeed “OK” had been played but again that’s at best a sidebar to the main thrust – there are good records in any given chart but hindsight tends to distort and the GENERAL feeling at the time was one of a stink of smug deadness which HAD to be cleared.

    As regards what The Man did to Lydon in 1977, as opposed to two or more years later, he was attacked and beaten up on several occasions (incurring amongst other injuries the severing of the tendons in his right hand), as were Paul Cook and many other “lesser lights” for the crime of being punks and not falling into line behind the Royalist diktat (cf. “Change Of Mind,” UNMUTUAL), that is when he was not being arrested/raided for no reason (and also beaten up) by Robert Mark’s wonderful Metropolitan Police which continued into the early eighties and occasioned his quitting of Britain. Were the Pistols brave, resistant, stalwart tongue stickers out? No – they were scared shitless, couldn’t go out anywhere and they ended up in an irrevocable and in one case fatal mess because of it.

    Are those who think that the pop charts aren’t of world shattering importance and can’t be bothered with what happens in them (yet manage to compose lengthy texts to demonstrate how bothered they’re not) really happy here in Popularland? You see, round here we consider pop a matter of life and death, and a whole lot more serious than that as well.

  48. 48
    rosie on 9 Jun 2008 #

    I thought we were discussing pop music, not the charts. With the number ones chosen as representative of their times. I don’t think we’ve ever agreed that the number one was the best or the most influential at the time.

    I can’t help being reminded of Jeffrey Archer, who once claimed that he was the best writer in the country because he sold more books.

    Who is this “we” of whom you speak, Marcello? Is that a Royal ‘we’?

  49. 49
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Pop music is all about the charts: pop music is suffocated by the charts. Pop is quixotic: pop is preplanned. Pop is outrageous: pop is far too safe for the greater good. Pop is a mountain: pop is (this week) a puddle.

    The “we” of which I speak is myself and my wife. Who’s your “we”? Wyndham Lewis?

  50. 50
    Drucius on 9 Jun 2008 #

    To me, it was a matter of great pride that “The Man” was so threatened by GSTQ that “He” had to suppress it. Pride and outrage.

    Yet “Anarchy” is by far the better song, so GSTQ was a slight disappointment to me. I even liked Sheena Is a Punk Rocker more. Possibly because me mum’s called Sheena.

    Oh, and it seems to me that Rosie is indulging in an orgy of point missing.

  51. 51
    Mark G on 9 Jun 2008 #

    “If there’s no future, how can there be sin?”

    I still think “Where there’s no virtue, how can there be sin?” would have been a better line, so go me.

  52. 52
    Tom on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Things can be serious and not-serious at the same time, obviously. Some bands take themselves very seriously and yet remain forever figures of fun – since we don’t kowtow to artistic intentions in those situations, why shouldn’t we take bands *more* seriously than they might have intended too?

    (Of course with the Pistols there are several prominent and different personalities involved all of whom ‘intended’ quite different things and were themselves enormously inconsistent and subject to the pressure of events.)

    Punk *was* important, or at least, as someone who started listening to music after punk, it felt important to me as a huge gravitational force on the attitudes and styles of the people who DID live through it (and who were making the music I grew up listening to). I listened to …Bollocks a few times, liked some of it, didn’t think much of the rest: that’s not the issue. The weight of punk didn’t lie in any specific records.

    As my review hopefully captures, I’m enormously undecided as to the ultimate benefit (or otherwise) of punk: how much it kicked open doors of possibility in pop, how much it’s turned out to be a millstone. I don’t think it makes much sense dismissing it as just a fad, BUT I think it was obviously a fad as well as anything else it was.

    (I like things being two or more things at once: Popular works as a vehicle for people who take pop extremely seriously and for people who don’t, and I like the way it brings these two into collision, which most pop conversation seems structured to avoid.)

  53. 53
    Waldo on 9 Jun 2008 #

    I see Itchy and Scratchy are at it again!

  54. 54
    rosie on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Ah! HMtQ was know to have said round about this time, “We, and by that I mean both of us.” So that’s what you mean by “we”, Marcello – not the mass of Populists! Who are many and varied, and so it should be.

    Aw, Marcello, you know you love me really, and what would you do, and where would you be, without me as your foil? All this desperation for something to be number one – sounds like a cry for acceptance to me, and you’ve told us before about all your peers at Uddingston Grammar School who couldn’t or wouldn’t get “the message.” But so what? You dared to be different and that’s a far more admirable trait than wanting to be the guru chronicler of your generation.

    Drucius, chuck, please explain what point it is I’m missing? Evidently I am a bear of very little brain so please keep long words out of it. The point I take is that yet another generation had seen what none had seen before them, just as those who went out and bought Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues and The Who’s My Generation. But others take other points. There is nothing new under the sun, and there is no absolute truth.

  55. 55
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Far too many easy and mistaken assumptions being made here – did you see the broadcast of Birtwistle’s The Minotaur on BBC2 Saturday night?

  56. 56
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Likewise, when something belongs to everyone it belongs to no one, and hence no one will take care of it.

  57. 57
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    “The Minotaur does not fully comprehend the duality of his physical nature as half-bull, half-man; only in sleep and, ultimately, in death does his human side become evident. Ariadne hopes that, with the help of the Oracle, she will enable Theseus to find a way out of the labyrinth should he survive his encounter with the Minotaur. She believes she can persuade Theseus to take her back with him to Athens. Both see the Minotaur as scapegoat and deliverance.”

    You say “Summertime Blues,” I raise you a Boris Goudonov.

  58. 58
    Alan on 9 Jun 2008 #

    My take on the conspiracy to keep it at 2 is much as Rosie put it with ‘cui bono’. who would bother? on the other hand, the positing of such a conspiracy seems all too much of obvious benefit to the victim – in fact it seems to be a piece with the original intention of the song, and such a conspiracy would be put out by the fans spontaneously regardless of any evidence. ultimately, not bothered if it is or isn’t true, but on the other hand it would be interesting pop history to see real actual evidence of either the origin of an urban myth, or actual chart fact fudging.

    i was 8 that summer, and remember the school’s jubilee celebrations. i was dressed as a union jack. years before morrissey got the idea. this also explains how i became so rac1st

  59. 59
    rosie on 9 Jun 2008 #

    No Marcello, I’d been in Liverpool all day (making a point, amongst other things, of having my lunch sitting on the very bench in The Grapes, Mathew Street, where the Fab Four sat after a sweaty gig at the Cavern and were photographed doing so. Make of that what you will) and didn’t get back until late evening. But I did hear and enjoy The Minotaur on Radio 3 the Saturday before.

    I’ll see your Boris and raise you Figaro.

  60. 60
    Waldo on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Bunny says that was an illegal move, Rosie!

  61. 61
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    It would nice to hear from some people here who WERE and ARE bothered, quite frankly.

  62. 62
    Tom on 9 Jun 2008 #

    We have, the comments thread is full of them.

  63. 63
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    They need to make themselves heard again because this is increasingly reminding me of sitting in class with the sodding Genesis/Supertramp/ELO* fan club.

    *and Rush

  64. 64
    Alan on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Breakfast Lies Down in America (2112). rub-sh more like

  65. 65
    rosie on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Waldo: Whoops – but I’d have thought the bunny would know that Beaumarchais/Mozart was far more subversive than anythiing in the bunny’s remit…

    Marcello: it bothered me a great deal once that The Who never had a number one. Now there was an injustice!

  66. 66
    Tom on 9 Jun 2008 #

    I don’t mean bothered by this not getting to #1 – most people aren’t, me included, though the controversy makes this a worthwhile entry to include. I mean bothered about punk and GSTQ itself – I think only Rosie and Doctor Mod are the real nay-sayers here.

  67. 67
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    If you’re remotely bothered about GSTQ then you have to be bothered by whether or not it was kept off number one in Jubilee week since THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT i.e. it was a PUBLIC GESTURE and NOT a 200 limited edition on Stiff and to me and people like me it was akin to the smug boot being stamped on our faces again and again – and the whole “oh but the Who” thing is the equivalent, really, i.e. WE HAD OUR FUN AND YOU WILL HAVE NONE SHUT THE FUCK UP OUR GENERATION WAS BETTER THAN YOURS KNEEL AND OBEY.

    (and for what it’s worth nobody realised that more acutely than Townshend – see Who By Numbers and Who Are You passim)

  68. 68
    Alan on 9 Jun 2008 #

    i’m glad the window (right age at the time) of people who would care are here FWIW

  69. 69
    Tom on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Yeah but – as lots of people have argued – being MAYBE PREVENTED FROM GETTING TO NUMBER ONE makes it *more* of a public gesture! The legend and the gesture and the record are inseparable – what’s non-bothering is the truth or otherwise of the “kept off” story.

    And the other problem is that you could easily argue that punk has become a more effective, and therefore worse generational hammer than 60s rock ever was: mainstream music discourse, certainly in this country, has never got over it.

  70. 70
    mike on 9 Jun 2008 #

    It would nice to hear from some people here who WERE and ARE bothered, quite frankly.

    Coo-ee, everybody!

    Right then, GSTQ. The absolute honest truth? This was my least favourite of the four Pistols singles. I find it stodgier and less memorable than the others, and rather weighed down by its self-conscious “significance”. “Anarchy” is snottier and brattier; “Pretty Vacant” is more energised and uplifting; “Holidays In The Sun” is sharper and brighter.

    (I also misheard some of the lyrics. “How can there be sin?” sounded like “Gonna be sick”, and I took “Lord God of mercy, all crimes are paid” as “All gala proceeds, all crimes are paid.”)

    As for the message, I took lines like “fascist regime” more as rhetorical flourish than as considered comparative analysis, and was quick to spot the distinction between the Daily Mail’s “How dare the call the Queen a moron!” and the more nuanced actuality of “…made you a moron”, which in turn informed “she ain’t no human being”. In other words, the song attacks the oppressive symbolism of the monarchy, rather than the personal characteristics of the monarch (which would have been a good deal more puerile and dismissible).

    Meanwhile GSTQ was loathed and despised by virtually everyone I knew. At the same time, I was entering the most wretchedly miserable period of my life, in which a combination of external factors and internal crises rendered me barely able to function socially or within my own family. By casting me as the lone weirdo nutter who actually stuck up for this bunch of yobs, my classmates at boarding school had found yet another stick with which to beat me, and I found myself unable to defend myself.

    And so when I remember GSTQ, I remember isolation, victimisation, being a social untouchable and a family scapegoat, and not having one single friend (still less lover) to call my own. For the thick end of the next couple of years, I continued to retreat further and further into myself, with my record collection, the music press and the radio as my only sources of comfort and relief.

    The current issue of Mojo magazine carries four excellent and illuminating long-form interviews with Messrs Lydon, Jones, Matlock and Cook. One observation of Lydon’s particularly struck me. Talking about Never Mind The Bollocks, he says:

    “I’m chuffed to f**k when I know the root of NMTB is the way me and Steve Jones instinctively feel and think about things.[…] Deeply, deeply intellectually primitive. People can sometimes instinctively hit on things. Steve had a tuning fork for life in that way. That’s why he’s great company for me. We row like cats and dogs but biinnnng (makes tuning fork sound), I pick the tone up. It’s f**king lovely.”

