We Mean It Maaaaaan! Sex Pistols ‘God Save The Queen’ detailed analysis

We Mean It Maaaaaan!

FIrst published in and reproduced with the kind permission of Swine Magazine
Words: Phil Thornton

So, the Sex Pistols have predictably re-released God Save The Queen, their 1977 single that caused such a fuss during the ”Ëœcelebrations’ for Her Majesty’s silver jubilee 35 years ago. Now, as an 11 year old who sat and threw paper plates at a shite magician during our street party, I have nothing but fond memories of the jubilee but within a few years I was playing ”ËœNever Mind The Bollocks’ and wearing bondage kecks as punk turned into yet another dumb marketing ploy.

Like most of the Pistols’ repertoire, God Save The Queen seems a tad juvenile in retrospect, the kind of song that a snotty 18 year old would write to piss off the ”Ëœman’ maaaan. Yet, at the time, it was truly incendiary and my dad, an old teddy boy and trade unionist certainly despised not only the Pistols’ primitive thrash but their brand of political sneering from the sidelines.

Sadly, the establishment is now even more oppressive and restrictive than it ever was in 77 and that’s only to be expected because the British establishment is over 1000 years old and has more to lose if all goes tits up. Ever wondered why there was a handy world war or two about when things began to look rocky for the aristocracy? Still, Lydon/Rotten’s lyrics still retain a visceral power and so Swine goes through each line in a bid to put some meat on the bones of the Pistols’ seminal No 1 single that never was.

God Save the Queen

Why should God ”“ the God of the English that is, the reformation, Protestant, Anglican God save the Queen above all others (except of course the King?). Well the statement can be read in two ways. Maybe she needs saving in the sense of being preserved and protected as a totemic symbol of the state, the defender of the faith and pontifex maximus. Or maybe she requires saving from her sins, the sins of her tribe, those who murder and torture and exploit in the name of ”ËœQueen and Country.’ The catholic notion of the sin of pride apparently doesn’t apply to those who claim a divine right to rule.

The fascist regime

Is the Queen a representative of a fascist regime? Well as a member of the Hanovarian line, her Teutonic credentials are impeccable and of course her uncle and many other members of the British royal family were well-known anti-semites and Nazi sympathisers. The myth that the second world war was fought to protect the plucky Poles or the poor Jews is just revisionist propaganda spread to disguise the real reasons for every war, to protect the economic interests of the rich. As such, the Queen, her government and the state apparatus are as fascistic as those of Italy and Germany, yet given the gloss of liberalism.

They made you a moron

”ËœThey’ are those who sustain the monarchy, the judiciary, the armed forces, the bureaucrats, the police, the educationalists who indeed do ”Ëœmake morons’ of the working classes by limiting them to lives spent in hard toil and depriving them of the educational advantages provided to the rich; public school and university places remain in the hands of those who can afford it. Lydon represented the ”Ëœprole art threat’ of the intelligent working class youth who saw through this subtle form of apartheid.

Potential H-bomb

Of course Lydon didn’t mean a real hydrogen bomb but was using a metaphor to underline the rage, frustration and sense of alienation felt by many during this era of nuclear proliferation. As Al Qaeda were to prove decades later, a few martyrs to a cause can become more powerful than entire armies. The suicide bombers who kill themselves carrying out attacks have more potential power than any number of 70s ”Ëœterrorists’ such as the IRA, MPLA or the Red Brigades, In fact if any group are heirs to the real anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th century, it is the Islamist jihadists, not the theoretical situationist pranksters so beloved of McLaren.

We Mean It Maaaaaan! Sex Pistols ‘God Save The Queen’ detailed analysis

God save the queen

See above

She ain’t no human being

Of course the queen IS a human being in that she is mortal and born of woman and yet if her power is derived directly from God, then she must also be immortal. If she really is a human being, then why does she not display human emotions and behaviour? The monarchist system has de-humanised her, turned her into a monster from birth, all human traits of individuality and personality have been removed and she has taken the form of a hologram, a mere image of humanity upon which any image or idea can be projected onto. Her words are seldom her own, her actions are dictated by sinister and unaccountable ”Ëœadvisors’ and so she has become a mere robot, un-thinking, deployed as a decoy, pimped out to grease juicy contracts.

