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And now the Sex Pistols are fighting over who can be most respectful to the Queen

John Lydon has denounced any efforts to commercialize the bands' iconic anti-monarchy anthem "God Save The Queen" in the aftermath of Elizabeth II's death

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Photo: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

In what we can only describe as “a pure and unadulterated expression of the foundational principles of punk,” John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon and his former bandmates in the Sex Pistols are currently engaging in a high-profile and public argument about which of them is currently being too disrespectful toward the late Queen of England.

At the crux of the argument, per Deadline, is the Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen,” a 1977 single that you may be surprised to learn is not, despite its clear pro-monarchial title, actually about how great the Queen is. (Sample lyric: “God save the queen / She’s not a human being.”) Lydon—who’s gone through a long series of estrangements and reunions with his former bandmates over the last 40-plus years—started the battle shortly after Elizabeth II’s death, firing what seems to have been a pre-emptive shot denouncing any attempts to license “God Save The Queen” in the aftermath.


To which the other members of the Pistols responded with, basically, “Wait, what?” Talking to Deadline through a spokesperson, the group stated “We cannot understand what he would be referring to. Other than a couple requests for use of imagery or audio in news reports on The Queen and her impact on culture, there’s nothing new relating to ‘God Save The Queen’ being promoted or released in any way.”

Lydon, though, has been adamant that “The musicians in the band and their management have approved a number of requests against John’s wishes.” In a Twitter thread on his official account—accompanied by a picture of Elizabeth that appears to be the un-defaced version of the image used for the single’s iconic cover—Lydon’s reps write:

In John’s view, the timing for endorsing any Sex Pistols requests for commercial gain in connection with “God Save The Queen” in particular is tasteless and disrespectful to the Queen and her family at this moment in time. John wrote the lyrics to this historical song, and while he has never supported the monarchy, he feels that the family deserves some respect in this difficult time, as would be expected for any other person or family when someone close to them has died.


Lydon has stated, on more than one occasion, that he bears little or no animus toward Elizabeth or any of his family members, instead framing the “historical song” as an expression of distaste for the British monarchy in general. Really, though, it’s just nice that punk’s driving ethos, of being nice to very rich people in very secure positions of power, can remain so thoroughly intact, even in 2022.