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When Johnny Rotten implored the British masses to preserve the monarchy on the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen," he was, as they say in Old Blighty, taking the piss. He certainly didn't mean it in the puffed-up royalist spirit of the U.K.'s national anthem, which is also called "God Save the Queen." No, Rotten and his fellow Pistols — guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and then-bassist Glen Matlock — weren't the least bit concerned about the health or stability of Queen Elizabeth II when they referred to her reign, on wax, as a "fascist regime."
Though the band has said that the song's May 27, 1977, release date had nothing to do with the Queen's Silver Jubilee — a series of parties and parades celebrating the 25th anniversary of Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne on June 7th — their venomous second single managed to ruffle the easily disturbed feathers of Britain's establishment. In fact, it was banned by the BBC and the U.K.'s Independent Broadcasting Authority for that very reason. In the years since, it's been widely accepted that "God Save the Queen" was deliberately kept from the top slot on the U.K. Singles Chart so as not to offend Her Majesty.
The song's highly political theme and backdrop extend even to the label on which it was released. The Sex Pistols issued their first single, "Anarchy in the U.K.," on EMI before being dropped. Then they signed on with A&M, who pressed up several thousand copies of the "God Save the Queen" single before dropping the band and destroying almost all of the records. The single was then released in the U.K. by Virgin Records, who also put out the band's only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, in late October '77.
The result is one of the rarest punk singles of all time: Only nine copies of the A&M version of "God Save the Queen" are known to exist. It features "No Feeling" (an early version of Bollocks track "No Feelings") on the B-side, while the widely released Virgin edition features the non-album track "Did You No Wrong" on the flip. Bootlegs of this white whale run rampant, but in November 2018 a genuine copy sold on Discogs for a whopping $17,361.12 (or £12,500 at the time).
That might be pocket change for Her Majesty, but for the rest of us? A pretty penny indeed.