There is no future
In England’s dreaming

Rather than this being the nihilistic howl of a cynic, it is a profound statement upon those mythical ideals and supposed virtues that sustain all forms of national identity. England is an idea, not a reality just as all states and countries are fictitious. The dream may be that of recapturing former glories, the Britannia rules the waves jingoism of the 19th century as post-colonial decline sets in, or it may be the abstract dream of nationalists and patriots that they are somehow ”Ëœdifferent’ from others. Whatever, it is a dream, a mirage.

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need

The power of advertising and the media saturation of television in particular began to be realised in the 70s, as the vague anti-consumerist ethics of the 60s gave way to monetarism and the age of the mass market. The politicians were quick to seize upon these so-called ”Ëœdesires’ especially of those within the working class who had been denied many of the ”Ëœcreature comforts’ of the middle classes for so long.

But greed is not an ideology, capitalism is not a science and consumerism is not a panacea for all social evils. The difference between what you ”Ëœwant’ and what you ”Ëœneed’ is subjective, we all want and need different things but the power of advertising and cultural and educational propaganda attempts to make us believe we want and need the same things, things that make other people money in the main.

There’s no future, no future,
No future for you

There IS no future for you, if you believe in the above. Yes, you’ll live of course if you’re lucky but it’ll be based on a lie.

God save the queen

See above

We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

Well perhaps Lydon, as a second generation Irish Londoner really DID mean it, his ironic delivery obviously implying that he really did NOT. That he included his fellow Pistols spread the hatred to the entire band but I’m not entirely sure Matlock, Jones and Cook or Vicious did. McLaren, as half Jewish may have felt a similar sense of cultural alienation as Lydon during this celebration of all things English and British but Lydon articulated it through the prism of poverty.

The Irish diaspora living in England, as victims of English imperialism, still felt a genuine outrage and maybe shame that they had been reduced to working and living in the land that had starved, cheated and brutalised them for centuries. The IRA’s campaign on the mainland and within the six counties was still at its height during this era. Bloody Sunday, the H Blocks and internment were still fresh wounds and the hunder strikes were just around the corner. It is the use of the collective ”Ëœwe’ and ”Ëœour’ that Lydon is sarcastically mocking, because it is the ”Ëœwe’ and the ”Ëœour’ of the invented nationalist anthem. Who asked him? Who asked ”Ëœus?’

God save the queen
”ËœCause tourists are money

The most frequently rejoinder to those who question the role of an hereditary monarch is that the royal family and the Queen herself are an important factor in tourists visiting Britain and that although her extended family benefits from millions of civil list money and enjoys a vast fortune based upon land theft and blood money from the colonies, nevertheless this is cancelled out by the money made from home grown and foreign tourists. The test of course is whether they’d still come to marvel at the trappings of monarchy, the palaces and castles and mansions if there wasn’t a royal family any more as they do in France, Russia and other post-revolutionary republics. Do tourists get to meet the Queen personally and do they visit Buck House expecting to be served cucumber butties by Liz herself?

And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

As with ”Ëœshe aint no human being’ this is another attempt to demonstrate the totemic qualities of the monarch, devoid of a personality of her own, she has become a mere cipher for the desires of others. Her cult of personality is abetted by a fawning and sycophantic media as disgustingly obedient as any far eastern despot state. Who is the REAL Elizabeth Windsor? Maybe she doesn’t know the answer to that herself.

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

What is a jubilee any way? What for that matter, is history? The biblical notion of a jubilee was that every 50 years sins are forgiven, crimes are pardoned and lands, debts remitted, slaves freed and lands returned to their rightful owners, which is obviously not something that the British aristocracy would favour. No, the Hanoverian idea of a jubilee is to celebrate the anniversary of a serving monarch with theatrical and vulgar displays of wealth, military and religious pomp and ritual.

