The Sex Pistols' biggest chart success in Britain and a record that helped change the country's entire musical landscape, "God Save the Queen" nearly reached the number one position even in spite of a daytime airplay ban by BBC Radio (and, by some accounts, figures had to be doctored to prevent it from hitting the top). Released in 1977 during England's celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee (the 25th anniversary of her ascension to the throne), the song -- a simple, mid-tempo rocker performed with blistering energy -- was immediately provocative in its gleefully snotty name-calling (the Queen as a fascist, a common tourist attraction, and an "old figurehead," not to mention the immortal couplet "God save the Queen/She ain't no human being"). But, on a deeper level, Johnny Rotten's lyrics also attacked some of the country's most cherished patriotic notions at a moment when those notions were being trumpeted the loudest; he declared the royalty ineffectual and irrelevant, and Britain a country in decline, clinging desperately to its crumbling imperial past and ignoring the bleak times ahead for its younger generation ("there is no future in England's dreaming"). Positive or negative, public reaction was swift and hysterical; while the song was a smash hit, the Pistols themselves were demonized by the media and the government as a threat to the most basic foundations of English society, and were even attacked and beaten in the streets of London (in the most extreme incident, Rotten was stabbed in the hand). As an act of public provocation, "God Save the Queen" was immensely successful; as a rock & roll anthem, it still sounds equally potent, even if so many groups subsequently tried to duplicate its attitude and controversial impact that the song now sounds very specific to its time and place. Structurally, the main body of the song is quite simple -- two or three power chords per section -- but what drives it home so perfectly is the climactic closing coda, a descending major-key progression that never appears otherwise in the song, over which Rotten snarls the apocalyptic chant "no future, no future, no future for you." But even though Rotten is crucial to the song -- not just in the theatrical rudeness of his vocal, but also the perceptive intelligence behind his lyrics -- he isn't the only reason for its success; guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook are magnificent, assaulting their instruments with a bludgeoning power that surpasses even Rotten's furious vocal. It's necessary to hear the song in the version present on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols to fully appreciate that power, as none of the demos or live bootlegs of "God Save the Queen" equal that performance; it's a monumental moment in rock history, and even if its subject doesn't hold quite the same relevance for American listeners, the qualities it represents -- youthful rebellion, attitude with intelligence, raw energy, and total commitment to performance -- make it positively transcendent.