Jamie Reid: Sticking It To Her Majesty With The Art of Subversion

A tribute to the brilliant punk artist behind the Sex Pistols record covers

“”We couldn’t really afford things like Letraset, so it seemed natural to cut things out and do collage, to save money”
– Jamie Reid



British artist Jamie Reid (1947-2023), best known for his collage work with The Sex Pistols, has died. His covers of the band’s debut album Never Mind The Bollocks, the singles Anarchy in the UK (1976), God Save The Queen, Pretty Vacant and Holidays in the Sun are all recognisable in an instant.

Reid’s ransom note technique was used in response to the Daily Express’s mock outrage headline ‘Punk? Call It Filthy Lucre’ from December 3rd 1976.

For the cover of God Save the Queen, he adapted a Cecil Beaton photo portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, who was celebrating her Silver Jubilee. According to the BBC, the cover proved so controversial and divisive that Reid had his leg broken by a gang while walking down a street wearing a T-shirt bearing the design.



Some controversy over the Nowhere buses – read more here

In 1979, he told Melody Maker magazine:

“We deliberately used the media to get ideas across. We knew they’d write it because they’re so stupid. Everybody, particularly in the music papers, got the whole thing wrong, because it was an attempt to rip people off, to make as much money as we could.”



London-born Reid studied at Wimbledon Art School then Croydon Art School from 1964, where he metMalcolm McLaren, who would go on to manage the Sex Pistols. He created the counter-culture Suburban Press publication in 1970 with Jeremy Brook and Nigel Edwards and provided graphic design for the 1974 book Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International.



“It was very much to create images for the street, for newspapers, for TV, which said something complicated quite simply. Images like the safety-pin through the Queen or the ‘Anarchy’ flag were expressing the experiences I’d had throughout the previous sixteen years. And I was coming out of the period of alternative politics, remember that.”

– Jamie Reid, The Face, 1983



“There was a small period when it was very intense, very creative, and very relevant. Very forward looking. But you walk through some parts of Brixton now and it’s like a Hogarth painting, a sickness. It’s the aftermath. Punk rock worked tactically.”



“I was so lucky getting a place at Croydon Art School. The painter Sean Scully and Robin Scott from ‘M’ who did ‘Pop Muzik’ were in my year, and Ray Davies from The Kinks was in the year above me. If I hadn’t gone to Croydon I would never have met Malcolm McLaren.”

 – Jamie Reid, AnOther, 2018



“When The Pistols were vibrant and relevant was when no one could label them. The media couldn’t label them. I mean you were National Front one day, Reds under the Bed another, and Anarchists the next. And then it became very articulated and very controlled. In retrospect, I think the week ‘God Save The Queen’ got to number one we should have split the band up and got out, which is what Malcolm and I in fact wanted to do.”

– Jamie Reid, The Face, 1983


The John Marchant Gallery has a range of Reid’s work for sale.

Images: Jamie Reid XXXXX: 50 Years Of Subversion and the Spirit, Humber Street Gallery, Hull,

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