    That, to me, explains a lot of the creative tension which went towards making the Pistols so great.

  71. 71
    Waldo on 9 Jun 2008 #

    It’s going to be bloody laughable discussing the next number one after this little lot.

    Rosie – Bun would have not carded you had you said: “I’ll see your Boris and raise you Figaro (as in ‘The Marriage of…’)”

    Marcello – I wish you and I could have done the Prince and Pauper bit (with Waldo naturally the pauper) and gone to each other’s schools for a spell. I don’t really know which one of us would have been killed first.

  72. 72
    mike on 9 Jun 2008 #

    As for the “only getting to Number Two” thing? It didn’t actually bother me one way or the other, although I was almost beside myself with excitement when GSTQ went straight in at #11 the previous week. No other punk single had climbed higher than the mid-30s at absolute best at that stage, so #2 was a very, very big deal indeed.

  73. 73
    mike on 9 Jun 2008 #

    But the BEST moment of ALL of this, as far as I was concerned? The Sunday night chart show on Radio One, in the week that GSTQ hit #2. Tom Browne played the song at #3, then merely announced the song title at #2 before briskly moving onto the countdown.

    Finally, it was Rod Stewart time.

    “And now, at this week’s…” [cues the next jingle in the machine]


    Cue much embarrassed and apologetic spluttering and giggling from Browne, as the ghost in the machine duly grabbed the last laugh…

  74. 74
    rosie on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Waldo: I was going to say something to the effect that the next few number ones will show us just how the world had changed ;)

  75. 75
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    We killed all your gods soon enough, just by different and subtler means.

  76. 76
    rosie on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Marcello, you do look silly with your tongue sticking through that hole in the side of you face…

    My gods? My god!

  77. 77
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Quiet at the back, I’m teaching you some wisdom.

  78. 78
    Dan R on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Given the weightlessness of cultural memory, there’s no way of looking ‘through’ the belief that a single is culturally important to the ‘reality’ of whether it was important. It’s not like believing in gravity or the existence of Camembert. The Sex Pistols are widely considered to be important, therefore they are.

    Who does it benefit? The rather conservative BBC director-general Charles Curran who got a knighthood and the chairman of of the BBC Board of Governors who ended up with a peerage.

    The problem with the cui bono argument is that it’s sceptically endless. Who benefits from that, I ask. Then you turn round and ask who benefits from my asking. And so on and so on, ad infinitum.

    Is it so very implausible that in the flag-waving royalism of that silver jubilee era, the BBC and the chart-counters thought it would just be a little embarrassing to have GSTQ at # 2? This doesn’t make the decision right but it doesn’t involve a great conspiracy to work.

    The claim about the ‘fascist regime’ is surprising. It’s a rhetorical figure, it’s a metaphor. It’s a way of drawing attention to the state of things. I don’t suppose Lydon, if he thought about it in these terms, really subscribed to the belief that Britain was strictly fascist any more than he believed, with David Icke, that the Queen is not in fact a human being. Still, there were elements of fascism in 1970s Britain: internment and a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Island, advanced plans for a right-wing military coup should the Bennites get control of government, and let’s remember that the BBC was still marking with a Christmas Tree the files of employees suspected of far-left sympathies. No, this was not Pinochet’s Chile, but nor was it Olaf Palme’s Sweden.

    What stuns me about this is the vocal performance. It sounds, all at the same time, raging, triumphant, and despairing. Many great singers have character in their voice; how many matched style to function, form to content, as did John Lydon?

    This song comes pretty much at the dawning of my musical consciousness. I was certainly aware of the Silver Jubilee. Our school did a big performance to celebrate it: This Is Your Life – The Queen was the structuring principle and there was a different short performance for every one of those glorious 25 years. Thank you for asking, I was Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Rather interestingly, 1977 was represented by one class pretending to be the sex pistols. I don’t remember much accuracy in their impression; they danced about to Anarchy in the UK (in unison, as I recall). I certainly remember the Sex Pistols river boat trip; we talked of little else for weeks. I didn’t follow the details of the music enough to notice any change or falling off when we got to ‘Somethin’ Else’ and ‘Frigging in the Rigging’. I suppose this music was handed down to our primary school playground by older brothers. Certainly the lyrics to ‘Frigging in the Rigging’ are designed for adolescents. I can testify that by 1979, ‘hippy’ had become a term of frightful opprobrium in the playground of my south london primary school, and at our leaver’s party, at least three boys came with their hair dyed green. Punk cleansed our palates. With due deference to S. Bunny esq., when one of the mightiest behemoths of 1970s prog suprisingly hit the #1 spot, I and my friends, aged 11, would hear it as … kind of punk.

    Punk cast a long shadow over my musical tastes in the 1980s and I’ve sometimes come to resent the narrowness of its musical manifesto, though I’ve also come to realise this was the narrowness of my reading of its musical manifesto, assisted by MacLaren, the dogmatists at the NME, and my own lack of understanding. I rarely listen to The Sex Pistols – they seem beyond music somehow – but I retain a massive affection for The Buzzcocks, a band who sadly will never come close to troubling our attention and concern. The Pistols were perhaps musically a blind alley, even if culturally they opened up whole landscapes. It’s too easy to treat their nihilism as a precursor to Thatcherism; that whole free-market fundamentalism was not nihilistic in itself, it allowed the market to do that for them.

  79. 79
    LondonLee on 9 Jun 2008 #

    I remember the Silver Jubilee because our street party was the first time I ever got drunk – on three pints of lager. Also, Monty Modlyn from the same Today show that gave us Bill Grundy came round with a camera crew and tried to chat up my mum.

    Any-hoo, is it possible to think was a brilliant, earth-shattering record and not care if it got to #1 or not? This might be because I’m long past the age where I care about the charts but #2 isn’t exactly a poke in the eye is it? Maybe if Thatcher had conspired to keep ‘Ghost Town’ or ‘A Town Called Malice’ off the top spot I’d get more worked up – or would have done back then.

  80. 80
    Chris Brown on 9 Jun 2008 #

    To expand slightly upon my previous post (now that it’s not midnight) – a couple of years ago Great Lives covered Joe Strummer, and Matthew Parris went on to detail how he and his fellow Tories were hanging out at Clash gigs, apparently energised by the anti-establishment tone they heard. Clearly that wasn’t the band’s intention but perhaps you should be careful what you wish for! I think what that suggests is that the determined will read into music whatever they want to.

    At the risk of cannibalising other threads, I personally don’t find it impossible to believe that the single could be kept off the top artificially – but I can’t call myself wholeheartedly convinced that it really did happen on this occasion. Either way, cui bono suggests that pretty much everyone is better off the way this did turn out: Rod of course, McLaren, EMI, the media and us because we’ve got something to talk about. And a certain Irishman too, but there’s a bunny here…

  81. 81
    Waldo on 10 Jun 2008 #

    # 78 – “and let’s remember that the BBC was still marking with a Christmas Tree the files of employees suspected of far-left sympathies”.

    UPDATE: The Chrismas Tree’s still standing but now, of course, it marks the files of employees suspected of NOT having far-left sympathies.

  82. 82
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #


    #80 – for an as-it-happened field report, see “Rat Race” by the Specials.

    #81 – Michael Gove must be shaking in his Shakin’ Stevens shoes.

  83. 83
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Top Tory election rally attendee Monty Modlyn, my goodness me.

    Other top Tory election rally attendees to have hit singles in 1977: Lynsey de Paul with Mike Moran and Eurovision runner-up “Rock Bottom,” and Kenny Everett with “Captain Kremmen.”

  84. 84
    Waldo on 10 Jun 2008 #

    # 82 – Gove’s bosses clearly thought he was a New Labour MP, which is an honest mistake to make as he certainly sounds like one. Sounds like Andrew Marr, in fact and we all know about him.

    # 83 – So fucking what?

  85. 85
    mike on 10 Jun 2008 #

    #83 – And another future Tory election rally attendee topped the charts in 1977 – but we haven’t quite got there yet, so I shall say no more.

  86. 86
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    #84 – we’ll have less of that so-called punk shocker talk on this board, lad. And get your hair cut else you’ll be looking like that Amy Winehouse feller off the telly like.

  87. 87
    Drucius on 10 Jun 2008 #

    At my local Bruce’s Records they tippexed out Rod and put GSTQ at number one. Happy days.

  88. 88
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Just out of interest, whereabouts was your local Bruce’s?

  89. 89
    Drucius on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Reform Street, Dundee.

  90. 90
    Waldo on 10 Jun 2008 #

    # 86 – I think Amy Winehouse would have made a splendid punkette. A Nancy Spungen for the modern age. The girl’s got great talent but she’s facing match point on her own serve, I’m afraid.


  91. 91
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Does that score include her recent “Philip Larkin moment”?

  92. 92
    Waldo on 10 Jun 2008 #

    That tennis metaphor just reminded me. Didn’t the fabulous Senor Nadal put Federer to the sword the other day? What a twatting! 6-1, 6-3, 6-0! Sweet Jesus!

    Wait a minute…”Sweet Jesus”??? BUNNY, NO!!!!!!!!!!

  93. 93
    Waldo on 10 Jun 2008 #

    # 91 – Ha-haa! I think it probably did, yes. When she does finally hit that final backhand slice into the net, she’ll be forever referred to as “The Tragic” Amy Winehouse, everyone will love her and sales will skyrocket. Then the obituries will commence:

    “Poor Amy”.

    “Poor sweet Amy”.

    “Poor sweet SWEET Amy”.

    “Amy’s gone…” (Continued on P 94)

  94. 94
    Waldo on 10 Jun 2008 #

    …(which by an amazing coincidence, it has!)

  95. 95
    Billy Smart on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Beat tabloid headline configuration for the troubled singer: ‘TRAGIC DRUG AMY’

  96. 96
    Erithian on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Way off topic here, but yes I got her “Frank” album recently and was struck not only by a fine selection of songs but by just how healthy and, not exactly pretty, but still sexy she looked in the CD booklet. She doesn’t have to go down that road if someone can get a grip on her and the paps can lay off a little. I suppose the latter ain’t gonna happen, but I guess there’s still hope.

    Anyway, on the topic in hand. Re the alleged fix, I clearly recall the way Record Mirror handled the story. In the closest you’d ever get to an apocalyptic headline, it went:
    Friday, noon: Five days’ sales of Sex Pistols single:
    IBA advises “Don’t play single”

    There then followed a variety of quotes from at one side, Tony Blackburn, practically foaming at the mouth; Cliff, comparatively restrained: “I don’t like what punk rockers do, particularly to themselves”; and the line Marcello slightly misquoted upthread, “If pop music is going to be used to destroy our established institutions, then it ought to be destroyed first”. The quote was from the LABOUR MP for Lambeth North, Marcus Lipton. On the other side, in what must have been one of his earliest pop press quotes, was Paul Weller: “God save the Sex Pistols and youth”; plus the Clash and other luminaries.

