It was to be the sweetest revenge. 30 years on from when the Sex Pistols were conned out of a number one single, finally they were going to get their just deserts. Back then, the Pistols were robbed by an oversensitive nation who in 1977 felt that 'God Save The Queen' going to the topper-most of the popper-most would overshadow her Maj's Silver Jubilee celebrations (indeed, it was actually thought the song would somehow topple the establishment…..??!) . So the chart was apparently 'nobbled' and Rod Stewart's 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' was given the crown in dubious circumstances.
But 30 years on we can just about handle the outrage of the Pistols finest moment, and a campaign to finally get the single to the top of the charts commenced. And what a campaign it was too… magazines backed it (NME in particular championed it with great enthusiasm), music celebs endorsed it, websites promoted it, radio stations covered it and even one or two broadsheets commented on it (even the Queen and Prince Philip were up for downloading it… probably). Everything was looking good for the fairytale ending.
Not since the 80's have I been so keen to hear the latest chart run-down ('Kid' Jenson no longer does it apparently…). In my day it used to be unveiled of a Tuesday lunchtime. Years later it moved to Sunday afternoons (presumably to spice up the flagging 'top 40' radio show, which up until that time was always promoting a chart just about to be superseded). These days however, Monday is the big day (is it a big day for anyone anymore?). So on Monday this week I was there, Union Jack party popper in hand, ready to celebrate a real achievement of 'people power'. On tracking down the new chart, I even looked at it in reverse order, just to try and re-create the excitement of the 80's! The further up the chart I got, the more excited I became… into the top 10 and still no mention… top 5… top 3… it's not number 2! They've done it! And this weeks number 1 is…. The Sugababes. The fuckin Sugababes??! A wider search for the full top 75 showed the Sex Pistols as a new entry at number 42.
So what happened? In a world where you only need to sell a couple of dozen singles to get in the top 10, how did all the hype and promises of buying multiple copies fail so miserably? To me the answer is fairly clear, it was virtually impossible to actually buy the fucking thing!
I really bought into this campaign, and despite already owning the track a dozen times or more on various singles, LP's and CD's, was happy to do my bit for Queen and country… BUT (and this is a big, age-showing BUT) for me to do my bit, I need something tangible to show for my money. I'm sorry, but 79p for the privilege of downloading a track I already own is not going to tempt me. If I'm prepared to show willing, and buy something I already own, then I need the record company to meet me half way and offer me something in return, to make it worth my while. ‘God Save The Queen’ on CD single would have been nice, but it was not to be. Still, they did decide to pump out a 7” single with the original sleeve artwork, so that was the way I’d make my vote count.
A visit to my local Virgin on release day (8th October) was fruitless. They no longer stock 7” singles (which they only started stocking again 18 months ago!), only CD singles. No matter, HMV is close by… However I discovered they no longer stock chart singles, but I was informed that there was a 7” single section at the back of the store, so off I hurried. Describing it as a ‘singles section’ was somewhat over-egging it, as what I found was more reminiscent of a car boot sale than a national music chain-store. The ‘section’ referred to was infact a grubby box of dog-eared singles, precariously perched on the edge of a display counter. Still, it was good to see they at least carried them, and ever more heartening to see so many new releases in this format. And what a bargain too, all at 99p each! I used to pay more than that in the 80’s! Spurred on I flicked through the box, and finally, right at the back, there it was.. ‘God Save The Queen’ on 7” single in original artwork sleeve… FOUR QUID!!!
It sums up the music industry perfectly for me. A buzz had been created by the general public to right an longstanding wrong. But rather than saying “some good publicity here lads, pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap”, the greedy bastards push it out at full mark-up. Every time HMV or Virgin has a sale (most months!) The Pistols classic album ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ is always there at £2.99, so £4 to purchase one song from it can hardly be seen as good value – especially as the vast majority of the people who were up for buying it, already owned it! I didn’t buy it, and judging by the lowly chart position, not many others did either.
I’d like to think that Virgin Record Company will learn from this, but know full well they won’t. It’ll just be used as an excuse not to press further vinyl releases in the future. No doubt they’ll be continuing with their main hobby of pleading poverty and moaning about illegal downloading, without once seeing the irony.
As a consolation prize, I downloaded a (free!) God Save The Queen 30th anniversary wallpaper for both my PC and my phone… anarchy eh?!
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