The British punk generation of the 70s is currently in their early years. That is, those who have not died from drugs or do not count years in prison. If they can be proud of anything, it’s that they filled punk music at its peak, in a turbulent period when punk was not only synonymous with any opposition to the establishment, but a way of life for the youth of Britain.
However, to this day, for the band that most involved the public in that decade, Pistola za Ngono, what is known is very special. That Johnny Rotten didn’t raise a fly on his sword in an interview. That Sid Matata could not play the bass. That God Save The Queen was number one in the charts and his companies were putting him in second place behind Rod Stewart because of the fear of palace conflict. However, this song left history. In a 2002 interview, Rotten would say: “We wrote these songs because they were fun. Obviously, we weren’t calling for people to take up arms and start a civil war.”
But 1977 was a long way from 2002. And when the Sex Pistols released the song, it became the first topic in all the media of that time and the first topic of discussion in youth groups with answers. The original song was written on Glen Matlock’s bass – although he would not remain in the band to experience the joys of God Save the Queen. He originally called it No Future. Paul Cook had expressed his misgivings about the song’s “fascist regime” but none of the band members, who were all flamboyant, took this statement seriously. And why? Many people say that the songs written by punk bands are deliberately provocative. But this is why punk bands were formed in the first place.
But if you look at it more closely than today, the song might not have had such a big impact on everyday life if it weren’t for the band’s manager and Johnny Rotten’s red flag, Malcolm McLaren. Many critics and music journalists hate him – and with good reason – but McLaren knew his work well. He knew how to be manipulative and put his interests first. But what else would you expect. But it was his idea to send a letter to the paper that the new punk band he was managing would release this song, and the press did what they knew best. They built it. They made sure to squeeze the band in every interview, almost wanting to get an answer to whether people are being called to war. “You don’t write a song like that because you hate the British race. You write because you love them and because you’re tired of seeing them treated unfairly.” I’m not saying that Rotten didn’t believe what he was saying at the time, but the pure passion of a young musician in a band that wants to return to the establishment could easily roll off the tongue.
On May 27, 1977, when the song was released, McLaren expected sales to be good to very good. However, he did not expect to sell – or so he said. The sequence of events is well known. McLaren organized the famous “cruise” on the River Thames, which ended with the arrest of the band members. The BBC, naturally predictable, banned the song to give the band more exposure and bring sales where McLaren wanted and was chasing. They went so far as to ban it from a number of popular records, with the aim of undermining sales. Even if they could get people to buy it, they couldn’t get them to listen to it. In fact, it was these movements that brought God Save the Queen to be the slogan of the youth of that time.
It certainly has nothing to say to a young man like today who seems to express himself more through the trap. But all things come full circle. Perhaps there will be a time in human history when that song will have more to say to the youth of the future. One thing, however, is certain. No one has ever undermined something by banning it.