    One thing’s for sure, if the figure of 150,000 sales in five days is accurate, then something shady must have been going on to keep it below a fourth-week number one at a time when singles sales were not especially booming (certainly not compared to 12 months later).

    I often wonder, though, how many of those involved were really trying to bring down the Establishment and how many were just really enjoying the moment? I recall Sounds’ review of the Pistols’ Jubilee boat trip and the bit that read: “”No Fun” belted out as the police boarded the boat and switched off the PA is one of the great rock’n’roll moments ever, I mean EVER. Think about that.” Certainly a few of those involved could put together cogent arguments about the monarchy and John Lydon’s background is consistent with a dissenting view, but not that many of us were a threat. How many would have enjoyed the record, even the sense of mischief in having an incendiary record like that threatening the national order, and still had a crafty cake at their local Jubilee street party?

    I and many others don’t recall that period as being as bleak as all that, certainly not as bad as ’73. For me, the spring of ’77 was fine weather, I was doing pretty well at school, United had won the Cup (we went to the victory parade and Brian Greenhoff waved at Mum), while for Queenie, apart from having a good time for the Jubilee, she got to see Virginia Wade win Wimbledon and meet Ian Botham after he’d taken 5 Australian wickets for 74 on his Test debut.

    Oh, and Rosie – Nicky Tesco sure beings back memories for me. I saw the Members (of “Sound of the Suburbs” fame) at mine and Billy’s alma mater RHC, and remember being chuffed as hell to be so close to the band that I could literally tell the time by the singer’s watch. Happy days.

    But you’re right, Rosie, about the sometimes unacknowledged influence of the music of the past on punk. Marc Bolan said at the time, “If I were Pete Townshend and saw the Jam I would be amazed.” Bolan was buying heavily into punk at the time, to the extent of touring with the Damned (although whose career that was supposed to benefit is a moot point) and having new wave-ish acts on his ITV show – which was all too soon curtailed.

  97. 97
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    It was the Bowie curse (see also Bing Crosby in the same year).

  98. 98
    LondonLee on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Oops, sorry about my Bunny tempting earlier.

    Want I want to know is, does Marcello have a secret dossier marked with Christmas trees of every celebrity suspected of “Top Tory” political tendencies?

  99. 99
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    Not “suspected” – KNOWN Top Tory celebrities who have expressed their love and admiration of the party. There are quite a few suspicious ones around at the moment but I will not reference them as such unless they come out and openly express their support for Child Catcher Cameron.

  100. 100
    Drucius on 10 Jun 2008 #

    The debt to the past isn’t unacknowledged, the Pistols covered the Stooges, as did The Damned (and the MC5), the Clash toured with Bo Diddley, etc etc. If anything, it was noting the acknowledged influences of punk bands that got me into a zillion other bands and genres.

  101. 101
    DJ Punctum on 10 Jun 2008 #

    We know all this but it was a case of not allowing oneself to be strangled by the past, imprisoned in it.

  102. 102
    Erithian on 10 Jun 2008 #

    We’ve already discussed (in the “No Charge” thread for perfectly valid reasons) the way punk hit Manchester. Last Friday in a Scouse theme night on BBC4 inspired by Alexei Sayle’s series on Liverpool, we saw two episodes of “Rock Family Trees” about the original Merseybeat bands and the “new Merseybeat” scene that thrived mainly around the club “Eric’s” in the post-punk days. The flavour of the latter can best be indicated by the story where Ian McCulloch was in the audience at a punk gig, getting increasingly annoyed at the swaying dancing of a youth in front of him, and nearly started a fight. The youth, name of Julian Cope, replied “let’s not fight, let’s harness our aggression and start a band.” Some great footage, and evidence that Big in Japan’s Jayne Casey, while seeming a scary harridan, was a generous and pleasant woman – at least by the time the programme was made.

  103. 103
    lonepilgrim on 10 Jun 2008 #

    As much as I enjoyed the provocation and the sheer thrill of GSTQ at the time my interest in the Pistols waned after Pretty Vacant.
    There was an article in the NME at the time which reported on their tour of Denmark and described Paul Cook and Steve Jones failing to provoke some local ‘hippies’ and Rotten’s derisive attitude towards their narrow mindedness. His interview on Capital Radio that summer revealed a far broader musical taste than the three chord thrash that has become the cliched version of punk. You can read the interview here: http://www.fodderstompf.com/ARCHIVES/REVIEWS%202/capital77.html

    As Rotten says: Stagnant. I think that’s the fashionable word. You couldn’t go see a rock band without knowing what it was gonna be like before you got there. That’s the trouble with most punk bands, you can predict what their next song is gonna be, and as soon as they start up you can sing along with the words. Without ever hearing it before, which ain’t so funny. That’s a real bad night out, and you do feel cheated, there should be loads of different things.
    When I saw the Stranglers for the second time that year the middle of the road types from school tipped up with safety pins in their lapels and did the obligatory pogoing down the front. It all became very predictable very quickly.
    What was more revelatory for me, stuck out in the suburbs, was the introduction to reggae, and dub in particular, through punk.

  104. 104
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jun 2008 #

    Admittedly, the Pistols’ interest in the Pistols also waned somewhat after “Pretty Vacant.”

  105. 105
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jun 2008 #

    That’s what makes “Holidays In The Sun” so compelling; the palpable feeling of Lydon actually declaring war on the rest of the group – just before the guitar break, he abandons scansion, tempo and structure and it’s bloody but elatingly terrifying (“Please don’t be waiting for me”).

  106. 106
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2008 #

    On reflection, “Holidays in the Sun” would be my favourite Pistols single.

    Not even the BBC banned it! In fact, only Capital Radio did, because it might offend their advertisers.

    Which put to the sword the idea that commercial radio would be the liberating force it had been advertised as being.

  107. 107
    LondonLee on 11 Jun 2008 #

    Didn’t Capital play GSTQ though? I distinctly remember my sister telling me she and her mates were outside the BBC in White City waiting for the Bay City Rollers (or someone) to come out from a TOTP appearance when a Capital Radio bus pulled up outside playing The Pistols very loudly and the DJ shouted “THEY WON’T PLAY THIS! BUT WE WILL!”

  108. 108
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jun 2008 #

    No idea – my local station was Radio Clyde, and the only DJ there who played it was Brian Ford on his unmissable Wednesday evening punk show Street Sounds.

  109. 109
    Erithian on 11 Jun 2008 #

    One of its first plays on the BBC must have been on a curious and entertaining programme on Radio 4, 18 months or so after its release, called “Listen to the Banned”. The programme examined the history of and reasoning behind the banning of certain records, and included short excerpts from GSTQ and Anarchy, plus the likes of “Wet Dream”, “Strange Fruit” (banned during the war to avoid upsetting white GIs!), “Gloomy Sunday” (also banned during the war to avoid inspiring suicides!) and Bing Crosby’s “Young and Healthy” (because “once you claim you can be too old for love, you’re implying it has a physical connotation”!)

    It revealed that there was no such thing as an absolute ban, rather a sticker saying “Not To Be Broadcast Without Permission”, and permission could be hard to obtain. Mind you it did censor itself to an extent: there were still bleeps on Derek and Clive’s “Who are you calling a —-, —-?” sketch.

  110. 110
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2008 #

    I remember seeing that radio prog scheduled, I did wonder what they did about playing the Derek and Clive stuff.

    There was an excellent article about ‘banned’ records in Record Collector a few months ago.

  111. 111
    LondonLee on 11 Jun 2008 #

    When I worked in the record department of WH Smith we got a letter from head office instructing us to remove all copies of Stiff Little Fingers’ “Inflammable Material” from the racks as they’d no longer be selling it. I could sort of understand the stupid political reasons for such action (not that I agreed with it of course) but the letter also told us to do the same with Public Image’s first album. What the hell was that all about?

  112. 112
    Waldo on 11 Jun 2008 #

    # 96 – Marcus Lipton was indeed my MP. He was something to do with the Lipton chain of shops. I’ll always remember the old booby once falling asleep during Prize Day at our school, the drunken old bastard. But in 1977, he was on his last legs and fell off his perch in a matter of months after he made these remarks. He had previously hit the news for slagging off the Rollers, sentiments with which I entirely agreed. I believe he came in to Parliament at the 1945 Labour landslide.

  113. 113
    DJ Punctum on 11 Jun 2008 #

    The track “Religion” I guess.

  114. 114
    LondonLee on 11 Jun 2008 #

    I think that was our guess at the time, been a long time since I’ve heard it.

  115. 115
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2008 #

    Or maybe because it was JRotten’s new album, first one (properly) since “bollocks”…

  116. 116
    LondonLee on 11 Jun 2008 #

    Well we already had it in stock so they were a bit slow on the uptake there. I can imagine the WH Smith Chairman at his club one night and someone reading The Telegraph pipes up with “I see that this Rotten blighter has gotten himself another beat combo, someone ought to put a stop to that.”

  117. 117
    DJ Punctum on 13 Jun 2008 #

    An interesting theory makes itself known at my request (I won’t, as you will appreciate, name the source):

    “In 1977 the charts were being compiled by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB). In order to compile the charts a number of retailers manually filled in diaries, noting the catalogue number (or ticking a box for the bigger sellers) every time they sold a record. On Saturday the diaries were sent to BMRB’s offices in Ealing. From all the diaries received (at the time I believe around 750 were completed) a selection of just 250 were used to compile the charts. All of the sales from those 250 diaries were manually put into a computer. The computer then simply added up the totals and produced a ranking. (This lead to what the industry used to call “panel sales”, and sales data was presented in index-form until the mid-1990s).

    “The easiest way to change the results would have been to be choosy in the selection of which diaries to include out of the 700 available, (allowing for some that wouldn’t turn in in Ealing on time), to make up the 250 diaries used to compile the charts. For example, the Sex Pistols record would be selling from Independent stores, HMV and Virgin type retailers. It was less likely to be selling well from Boots, Woolworths and WHSmith. In fact I believe that most of those retailers had actually banned the sale of the record through their stores. Therefore if you slightly increased the ratio of say, Woolworths diaries over Virgin diaries, you could quite easily alter the ranking.

    “Now to hearsay. I understand that the industry was worried that, because God save The Queen was on the Virgin label, then the sales through Virgin Record shops could be over-reported by “keen shop staff”. Therefore, perhaps for this particular week, Virgin diaries should not be included in the sample. If that was the case, then you would need other diaries to replace the excluded ones, and what better than to use additional Woolworths ones – especially if there was a desire by certain parties to keep God Save The Queen off the No.1 spot at a time when the country was celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

    “The outcome was that by skewing the sample of diaries used in favour of general retailers against specialist retailers, a less controversial record retained the number 1 slot over a record that would possibly throw the record industry into a bad light.

    “Did it happen? Well, it’s very feasible, and a number of sources who were in the industry at that time have confirmed that the record companies were concerned about the situation, and even spoke to BMRB. But would BMRB have changed the diary selection? I don’t know, and I suspect we’ll never know.”

  118. 118
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jun 2008 #

    Paul Cook’s machine gun tom-tom/bass drum fill just before (I think) ‘GSTQ, we mean it man!’ is absolutely ace!