These ”Ëœmad parades’ have become even more grotesque in the years since the Silver Jubilee, with the wedding of Charles and Diana, the death of Diana, the death of the Queen Mother, the Golden Jubilee, the wedding of Prince William and now the Diamond Jubilee all relentlessly affording the establishment the opportunity to re-group and celebrate themselves as the country slips into economic meltdown.

When there’s no future
How can there be sin

A complex metaphysical question and a very Catholic one. Does sin exist as merely a human concept, and if so, then surely it has to exist in a condition of everyday reality. Yet sin is also a subjective notion, one person’s sin is another’s virtue. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Again the Biblical idea of jubilee as a period of atonement relates to Judeo-Christian theology but cannot be transposed to the Britain of the 1970s so easily.

We’re the flowers in the dustbin
We’re the poison in your human machine

At a period when the youth of Britain felt about as alienated from their parents and their dominant culture than any time, the ”Ëœflower of youth’ seemed consigned to the historical garbage can prepared by previous generations. What is a flower once it has outlived its decorative purpose, once its bloom has faded and its petals fallen?

It’s interesting that Lydon chooses to be the poison in the ”Ëœhuman’ machine because the construction of the monarchy industry relies upon human beings to keep it running, it needs victims, it requires blood and bones and shit and spit and lives lived with one purpose, to ”Ëœserve’ but to serve the paymasters, the architects of the cynical ruse to wrap human greed up as a joint enterprise that all ”Ëœsubjects’ of the crown benefit from. The poison is human too, those who infect the body politic with their own version of history and truth, their own insight and vocabulary must be condemned as heretics and subversives.

We’re the future, your future

Yet these boys and girls are indeed your future, they will be alive most of them when you are dead and gone and the future, no future, their future, no future, their future lies ahead, unwritten. There is still an element of positivity here, that hopefully the punk generation will see through the smoke and mirrors, the bread and circuses of distraction and diversion tactics. Alas, the future was to get much worse in the next few decades.

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

God save the queen
We mean it man
And there is no future
In England’s dreaming

See above.

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

No future, no future,
No future for you
No future, no future
For you

A final repetition of the punk rock mantra, that all philosophies and all societies, all forms of government and all human constructs are doomed to failure precisely because they ARE human. In the 70s Soviet era, Communism, once a great hope for working class idealists had begun to crumble under the weight of the west’s arms race and the monolithic, paranoid brutality of the politburo. As apartheid and American support for South American torture states shamed those who espoused democratic values, the hypocrisy of the ”Ëœwest’ was laid bare. Why should anyone feel anything but despair for a future based upon such principles? The prophetic doom mongering casts us all into the pit, no future for me, no future for you.

Or maybe Lydon didn’t mean any of this. Maybe he just had a gob on one day and scribbled the first thing that came into his ginger swede. After all, soon he’d move to LA and in the next 30 years become the very kind of Celebrity In The Jungle, butter advertising, self-glorifying national treasure he’d have spat on as a young Pistol.

Yet, for all its snotty provocation The Pistol’s anti-jubilee anthem has retained its power. Put it on now, listen to it on youtube or Spotify, or even y’know on an MP3, or a CD or God forbid, a turntable and hear the righteous howl of indignation, the disgust and sense of outrage than Rotten puts into his vocal. Of course the Queen herself was only in her 40s at the time and is now an old woman and so attitudes towards her have softened from many (not from me however).

Despite the endless royalist propaganda served up by the Windsor spin machine, Elizabeth Windsor had choices, just as her sons, daughters, grandsons and grandaughters have choices. They can choose to reject their ”Ëœdivine’ role to ”Ëœserve’ and take their chances as ordinary citizens, who have to rely on their own talents and strengths to make their way in the world. That they choose not to, only demonstrates their own weakness and inability to take responsibility for their own lives and in the end that’s worthy not of pity but contempt.

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  1. Lydons response would peobably be – I have sold butter, what else can I sell? I will give you my soul for £1000 , thank you Maaaan!
    Its all buls**t.

  2. I guess you have made many really interesting points. Not as well many ppl would actually think about it the direction you just did. I am really impressed that there is so much about this subject that has been uncovered and you made it so nicely, with so considerably class. Top-notch one, man! Very special things right here.

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