The Sex Pistols released the single “God Save The Queen” on May 27, 1977 to coincide during with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee on June 7, 1977. The album cover depicts a defaced picture of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Jaime Reid.
The eyes and mouth of the Queen are obscured by the song title and name of the band, with the words looking as though they had been taken from newspaper cuttings in the style of a ransom note. In English Law, the album cover is an offense of “Contempt of the Sovereign” and a form of treason but it could have been much worse.
Several variations of the “God Save The Queen” artwork exist including this one with swastikas over the Queen’s eyes and a safety pin through her lips.
The image of Queen Elizabeth II is an official 1977 Silver Jubilee portrait by Royal photographer Cecil Beaton although it looks like The Sex Pistols reversed the negative.
On the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on June 7, 1977, The Sex Pistols attempted to interrupt the festivities by performing on a boat on the River Thames. Police officials forced the boat to dock and a scuffle with fans ensued, resulting in the arrest of several people associated with The Sex Pistols, inchluding the band’s manager Malcolm Mclaren, cover artist Jamie Reid and clothing designer Vivienne Westwood.
Here’s a youtube clip of the boat trip and chaos that ensued…
“God Save the Queen” shot to #2 on the UK pop charts (amid claims that it had sold enough copies to hit #1 but had been kept off for political reasons). During the festivities and in the immediate aftermath, radio stations were under strict orders not to play the tune.