  119. 119
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jun 2008 #

    No, it’s after ‘God saaaaaaaaaaaays!’

  120. 120
    Matthew H on 14 Jun 2008 #

    Intriguing, all that panel sales caper.

    I always wanted to know if Berkhamsted’s WH Smith had a Dataport(?) machine in the early/mid-’80s, but was too shy to ask.

    We’d have skewed the Gallup findings by, oooh, at least an extra three or four Heaven 17 sales.

  121. 121
    Caledonianne on 14 Jun 2008 #

    Another naysayer.

    I am seven weeks away from being 18 when this storm in a tea cup is going on, and felt well too old to be seduced by this charmless racket, which I regarded as a steaming pile of ordure in 1977, as I do today.

    It changed nothing for me, or for anyone I knew. The silver Jubilee made zippo impact on my life (no street parties, no home-baking marathons in Paisley), unlike the Golden Jubilee when my grey-headed self had a whale of a time at my picture postcard not-quite-Cotswolds’ village’s 8am – midnight, firework-lit mega jamboree which had everything to do with celebrating community and solidarity (the sort of thing Mr Brown’s sordid deal with the DUP last week was designed to destroy), and precious little to do with Her Maj, who most saw as kindly providing a vehicle for a day off work, and a fabulous excuse for a blinding knees-up.
    Instinctively a republican (but with no animus towards Brenda) frankly I can’t wait for the Diamond bash.

    The name of Rod’s record seems quite apt – on my council estate, at my school – no-one gave a gnat’s fart for this humdrum record let alone want to talk about it. So long as Janis Ian and Randy Newman were making records all was right with the world. And come to think of it…

  122. 122
    intothefireuk on 14 Jun 2008 #

    Although the Pistols were, by now, already infamous through Grundy & tabloid protestations, ‘Anarchy’ was still, relatively, little heard, at least amongst the general pop public. For the majority of the GPP ‘God Save’ was their point of entry and at this stage of the game it certainly registered more with me too. Mainly because it stuck two fingers up to madge and was outrageous and, more importantly, FUN. It’s hard to imagine a single or a band causing that much upset now but this was a different time and the Pistols were pushing all the right (or wrong) buttons. No future was a glorious catchphrase and worked perfectly as a football chant sing along at the end of record. There surely can be (almost) no doubt that somewhere along the line the chart compilers or the Beeb itself manipulated the figures to ensure it didn’t make the, still coveted, number one spot. The Christmas 1977 TOTP would have been so much more fun with the Pistols onboard.

    Having only recently converted to prog (1976 in fact) and, despite the effectiveness of GSTQ, it was a still a while before I fully embraced punk and I didn’t actually shell out for a record until The Rods power pop/pub rock/punk classic ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ appeared two months later. This was closely followed in my collection by the Boomtown Rats ‘Looking After No1.’ after that there was no stopping me. The funny thing was it never interfered with my desire to go to rock gigs (or my continuing to buy prog albums). I even bought (on Gabriel’s recommendation in an interview) Throbbing Gristle’s 2nd Annual Report but then wondered what the hell was going on there.

    For me, punk’s main liberating effect was encouraging me to pick up an instrument and have a go at playing music. Something I’d wanted to do but, due to a lack of formal training, never thought I could (it probably didn’t help that I’d been listening to prog and thinking you had to be master of your instrument before joining a band). Punk inspired new attitudes and new ideas and gave rock and pop a much needed shot in the arm. It wasn’t particularly appreciated in the beginning but eventually it seeped into the conscientiousness of all and like it or not changed a good deal of pop and rock forever.

  123. 123
    rosie on 15 Jun 2008 #

    One thing has come up in this debate, (and in arguments for punk in other places), that I’m curious about, and that’s the way that, supposedly, punk encouraged people to pick up an instrument and make music with it. And the thing I don’t really understand is, why was that not the case before? In fact it patently was the case some time before because in my teen years an awful lot of my contemporaries acquired guitars and didn’t much care if they were up to Hendrix standard. I acquired a guitar too and being the kind of awkward sod who hates to follow the herd mine was a cheap classical guitar and I taught myself to play it in the classical manner to the point of being able to doia passable flamenco in a school concert. My guitar hero at the time was Robbie Krieger rather than Hendrix, mind.

    It didn’t have to be a guitar, of course. Tin whistles were cheap. Harmonicas were easy to pick up. There was even the autoharp, a beast that seems to be extinct now though I understand good specimens are quite sought after. And there was always that old standby, the recorder (and if Jefferson Airplane and Led Zep could get away with it, it couldn’t be that uncool)

    Around the time we are talking of I, of the cloth ears when it comes to singing or playing an instrument, was part of a medieval/renaissance band called the Beverley Consort which played around the folk clubs of the East Riding. I could play in this because I had bought a recorder when at uni – to avoid charges of uncoolness I bought a tenor recorder, a biggish beast with metal keys that is never given in a plastic version to small children – and taught myself to play it. Once I could play a recorder I could also play the other workhorses of the medieval band, funky things like the crumhorn (a curved thing that blows sophisticated raspberries), cornemuse (much the same only straight) and shawm (a gloriously ear-splitting noise). And the glory of playing in that kind of band is that you really don’t have to play in tune! All those instruments are unbelievably difficult to play in tune (another good reason why they shouldn’t be given to small children, especially when there is more than one of them) but that’s all part of the authentic experience.

    I get the feeling that according to the myth, before punk there was nothing but great megalithic icons playing stadiums. That is very far from the truth. I don’t think I ever attended a gig in a stadium until the 80s – I saw Joe Jackson at the Wembley Arena and it was a disaster, totally different from Joe Jackson at the much more intimate Hitchin Regal. Then there was the 1990 Mandela bash, which wasn’t that great because the world and his dog was playing and the result was something like you got when all your coloured Plasticene got mixed up together in a turd-coloured mess. But there were always local gigs in community centres by bands that never got a sniff of the charts but were always perfectly enjoyable. There were the journeyman bands like Ducks Deluxe who were stalwarts of Saturday nights at the Liverpool Students Union.

    I suggest that what happened after the Sex Pistols what not that something new was happening, but that what had been going on almost unnoticed for years suddenly became fashionable. I think that’s reflected in the good stuff to come, once those bands had stopped clinging to the coat-tails of the Pistols.

  124. 124
    SteveM on 15 Jun 2008 #

    punk encouraged people to pick up an instrument and make music with it. And the thing I don’t really understand is, why was that not the case before?´

    isn´t it just the old “well if THEY can do it, so can I” thing? that perception of ability becoming less important than creativity and that it was as if less talent OR hard work was required to become a pop star. 10 years later i guess i had the same feeling with acid house.

  125. 125
    rosie on 15 Jun 2008 #

    Steve, I think you could easily say that about the Mersey Sound in ’63. At that time, everybody including primary school kids wanted to form a group (they wouldn’t have called it a band then) even if it involved banging out a rhythm on cardboard boxes and strumming on an old mandolin? And before that, what was skiffle but much the same thing?

    Nothing new under the sun!

  126. 126
    LondonLee on 15 Jun 2008 #

    But wasn’t the big difference in the greater number of avenues open to an aspiring band? There was no Rough Trade or Factory back in the early 60s (at least not ones with much chart success), now you didn’t have to go through EMI or Decca to get heard.

  127. 127
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jun 2008 #

    Not only that – at that time it was a closed shop. Unless your band had at least one former member of a well-known band the majors weren’t bothered. And it was all about technical proficiency; play 2000 notes a minute like Robin Trower or Keith Emerson otherwise you are a no-mark waster.*

    *The irony of course being that most punk bands did have “chops” but they kept them hidden; cf. Keith Levene revisiting old Steve Howe riffs through Metal Box (by his own admission and in his pre-punk days he was even a roadie for Yes).

  128. 128
    rosie on 15 Jun 2008 #

    Sounds like the publishing industry today! I’m sure Marcello at least will recognise that. Alasdair Gray (and I don’t know whether to be pleased or infuriated by the amount of common ground Marcello shares with me) would be the first to acknowledge that the genuinely innovative writer finds it next to impossible to find a big-name publisher these days. I heard Rose Tremain – a very good writer but not exactly radical – on the radio the other day, saying how lucky she was to get her break twenty years ago, because there’s practically no way in to the big houses (meaning, in effect, Random House, Bertelsmann and Viking Penguin) these days unless one is a celebrity or knows somebody who can pulls strings. And even then, it’s all strictly formula. Of course, technology allows lots of small independent publishers to flourish, and that’s a valuable outlet for writers these days, but what they don’t have is control over distribution. While the number of music stations and has expanded greatly since the mid-70s the number of bookshops has shrunk and the big supermarkets have muscled in.

    All right, supposing we have established that this new found freedom is not, in fact, the freedom to perform before an audience; a freedom which I’m sure you will agree was never denied. Of course, the corollary is that audiences have the freedom not to listen, but that’s a whole other point. This freedom is the freedom to have a recording contract then? And to be broadcast on mainstream radio so that one can get in the charts? And thus to be famous? An icon? Or am I missing the point again?

    Anyway, it’s perfectly true that in the 1960s the big players (EMI, Decca, Philips, Pye) had a stranglehold, and broadcasting opportunities were limited to Radio Luxembourg (heavily sponsored by EMI, Decca, Philips, Pye) and what crumbs the BBC had to offer so it was bloody difficult to break in. One could argue that the first Golden Age of Pop (which I’d place from 1964-1967) came about because of The Beatles, but I don’t think that holds water. Something happened, or more likely several things were happening and things changed when they came together to form a critical combination, and that something allowed the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Animals and so forth to reach a wider audience. They’d all been around in one form or another for years, but now they were allowed to burst forth. No doubt this was due to the increased accessibility to radio technology, surplus ships and redundant sea-defences that allowed the pirates to proliferate.

    Was something similar happening in the mid-seventies? Certainly there was a big change in the way records were sold, and had been for quite a few years. No longer did you buy from electrical retailers like Strothers of West Kirby (where my first singles came from) but from discounting chains (Harlequin, Virgin) and independents (Rag Records of Hatfield). They were all still very general and mainstream, however. I think one thing that was changing fast is hinted at by my exploits in a TV studio in 1975-76; that would have been unthinkable ten years earlier but by the mid-70s the technology to make TV programmes was not only within the compass of a university rather than a big corporation but not so precious that you couldn’t let a bunch of postgraduates play with it on a Friday afternoon. And if TV equipment was becoming more accessible because the size and costs were coming down, then so did music recording equipment and the wherewithal to produce marketing materials ceased to be a monopoly of the super-wealthy and powerful. Enter, for example, Stiff Records.

    So, my thesis is that neither the Sex Pistols nor Malcolm McLaren precipitated change. Change happened and it would have happened anyway without the Sex Pistols even if a couple of months later. But it didn’t happen a couple of months later, did it, because it had already happened well before June 1977. As we have already agreed. Grundy helped it on its way by providing some very welcome publicity but again that wasn’t essential to the process. Change happens, not because of isolated acts by individuals, but because the conditions are right for it to happen.

