May 31: The BBC Bans “God Save The Queen”

sex-pistols-god-save-the-queenOn May 27, 1977 punk rock band the Sex Pistols released their masterpiece, the acerbic single “God Save The Queen”. A savage and hilarious attack on the British establishment and royal family, the song was both instantly controversial and an instant hit. However, in an effort to stop the single from drawing attention away from Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee celebration, the BBC banned the record on May 31, 1977.

It’s understandable why the British powers-that-be would feel threatened by “God Save The Queen”. After all, the song’s lightest attack is a plea for God to save the Queen “Cause tourists are money” and only gets sharper from there.The band denied that the release of the single was timed to coincide with the Jubilee. Lead singer Johnny Rotten later explained that the song’s message was as much a criticism of the celebration of England’s figurehead monarchy as a call for sympathy for the suffering working class. “You don’t write ‘God Save The Queen’ because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you’re fed up with them being mistreated.”

After the song was banned by the BBC, the Sex Pistols sought out alternate means to get their message out. On June 7, the day of the main Jubilee festivities, the band chartered a boat named The Queen Elizabeth and sailed down the Thames, playing the song in front of the Palace of Westminster. As they were performing without a permit, they were promptly arrested upon docking.

Despite all this, the song became a hit and made it all the way to number 2 on the official UK Singles Chart. Another chart, the TOP 20 POPS, refused to even list “God Save The Queen”, placing only a black line at the number 2 slot. There is some controversy about whether “God Save The Queen” really peaked at number 2. For 38 years, rumors (never confirmed nor denied by the BBC) have persisted that the song had actually hit number 1, but those in charge at the BBC had switched the chart positions of “God Save The Queen” and Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” to place the latter song in the top slot in an effort to save face. For what it’s worth, the NME (New Musical Express) magazine placed “God Save The Queen” at the top of their chart. Today the song is considered to be a classic and a landmark moment in punk and British pop music history.

Finding a drink to tie into “God Save The Queen” was a bit tricky. The God Save the Queen is a little too prim and proper, while the Sex Pistol is more glam than punk (There’s nothing punk about cranberry juice and Goldschlager.), but eventually I stumbled across the Johnny Rottenseed. This drink was created at Detroit’s Sugar House craft cocktail bar and combines applejack with a Coca Cola syrup. According to the Sugar House, you can make this syrup by “[reducing] Mexican coke down to about 25% of it’s original volume.” Here are some handy instructions for making a reduction sauce or syrup.

Johnny Rottenseed

  • 2 ounces Laird’s Bonded Applejack
  • 1/2 ounce Coca Cola syrup
  • 1 dash Orange Bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice in a rocks glass and stir.


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