    The monopoly of the big dealers was broken, I think we can agree on that, and that was only a good thing. It wasn’t only punk that was a beneficiary though , nor I suggest was punk a major benficiary. After all, once whatever shock value punk had was spent, it pretty well fizzled out. There’s a lot of astonishing stuff on its way though – some of it branded punk at the time no doubt for commercial reasons, but it’s not what I call punk. What will start to flourish in the next few popular years, is genuine innovation of all kinds. As the Bunny (or perhaps Bunny’s proxy, the Mountain Hare) will no doubt testify before very long at all.

  129. 129
    LondonLee on 15 Jun 2008 #

    Not entirely sure any changes in recording technology had much to do with it, Joe Meek managed to create home-made pop masterpieces all on his own 20 years previously.

  130. 130
    Tommy Mack on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Isn’t it more the case that punk served as a wake-up jab to the sort of malcontents who wouldn’t otherwise seen music as an outlet for their ideas and frustrations?

  131. 131
    Waldo on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Rosie #128 – You’re absolutely right with regards your remarks on publishing. I knows it. Perhaps we should all change our names to “Wayne Rooney”… “HALLLOO, Random House!!!”

  132. 132
    Mark G on 16 Jun 2008 #

    OK, rosie.

    You are not wrong in any of what you say, just I would add:

    After the fifties rock and roll boom happened, the acts as presented got watered down (or substituted) by the ‘big players’ into acts that would sell more. And, at that time, meant being more safe, responsible, non-dangerous. This led to a lull in acts from the US making inroads into the UK market, and the groundswill of UK acts that were making a name on a local basis, and coming up through a grass-roots approach.

    The Beatles, by the time they got signed, were not an unknown entity. In fact, they played their biggest UK gig (in terms of tickets sold) as part of a multiband package of Liverpool bands, themselves being top bill, before they signed to EMI!

    So, the major labels had either to sign UK acts that were coming up and getting ever more popular, or stick with what they knew and die off (many did)…

    The same thing happened around punk. Yes, it would have happened had the ‘grundy’ thiing not happened but then they had already featured on Nationwide (a national TV prog), so the likelihood that “Anarchy” would have sold ‘respectably’, “Pretty Vacant” the follow up would have been a bigger hit being ‘airplay friendly’, and the big controversial “God Save the Queen” would have made the same waves as history now knows…..

  133. 133
    Drucius on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Rosie #128 “All right, supposing we have established that this new found freedom is not, in fact, the freedom to perform before an audience; a freedom which I’m sure you will agree was never denied.”

    Well, yes it was. The fact is that there were very few places that a band could get their start, especially outside of London. The colleges were dominated by people who felt that any song that didn’t feature an eight minute guitar wank had no virtues whatsoever. The pubs would happily accomodate the nostalgic R n’ B or soul merchants but that’s about it.

    Rosie #128 “Of course, the corollary is that audiences have the freedom not to listen, but that’s a whole other point. This freedom is the freedom to have a recording contract then? And to be broadcast on mainstream radio so that one can get in the charts? And thus to be famous? An icon? Or am I missing the point again?”

    Yup. You missed out the right to be taken as seriously as anyone else. After the Pistols, anyones musical vision could be as valid as anyone elses. Something which holds true today; a hell of a legacy. Where prog was exclusive, punk was inclusive.

  134. 134
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Re. Rosie re. book publishing:

    To be truthful, getting CoM published as a book was always going to be an uphill struggle, not just because thus far I’ve had to go about the painful business of trying to pitch it myself, sans intermediary agent (with the expected failed result), but because it’s about trying to persuade publishers that this is a new and different type of book, and since publishers generally want to follow precedents rather than set them, the word “innovation” gets their knees knocking a-trembly before the desk sergeant that represents their shareholders.

    It would help to some degree if I could find an agent but this is also proving impossible since in closed shop terms you have to have an agent in order to get an agent, in an unfunny way – however, I think it vital to have one to act as the sort of plugger between me (as artist) and publisher (as radio station) since publishers need to be convinced that someone is already convinced, so to speak, but even after that it’s a case of fitting in your agenda and format with what the publishers want without compromising what you’re actually trying to do; thus the general response I’m getting back at the moment is great writing but is it a book and wouldn’t you really want to write it as an autobiog in the Eggers/Pelzer street of dreary catharsis and you have to supplant the scream of THAT’S NOT THE POINT because otherwise you have to accept that publishers will only take on things with an identifiable hook which are easy and quick to market (thus Belle de Jour etc.) rather than cumbersome affairs like CoM which require long and careful nurturing.

  135. 135
    rosie on 16 Jun 2008 #

    And who’s got a stranglehold on the book retailing business in Britain? Why, the HMV Group of course!

  136. 136
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jun 2008 #

    Scott Pack to thread…

  137. 137
    Waldo on 17 Jun 2008 #

    I do, in fact, have an agent, although her main job is running a clothes shop in Eastbourne’s arnedale and she also doubles as a DJ, something she has been doing for years (she’s now in her forties).

    As has been agreed, without an agent, you’re going nowhere in a hurry. My advice for those without one is simply to cheat and use a reliable and literary suitable contact as a letterhead (ie: “agent”) to make the approach for you. This may not help you at all in approaching the large houses direct, but it might cut some ice when you already have something published by a small house and your agent attempts to sell an existing product to a larger company. This is what I shall shortly be attempting to do ere long, all being well.

    I perhaps need not add that there are many wonderful writers who simply cannot get a break, whilst much monstrous rubbish is snapped up in a blink. This used to infuriate me when I first set out but I quickly understood and accepted the first principle of the game, which is that the world of publishing is unswervingly unfair. As is life.

  138. 138
    Tommy Mack on 17 Jun 2008 #

    Didn’t a lot of publishers lose money on all those celebrity biogs? By paying huge advances assuming that the books would sell in much greater quantity than they did, the public presumably thinking ‘Anthea Turner may be a competent TV presenter, but I imagine her autobiography will be a far from riveting read’?

    Johnny Rotten’s autobiography on the other hand is brilliant if packed with ludicrous and obvious lies.

  139. 139
    Alan on 17 Jun 2008 #

    Celeb biogs are not always big winners – a lot of it is about treading water financially, with the publicity and contacts to nab the one that will actually make cash (i.e. Jordan). In many ways this is like a lot of book publishing – the majority of books make no money (where “no” = worth it for living off), publishing houses exist to absorb the risk of most books in the financial rewards of the few big sellers.

    ah i remember when we conspired with nielsen (or was it Whittaker back then?) to stop johnny rotten’s biog getting to number one – the fiend, etc

    (bonus extra point: the celeb angle is messed up by the vanity/ego of the commissioning editor, but they still have to persuade someone to come up with the publicity-baiting cash advances)

  140. 140
    Erithian on 29 Aug 2008 #

    Something I’ve only learned this morning about Marcus Lipton, the MP Waldo and I were discussing at ##96 and 112 who wanted pop music destroyed. He was clearly an old hand at identifying threats to the Establishment, as in October 1955 he was the first MP to mention the name of Kim Philby in Parliament and ask whether he could be the Third Man. Philby challenged him to repeat his claims outside the protection of the House of Commons and Lipton withdrew the statement. Just over seven years later Philby fled to the Soviet Union as evidence of the spy ring was building up.

    Kim Philby and Johnny Rotten – an enviable enemies list!

  141. 141
    Roadhog on 4 Sep 2008 #

    I’ve always found it highly amusin when cultural commentators bang on about punk being the sound of the inner cities/council estates etc. Absolute bollocks on my council estate noone gave a toss and to be honest and if any music was being taken seriously it was soul/funk with and the vast majority of working class girls likeing pop music.Any punk who’d reared his head would have been ridiculed as a scruffy bastard.
    Punk should more obviously be called the sound of the (slightly more trendconscious) the sixth form common room…

  142. 142
    DJ Punctum on 4 Sep 2008 #

    I imagine Supertramp and ELO were still very much in favour with the chaps in your Senior Common Room.

  143. 143
    The Intl on 5 Sep 2008 #

    Here I was all ready to weigh in with “Yank’s View”, and as I read the posts it’s all turned round to publishing, which I neither know about nor care about – sorry. But initially I was wondering exactly how deep & wide Pistol time was in UK, because here in 1977 US you could poll any huge crowd and bet money that no one ever heard of punk or our Ramones let alone your Pistols. It was definitely media-driven here – that is, unless you read MM, NME or marginally Creem (they were still big on Kiss and Alice Cooper) you didn’t know what the deal was. It always seems to have been like that with any kind of pop culture scene thing I find some interest in – it only seems to hold any level of import to me. But then, fair enough, because I never know baseball stats or any other mainstream cultural crap, except enough to make fun of it.

    So I was just wondering – was most everyone, as it seems to me, Pistol-aware enough that it made a real difference in things, or was it just the same kind of “cool kid in spiffy gear” clique that Charles Sharr-Murray and Nick “I Got Beat Up By Sid Vicious” Kent hit the presses with every week?

    Oh, and even though I gladly recognize them for being the standard bearer for that scene, I can’t bear to listen to them anymore. Same for most safety-pin acts. Just haven’t aged well. And maybe that was kinda the point. Although I may be full of shit. But try & be kind if you respond.

  144. 144
    DJ Punctum on 5 Sep 2008 #

    Brief answer: not really. From a general perspective it didn’t ripple the pond. Most of my peers continued to listen to and like the music they’d done before. It was considered a noisy novelty.

    But to square peg individuals like me it coalesced with a lot of other things to change the way I looked at the world and I think you’ll find many similar stories from those who went on to become notable names in the eighties and beyond – think, for example, of Kurt the Seattle backwater misfit who can’t understand anyone or anything until he discovers punk on his own in 1983, possibly the least punk of all years, and finds a purpose for his life.

    So the influence was not immediate, but subtle and long term.

  145. 145
    Mark G on 5 Sep 2008 #

    My experience: A lot of my friends were very anti at first, being Yes/ELP/10cc/LedZep/proper rock music fans, I was more curious than hostile, and over the course of a year they all changed and realised it for what it was and took it on board. (Most took a month, to be fair)

    I cannot claim to say I saw the pistols on Nationwide and went “yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for!” immediately (although I did have such a reaction on seeing Eddie and the Hot Rods on TOTP about 2 months before)…

    I guess because I was more a pop kid, I didn’t have any great muso attitude to unlearn, When Danny Baker said about hating “Highway Star” in Sniffin’ Glue, I thought it again curious, but was of a similar mind. Somewhat disappointed to find he was lying about that, and bored to TEARS man about his apologies over the years for saying that. (Not bothered about him liking it, each to their own you know, more his disavowal of all things rock-non-punk before 1976 – mainly because I actually was that person and he was not.

  146. 146
    mike on 5 Sep 2008 #

    All my classmates loathed and detested punk, and openly scorned me for liking it. In terms of social currency, it cost me dear – but then I was horribly f**ked up at the time anyway, and there was arguably something a little too desperate and obsessive about the way I clung to punk as a lifeline. However, what I lost in popularity (up until that point I had been everyone’s go-to guy for Hot New Sounds), I ultimately gained in perspective (punk taught me things that boarding school never could, and anyway I Was Right and They Were Wrong, so f**k ’em).

    By the back end of 1978, most people had caught up, and my status as everyone’s go-to guy was restored. Oh, they all wanted to get their hands on my Bollocks!

  147. 147
    Ashley Pomeroy on 13 Oct 2008 #

    Browsing through all the number ones, this seems to me (born in March 1976) like the start of a new era. This and “I Feel Love”. Everything before this is the Wurzels and Pilot and David Essex etc; lots of music that is never written about or played on the radio. Or, if it *is* written about, it’s done so in the kind of semi-desperate, deliberately barrel-scraping way that classic car magazines write about the Austin Princess. There was Abba, but even today Abba have a certain cheese factor, whereas there is nothing really cheesy about this record.

    I don’t remember who said it first (Danny Baker?), but there is a quote along the lines that, whereas in 1977 it was Bill Grundy that looked normal and the Sex Pistols looked odd, it is nowadays the other way around.

    Looking back at this record, the thing that strikes me is how well it is played and produced. It still sounds awesomely loud and furious, whereas most of the other mainstream punk records from the period sound a bit thin and weedy. This is like Queen! But without vocal harmonies. It’s such a terrible shame that Public Image Limited never had a number one.

  148. 148
    Warhol didley dye day on 15 Nov 2008 #

    What the f””s this? Nostalgic waffle clap trap? Honestly who gives a stuff The whole idea about punk was making modern music available to the people on the street. WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW – SOD ALL THAT’S WHAT!! Music changed for a while until the money fascists took over. Stop talking dross and change it again if you’ve got the balls!

  149. 149
    thefatgit on 10 Nov 2009 #

    @148 I think you’ll find that within the genres of dubstep, drum & bass and all the variants of house music, the DIY ethos of Punk has survived. No statues are going to be kicked over, and no Winter Palaces will be stormed, but I can’t think of a time when so much home-made music has been made available to the public.

  150. 150
    Tim on 10 Nov 2009 #

    Results 1 – 10 of about 39,400 for “the whole idea of punk”. (0.23 seconds)

  151. 151
    thefatgit on 10 Nov 2009 #

    I was approaching my 11th birthday when this came out. Too young to “get it”. 2 or three years later, I watched “The Great Rock N Roll Swindle”, Julien Temple’s spoof “spoof”. I realised then, what The Sex Pistols represented. McLaren as Pied Piper of Hamelin playing the tune to entice the rats/kids out of the Kingdom to their doom/salvation (which perspective, you choose). The Pistols were the tune the Piper played.

    Had I been older, I would maybe have dismissed McLaren’s importance and focussed on The Sex Pistols and Lydon as much as maybe Punctum.

    McLaren for me is always going to taint any Pistols record. His grubby fingerprints show up on everything The Sex Pistols did. Yes it’s pop. Pop in it’s most beguiling and enticing form, but underpinned by an agenda. How to make the most money from the least effort. Would the Pistols be anywhere near as famous/relevant/notorious (again you choose) without McLaren? Punk was gonna happen as a movement anyway. The Damned’ “New Rose” had to be where it all kicked off. The Clash’s “White Riot” provided the necessary radical edge.
    Eddie And The Hot Rods’ “Do Anything You Wanna Do” simply sounded like energetic Pub Rock, an end-of-gig stomper, but within it was Punk’s mission statement. Without McLaren “pulling the strings” behind Lydon & Co. Where would the focus of a nation’s ire be placed? By their very existence, the Pistols diverted the microscope away from Strummer and Jones, who had, for me, much more important things to say.

  152. 152
    AndyPandy on 10 Nov 2009 #

    Re 148 “so much homemade music”: try 1992/93 and Hardcore/rave – and every year since for a million times more homemade music being made without the embarrassing “politics”, fakery, earnestness and unnecessary reviving of the rock carcase that was punk.

  153. 153
    thefatgit on 10 Nov 2009 #

    Agreed, AndyPandy, but I think now with CueBase/FruityLoops/GarageBand etc. you can do it and post it online. In 1992, you still had to fork out for pricey synths, turntables and drum machines. With a PC and some cheap software (and some talent, of course) you can be the Next Big Thing. In my youth I felt the politics was more important, but now it’s just so much rhetoric. Punk’s gift, if you can call it a gift, is that you’re free to get out there and do it if you want and bugger the consequences.

  154. 154
    Mark M on 4 Dec 2009 #

    I note that on The Culture Show last night, John Lydon, lead singer of Public Image Limited, was an emotionally open and unashamedly intellectual figure, only vaguely related to the panto Johnny Rotten who has been doing the media rounds in recent years…

  155. 155
    thefatgit on 4 Dec 2009 #

    @154..yes and that snippet of “Religion” at the end sounded quite fresh as well.

  156. 156
    lonepilgrim on 4 Dec 2009 #

    They should give him a radio show like Dylan’s Theme Time.

  157. 157
    lonepilgrim on 8 Apr 2010 #

    Malcolm McLaren R.I.P.

  158. 158
    thefatgit on 8 Apr 2010 #

    Bloody Hell! I just heard. I hope they give him due credit for a couple of fine albums in “Duck Rock” and “Fans”. Malcolm, sleep well you old curmodgeon, you.

  159. 159
    thefatgit on 9 Apr 2010 #

    Of course I meant “Waltz Darling” for “Fans” *slaps head*.

  160. 160
    Erithian on 9 Apr 2010 #

    Stuart Maconie ventured last night that “Duck Rock” was more influential than “Never Mind the Bollocks”, and the track they played as a tribute was “Madam Butterfly”, so at least there you got your wish. Thanks for a great deal of fun Malcolm.

  161. 161
    punctum on 9 Apr 2010 #

    My tribute to Malcolm, a different sort of X.

  162. 162
    glue_factory on 9 Apr 2010 #

    Duck Rock was the first album I ever owned, bought by my mother from Littlewoods, Hounslow High Street and requested by me on the strength of Buffalo Gals. To be honest, as an eleven year old, I found it a bit “wierd and scary” but I’m sure it laid seeds within me of what I’d grow to love in pop music. If nothing else, it introduced me to messers Horn, Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan, whose work would be all over a lot of the records that dominated my life in the 80s. And it gave me the first rap I ever memorised and impressed the hard kids with, on the 91 bus on the way to school.

    The ‘Chicken’ and Bow Wow Wow incidents as recounted in Reynolds Rip It Up leave a bad taste in the mouth, but hopefully they can be excused on the grounds of (not so) youthful exuberance and I’d rather remember Malcolm with the odd, krauty-afro stylings of Legba and that ghostly scream on Buffalo Gals.

  163. 163
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Apr 2010 #

    Yesterday’s Jeremy Vine show (hardly a home for the avant-garde) began with Vine intoning: “There’s only one way of starting the show today. Thank’s, Malcolm!” And on came GSTQ. I was in my car at the time with the window down on a glorious day. It was a wonderful few minutes. As the track came to its conclusion, Jeremy came on again with: “That record sounds just as raw and exciting as it ever did..” (or words to that effect).

    I can’t ever remember the “JY Prog” starting like that!!

    RIP, Malcolm, you mad old bastard!

  164. 164
    jim on 19 Aug 2010 #

    wonder if they would have loved or hated this Japanese version of God save the queen from Puncolle Punk

  165. 165
    Hammy on 20 Mar 2011 #

    It bugs me a little that some people think ‘punk’ was all-pervasive in 1977. In terms of the ‘rock media’ it was, but, for just one example, a year later (at the height of The Terror) BOF Bob Dylan drew over 200K ‘rock’ fans to Blackbushe, all in denim and rugby shirts with not a hint of punk fashion to be seen. Punk’s main influence turned out ultimately to be on other areas like comedy, fashion and rock journalism. And to the average gig-going young person it didn’t seem all that ‘controversial’ or challenging (though much of it was simply dreadful, by any concievable aesthetic yardstick). In the sticks we all went to see any band we’d read about, punk or BOF. If it was ‘new wave’ you put a skinny tie and shades on, and a denim jacket if it leaned towards BOF-ism. Most of us just watched bemused from the sidelines as (mainly NME) journalists apparently went through untold inner turmoil to locate the revolutionary heroism in it all while the bands themselves went all out for the same old rock shag/money/drug fest. Hardly year zero, unless you were a rock journalist or (to use a word popular in 1977) a poseur.

  166. 166
    punctum on 21 Mar 2011 #

    What is, or was, “The Terror”?

    In future, instead of “most of us,” use the term “I” since that is what you meant.

  167. 167
    Mark G on 21 Mar 2011 #

    I daresay ‘most of you’ i.e. you and your mates, stood around ‘bemused’ at the folderol going on. It does sound like you were having your ‘ball’ taken away from you and you didn’t even know.

    I have the Xmas NME from 1977, and for all the reviews of punk/new wave and the ‘exciting’ developments, you can check the musician classifieds and see that the majority were “vocalist/guitarist wanted for new band, influenced by The Faces”…

    Because when the films/documentaries try to recreate 1977/punk times, they tend to overload on Mohicans (there were none in 77), and leave out the jeanjacketed ‘bemused’ onlookers.

    Oh, and also, there weren’t that many NME journalists around. And even if there were, you would not be at the same gig as them, I’d wager.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. When the teds said “punk is dead”, it wasn’t. It died when the punks said it wasn’t.

  168. 168
    Hammy on 23 Mar 2011 #

    I think I did mean ‘most of us’, really, apart from those ‘square peg individuals’ (see above) essaying a flamboyant marginality. But well done to them, eh.

    Saw what you did there Mr G – ‘you and your mates’ – places me nicely with that small group of sullen bedenimmed beer monsters at the bar clutching carrier bags full of prog albums and sulking about ‘new wave’. I bet you’re great at dealing with feckless tradesmen.

    Alright I’m going….

  169. 169
    ace inhibitor on 17 Sep 2011 #

    spotted in M&S overpriced food emporium today: ‘Chineapple punks’ (see what they did there?), in that familiar upper/lowercase mix, garish yellow on pink obviously. Tagline: ‘Never mind the pineapple cubes bla bla something’

    See? Its NOT dead…

  170. 170
    wichita lineman on 5 Jun 2012 #

    Haven’t heard Neil Young’s GSTQ but wondering whether he sings the second verse:

    Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
    May by thy mighty aid,
    Victory bring.
    May he sedition hush,
    and like a torrent rush,
    Rebellious Scots to crush,
    God save the Queen.

  171. 171
    Mark G on 5 Jun 2012 #

    Funny, at the end of the DiamJub concert, the band played a 2 verse instrumental version of GSTQ, and Alice and I attempted some imprompteau lines for it (hakuna matata was one of them). If only we’d seen the entry above!

  172. 172
    wichita lineman on 6 Jun 2012 #

    The reason I mentioned it is because of that. I wasn’t watching but apparently it felt like people should sing along, only nobody knew the words (apart from, presumably, people in Scotland).

  173. 173
    punctum on 4 Jul 2012 #

    Excellent, well-researched piece on GSTQ’s “real” number two status: http://yesitsnumberone.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/ever-get-feeling-youve-been-cheated.html

  174. 174
    Mark G on 5 Jul 2012 #

    So, in short, the BRMB sample didn’t use Virgin shops (where the Pistols single was selling more than the average), and did use Woolworths, Smiths and Boots (where the single was banned)

  175. 175
    punctum on 29 Aug 2012 #

    Finally, 7,237 words about the Pistols, me, ghosts, towers and the inbuilt failure of attempted destruction being turned into reconstruction: http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-sex-pistols-never-mind-bollocks.html

  176. 176
    Jimmy the Swede on 1 Oct 2012 #

    I’d like to think I wasn’t the only one who caught Johnnie Walkers’s “Sounds of the 70s” yesterday. His show is always wonderful, of course, but this one was a belter. His featured album was the Pistols and the broadcast contained a recent interview with Steve Jones. Johnnie being Johnnie couldn’t help but mock the fact that he still couldn’t say “bollocks” over the air and substituted “ollicks” instead. At one point, he cracked-up with laughter and roared “this is ridiculous!” as indeed it was. Apart from the Jonesey interview, there was a clip from back in the day when Rotten and Sid were explaining why Matlock had left.
    “He was fired because he was an oaf,” explained Rotten.
    “And ugly,” slurped Sid. (he was charmingly eating a meal). “And he liked the Beatles,” he added. “Says it all!” Walker mocked this comment when the clip ended.

    Johnnie then interviewed Ian Hunter, a very interesting character. He was born in Oswestry, that great town of rebellion and his dad worked for MI5!

    Good interview and great show.

  177. 177

    Yes I as a teen treasured the fact that Hunter hailed from a neighboring rural town — until Genesis P. Orridge’s parents retired to Bayston Hill. Mum and I once saw GPO in Shrewsbury — in Mardol in fact — and she said “Look at that funny little man!”, which is how I think of him to this day.

  178. 178
    Erithian on 14 Apr 2013 #

    So another seditious chart entry peaks at number 2! Do the conspiracy theories start here??

  179. 179
    swanstep on 15 Apr 2013 #

    Not especially relatedly, is anyone else watching any of the Coachella stream live on youtube? E.g., OMD have an after-dark (Sunday Night slot) between Franz and Nick Cave in a few hours.

    I watched bits of a few things yesterday (Saturday) and the extremes of The Violent Femmes’ rough-and-readiness and the DJ/dubstep computerized madness of Knife Party seemed to me to go down best (and Janelle Monae was pretty good by any but her own standards), whereas the much hyped Phoenix, Postal Service, and New Order sets left me cold.

  180. 180
    hectorthebat on 21 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 135
    Life (USA) – Dozen Discs That Shook the World (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 3
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Pitchfork (USA) – The Pitchfork 500 (2008)
    PopMatters (USA) – The 100 Best Songs Since Johnny Rotten Roared (2003) 17
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 173
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 175
    Shredding Paper (USA) – The 50 Greatest Singles Ever (2002) 31
    woxy.com (USA) – The 500 Best Modern Rock Songs of All Time (2008) 11
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1970s (2008)
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    Kerrang! (UK) – 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (2002) 30
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 20
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Records That Changed the World (2007) 10
    Mojo (UK) – The 50 Greatest British Tracks Ever (2006)
    New Musical Express (UK) – NME Rock Years, Single of the Year 1963-99 (2000)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 52
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 18
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 3
    Q (UK) – 50 Greatest British Tracks (2005) 4
    Q (UK) – 50 Years of Great British Music, 10 Tracks per Decade (2008)
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 29
    Q (UK) – The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever (2002) 1
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Sean O’Hagan, The Observer (UK) – Fifty Years of Pop (2004)
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 3
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Uncut (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles from the Post-Punk Era (2001) 6
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 1
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 66
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Zounds (Germany) – The Top 30 Songs of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1992) 24
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Rocks Musiczine (Spain) – The 100 Best Rock Songs in History (1995) 30
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 4
    Sounds (UK) – Singles of the Year 1

  181. 181
    Inanimate Carbon God on 23 Jan 2015 #

    There’ll be trouble when the kids come out…


  182. 182
    Harrryo19 on 23 Aug 2015 #

    With the passage of time and a reasonable volume level this seems a basic rock and roll song well within the tradition of Louie Louie and other similar garage rock. Makes one wonder what the fuss was all about.

    Takes me back to the days when I would frequent my favorite music venue, the Quiet Knight in Chicago. In one of the smaller rooms off of the main room there was a punk band playing similar riff at ear splitting volume. It blew me out of the room. Made me feel the same way my Dad must of felt when he got blown out of the basement when my teenage self was playing 60’s rock records at a healthy volume.

  183. 183
    wichitalineman on 24 Aug 2015 #

    Re 182: With due respect, the opening line compares the British royal family to a fascist regime. Louie Louie, even in the most fevered minds of the FBI and other critics, was only about shagging. That’s only a part of what the fuss was about with GSTQ, and it would still be seen as treasonous (leading to all manner of media-led shitstorms) in 2015.

  184. 184
    Mark G on 24 Aug 2015 #

    It would be seen as treasonous, but thanks to the realisation that rock/pop music can say such things but at the end of the day things don’t actually change, the level of media shit-storm would be limited to a massive tut, rather than the hysteria of the “seek them out and kill them, we wont mind” led by the media and various Tory MPs (all on record, one at least included on the Great R&R Swindle movie).

    I remember a while back being involved in some sort of debate as to what song subject would it take to get truly banned and reviled thesedays – beyond the obvious ‘paedo’ angles. I must have took this to my kip as in the morning my brane had written a sort of “Gang Of Four” post-punk stomper called “Stupid Little Soldier” and I knew that was the one I was definitely not going anywhere near.

  185. 185
    wichitalineman on 24 Aug 2015 #

    Yes, that’d do the trick in 2015. Something anti-Help For Heroes.

  186. 186
    Tommy Mack on 24 Aug 2015 #

    A neat trick of the right wing press, that: anyone who criticises the military hates our brave boys etc

    I remember my mate saying he hoped British troops got caught committing atrocities to stop the X Factor version of heroes getting to #1. He’s not a nice man.

  187. 187
    Andrew Farrell on 24 Aug 2015 #

    They did – it didn’t.

  188. 188
    punctum on 25 Aug 2015 #

    #183: popular misunderstandings; it does not relate to the Royal family as such but to public perceptions of them, what The Establishment allowed and/or encouraged them to become.

  189. 189
    Jimmy the Swede on 26 Aug 2015 #

    As Brenda approaches Vicky’s record, the Royals are back in the spotlight/firing line again. To say that they (and the concept of Royalty per se) polarises opinion goes without saying. Brenda herself, I suggest, is a different matter. The poor little cow hasn’t put a foot wrong, which you certainly couldn’t say for much of her family and many in her countless governments. When she finally edges one, the finery of an opulent state funeral will be the least she deserves. The coronation of that nincompoop son of hers will be, I hope, an entirely diferent story.

  190. 190
    Tommy Mack on 26 Aug 2015 #

    Jimmy, that’s a matter of opinion! I don’t if anyone deserves an opulent state funeral any more than they deserve to be born into power and wealth. QEII no doubt does a very difficult job under trying circumstances but then so do lots of people and many of them don’t have a pot to piss in.

    We’re the flowers in your dustbin.

    She’ll no doubt get an almighty send off cos tourists are money*. Unless Jeremy Corbyn gets in and has the council throw her in the Thames in a sack.

    *BTW, I think this is the most cutting line in the song: more than the ‘facist regime’ bit: Britain is a nation of cheap hucksters, pimping its Imperial past out for a cheap buck from Johnny Foreigner because there’s NO FUTURE…

  191. 191
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Aug 2015 #

    A good and honest contribution, Tommy. Where you and I would seemingly touch base would be regarding the situation post Brenda. It will be a very different scene then, I think, even with regards the tourists/money angle. I do however think it’s worth remembering that this country is not alone in cashing in on tourists. Indeed foreign visitors are the main source of income for most countries around the globe. I have to admit, though, the prospect of Comrade Corbyn hurling poor old Queenie off Westminster Bridge in a sack would be blinding. I can imagine Huw Edwards doing the broadcast of his life.

  192. 192
    Mark M on 27 Aug 2015 #

    Thing is, you don’t still need to have a royal family to cash in on royal tourism.

  193. 193
    Cumbrian on 27 Aug 2015 #

    I’d be intrigued to know more about this:

    “Indeed foreign visitors are the main source of income for most countries around the globe.”

    Because it strikes me as fairly obviously false.


    This shows that there are 221 countries and territories for which there’s some sort of data available. 160 ish of them have the majority of their economy based in the service sector (i.e. where tourism would lie) – but, of course, the service sector isn’t just tourism or tourist related activity. For one, it’s got banking in it, nevermind education, health, etc sectors that serve the local population. So for the above to be true, tourism would have to make up a huge amount of the service sector percentage in each country (ranging from 100% of Bolivia’s service sector) to 50% of the service sector for Gibraltar (which may actually be possible but unlikely given it’s a tax haven and probably funnelling large amounts of cash through it). Unless we’re going to start counting “foreign visitors” as including those who rinse their money through a particular country’s banking, property and other assets, it doesn’t seem at all likely that most countries make most of their money from foreign visitors.

    All this by way of saying, the economic impact of the Royal Family and all of their castles, heritage, etc, is vastly overstated, not just in the UK but likely in any other place that they’ve had a Royal Family and have similar tourist assets. Factor in the money that we pay them, the security around them and everything else that goes into their upkeep too and it shrinks further (at least in terms of pure profit; you can obviously make the argument that the Royals are putting people in security in jobs, etc, so it rolls up their economic impact – nevertheless, even doing so, it won’t be that big in the grand scheme of the economy).

    This doesn’t mean that I’d necessarily be happy to just cast them adrift. I’d be reasonably up for our current Queen to be the last Royal Head Of State, provided that there was some sort of sensible constitutional settlement for the limited role that she still plays – but I don’t trust any of our politicians to come up with something that isn’t measurably worse than the status quo.

    I could, of course, be talking complete rubbish, so I am willing to listen to counters to the above on the economics of this, but it just doesn’t seem likely to me.

  194. 194
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Aug 2015 #

    # 193 – Cumbrian, yes, you are of course right. I should have said that foreign visitors are a “substantial source of income for many countries around the globe” but certainly not the main source for most of them. Thanks for outlining this so conclusively.

    As for : “This doesn’t mean that I’d necessarily be happy to just cast them adrift. I’d be reasonably up for our current Queen to be the last Royal Head Of State, provided that there was some sort of sensible constitutional settlement for the limited role that she still plays – but I don’t trust any of our politicians to come up with something that isn’t measurably worse than the status quo”, I couldn’t agree more. But the fly in the ointment still remains Brenda herself. I firmly believe that Parliament (even one presiding over a government led by Corbyn) wouldn’t take any constitutional action whilst the old gal still draws breath. Of course the second the umpire’s finger goes up, Charles immediately becomes both King and Head Of State in any case so Brenda is (IMHO) very unlikely to be the last. My point, which I repeat, is that the landscape will change forever the second Queenie is lost to us.

  195. 195
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Aug 2015 #

    The landscape changes all the time, indeed the actual landscape is changing in ways which might (might) have been ameliorated if she’d shuffled off in favour of Charles a few decades ago.

    Which is really the only argument in favour of the monarchy I can really stomach, that in a time of politicians swung around like weathercocks by the winds of whatever will get them elected, it’d be nice to have someone with an actual stewardship of the land, who has an interest in the long-term welfare of it.

    “Hasn’t put a foot wrong” of course apart from nearly driving the bus off a cliff in the wake of Diana’s death – what are Liz’s achievements exactly?

    In short I complete agree – about the polarisation :)

  196. 196
    Tommy Mack on 27 Aug 2015 #

    “My point, which I repeat, is that the landscape will change forever the second Queenie is lost to us.” – you don’t think people will hang on for King William V? My guess is that William is popular enough that people would sit out twenty or so years of Charles to see him on the throne.

    I am ambivalent about the monarchy (in the true sense of the word, meaning strong but conflicted feelings): my instincts are against hereditary power and idolatry but I do wonder whether the British Royal Family carry an invaluable iconic status (this due in no small part to the legacy of colonialism). Other countries can send some visiting dignitary but we can send THE Queen, THE Prince of Wales: they are, for want of a better word, internationally recognised celebrities of a magnitude matched by few monarchs or heads of state. I could be wrong: I have lived in Britain all my life, clearly the British media is going to inflate the importance of Britain and British affairs.

    I’m pretty much with Cumbrian: “reasonably up for our current Queen to be the last Royal Head Of State, provided that there was some sort of sensible constitutional settlement for the limited role that she still plays – but I don’t trust any of our politicians to come up with something that isn’t measurably worse than the status quo” – if you let the people choose, the people often choose Barabbas.

    I agree with Jimmy though, that QEII personally carries a lot of the monarchy’s cache. Once Charles takes the throne, you could imagine support for the monarchy declining and an enterprising centre-left or even centre-right prime minister holding private talks with William about a modern ‘stream-lined’ monarchy in order to keep the brand alive.

  197. 197
    Jimmy the Swede on 27 Aug 2015 #

    This is a good debate. I agree with Tommy’s comment, balancing his instinct against hereditary power and idolatry (which I share) with acknowledging the iconic status of Brenda and Chuck. I once sponsored the view that the Head Of State could reasonably be the Commons Speaker, a figure not only elected as an MP in the first place but subsequently elected into the Chair by fellow members. I no longer hold this opinion.

    I think Andrew (#195) asks the wrong question when questioning Brenda’s achievements. After over 63 years in the job, it would be much fairer to ask how many times she’s cocked up. Certainly the reaction to Diana getting totalled wasn’t her finest hour. But I think we may be in danger of getting into a game of “What has the Queen ever done for us?” if we’re not careful. I also think it’s useful to remember that Elizabeth was on the way to a happy life as a “simple” Royal princess before that little shit abdicated. It’s certainly true that this was a case of the hereditary principle falling arse about face (he didn’t want it, so give it to the brother). This is more than a little ironic when folk keep slagging Brenda off for owing her position to her solely being the daughter of the King.

  198. 198
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Aug 2015 #

    Apologies to Jimmy if I’m misventriloquising him, but I imagine he means that every royal member for a while will be a bit provisional, in the way that things in general are when you can remember the other side of them. Elizabeth in particular has had a lot of changes – her other titles section on wiki counts only 4 countries (including the UK) that she’s been head of from 1952 to now, 16 that have heaved her off (only 3 of which were on the list in ’52) and 12 that have kept her on since splitting their countries off.

  199. 199
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Aug 2015 #

    We pay a staggering amount of money for her and her family to make a mockery of the idea of meritocracy – “What has the queen ever done for us?” is exactly the question to be asking.

  200. 200
    Cumbrian on 27 Aug 2015 #

    #196: Am not sure about the William thing. He’s losing his hair. He’s beginning to look less and less like his Mum and more and more like his Dad. I think the fascination with him, as with much in this country, is the superficial, handsome prince and lovely princess fantasy. Give him enough time to look a bit care-worn and I doubt people will be as pro-William as they are now.

    Also, he’ll likely be 60 before he gets on the throne himself, if we’re being honest. Given that the Queen is particularly unlikely to abdicate due to what happened to her father and her belief in the duty aspect of her role, plus the longevity of her mother, I think she’s got at least another 10 years in her, and Charles (given the ages of both of his parents) can expect to knock around until he’s 90+ as well.

    As Jimmy points out upthread, I think there is little appetite for a debate on how to replace or streamline them until the Queen goes – but if we want a change in the status quo, we actually need to have this debate sooner rather than later, otherwise it will be pushed back for quite some time yet.

  201. 201
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Aug 2015 #

    There was some talk a while back about Charles* abdicating in favour of William*, though the reasons why he’d do that escape me at the moment.

    *or whoever – a corollorary of what I was saying above is that most people don’t really get that you can pick a different name to rule under – if Charles does it, it will only have skipped a generation, but also 80 years.

  202. 202
    Mark M on 27 Aug 2015 #

    Re196: As the son of a British diplomat, I can report that yes, people in other countries got a whole lot more excited by royal visits than they did if John Major was in town, and also that Britain’s international branding is built almost entirely around the monarchy. While all the big bash of the year at all the other ambassadors’ residences was independence day (well, except for the French), we had the Queen’s [official] Birthday, which of course isn’t actual British holiday. How can that be equivalent to the Fourth of July? Also, eating dinner under a huge portrait of dear old Liz off plates with crowns on them when you’re in Bogota is weird (actually, it would also be weird in London).

  203. 203
    Mark M on 27 Aug 2015 #

    There are appear to be six main arguments for abolishing the monarchy:

    1) The sheer randomness of sticking to one family for long-lost historical reasons. (To which I agree)

    2) The variable quality of people that process produces. (Likewise)

    3) The cost: this is endless disputed – has anyone got a link to a serious look at this? Whenever I’ve looked into this, there seem to be dodgy calculations on both sides: republicans forgetting we will still need a head of state of some sort, royalists attributing all sorts of economic benefits to having a monarchy that don’t actually follow – as that article I linked to at #192 shows, the majority of the most-visited royal palaces are in ex-monarchies.

    4) The Tony Benn argument about the government making use of crown powers to rule as an executive rather than through parliament. Never been fully sold on this, nor on the idea that the government of the day would simply cede those powers when the monarchy went because of a constitutional rewording. Not really how power works.

    5) It’s incompatible with democracy: in theory, but not actually in practice. Monarchies manage to co-exist with all sorts of regimes, from fascist to social-democratic. Although he made a horrible mess of the end of his reign (but did know to quit), Juan Carlos I played a massive part in Spain’s transition from dictatorship.

    6) That having a monarchy props up/encourages the class system. This is the one that I believed when I was 15, and it just seemed to make sense. But if you look at any index of global inequality, the top 10 least unequal countries will feature some monarchies. Now, I think that’s an accident of history, rather than anything else – or if there is a causation, it is that the Swedes and the Dutch etc had the least cause to get rid of their monarchies. Obviously, there are horribly unequal monarchies and not-that-unequal republics, too. But no universal correlation.

    In summary, although I remain an instinctive anti-monarchist, I’m not sure I can make a good case for why life in Britain would significantly improve* without them.

    *Well, except for anti-monarchists stuck working at magazines aimed at middle-aged women.

  204. 204
    Ed on 28 Aug 2015 #

    @199 As I see it, making a mockery of the idea of meritocracy is the single greatest service the Royals perform for their country.

    In America, with no (formal) royalty and a dedication to the idea that anyone can make it if they work hard enough, there is an overwhelming consensus that if people are on top, it’s because they deserve it. It is an inspiring idea in some ways, but it has its downsides, including a tendency to blame poor people for being poor, and a willingness to let someone like Donald Trump strut around like a genius even though he inherited hundreds of millions of dollars and a world-class set of connections from his dad.

    In Britain, on the other hand, it is universally understood that the people at the very top of society are there only through accidents of birth. Merit and hard work had nothing at all to do with it, and everyone knows that.

    That makes it much easier to accept the wider truth that we are all shaped by our origins. Our parenting, neighbourhoods, education, connections and expectations vary enormously according to where we happen to have been born, and the Royals are an embodiment of that fact. When privileged people are tempted to believe that they are entitled to the advantages they enjoy, the Royals should be a reminder that that is not the way the world works.

  205. 205
    Andrew Farrell on 28 Aug 2015 #

    You are Toby Young and I claim my five pound.

  206. 206
    Ed on 28 Aug 2015 #

    Ha! :)

    Toby’s dad would certainly sympathise, I think. He makes his point eloquently here: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

    I’m not really sure what point Toby proves. He has apparently become an influential public figure without possessing any merit at all.

  207. 207
    Phil on 28 Aug 2015 #

    I guess I don’t need to tell many people here that freelancing can be a bit precarious, a bit hand-to-mouth, a bit month-to-month – a bit Micawber, really: if you’re bringing in £50 less this month than your budget says, you really know it, and £50 more is cause for celebration. Happy days (he shuddered).

    Anyway, back when I was doing it, I read a column by Toby Young pulling what I can only call the Prolier Than Thou move. Basically he was getting back at his partner for complaining that he was always checking his Blackberry on holiday – when one’s a freelance, hard life, not living on a private income like some people, “not a real gentleman” shouldn’t be an insult, dignity of labour, etc. And there’s me reading it, making about the same before tax as I currently do after tax (as a part-timer); I didn’t own a Blackberry, I didn’t get published in the Guardian and I’d never had my autobiography made into a feature film, but I did make a point of taking one week a year off work, going on holiday with my family and being on holiday with my family.

    (Pithy conclusion goes here, but in this case it would just sound like an attack of Tourette’s.)

  208. 208
    thefatgit on 28 Aug 2015 #

    Two things that “enhance our status” in the world: The Royals and Trident. Which one, if we had to lose one, would be more value for money to bin off without affecting our own way of life too much?

  209. 209
    Tommy Mack on 28 Aug 2015 #

    Royals, I’d imagine. You can still wring some cred out of their memory. The memory of a nuclear deterrent probably doesn’t buy you a seat anywhere near the top table of military might.

  210. 210
    Adam Puke on 18 Sep 2015 #

    Ooft. In the short time since this thread was reactivated, the aforementioned potential monarch-drowner has caused a stir with both his mode of dress and “God Save The Queen”.

  211. 211
    beeflin on 24 Jan 2016 #

    I’ll always remember the first time I heard the Sex Pistols, this record slamming out of a fellow student’s radio. The guitar-heavy intro more shockingly powerful than anything I’d heard since “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, the enormous aggression of every moment of the vocal and the unrelenting, precise artillery of the drums. What’s not to love? And there may be rock guitarists who can play things Steve Jones can’t, but who cares? To me he will always be the greatest rock’n’roll guitar hero since Chuck Berry laid the template down, the ultimate arbiter of good taste, accuracy and restraint of the ego.

  212. 212
    Gareth Parker on 10 May 2021 #

    A thrilling single to this very day, in my opinion. A nailed on 10/10 for me.

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