I’ve got the Jubilee blues. I’m as grumpy as can be. I’m not a monarchist, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about (I mean palaces are palaces even when no one lives in them) but I like a coronation chicken vol-au-vent and a Thames pageant as much as the next person. I also accept that I’m in the minority, that most people in Britain love the Royals, and who am I to argue? But I still have the grumps. Over the last couple of days I have realised that this mood is not only because of the celebration of a family born into privilege, but also because of the bleatings of another national treasure – the Punks.
Give it a rest will you? I have had enough, ‘It was different in 77, then we really had a rebellion,’ nonsense in the last week to make me puke up my Union Jack Fondant Fancies. On this week’s Review Show, the previously considered and erudite Paul Morley, berated art historian James Fox for suggesting that John Lydon was a middle class old man speaking from a ‘tasteful well-appointed home.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ came the reply,’ it doesn’t matter because of what he did then and the influence he has had since.’
What rot! Of course it matters. This is like not being able to make fun of Las Vegas Elvis and all the unseemly excess because of his influence on rock music since he first dusted off his blue suede shoes (and yes, I am including Punk), or not being allowed to point out that Jacko was a bit weird because he produced Off The Wall. Making Country Life ads trussed up like a PG Woodhouse character does not put you at the forefront of youth culture. Now I like Mr Lydon (as it seems fitting to address him these days) but he has about as much relevance to the kids as that German family squatting in the nation’s palaces. To them he is just some eccentric Dad figure spouting off about how God Save the Queen wasn’t written out of spite! Really John? Really?
‘I wrote a record,’ he said earlier this week,’ It wasn’t about a specific moment in time or history – I wrote a record about a subject matter that mattered to me, in a personal way. I never did it as an act of spite against the jubilee.’
As a writer, I find it very hard to believe that God Save the Queen wasn’t written because the Jubilee was all over the papers at the time. Just a massive co-incidence? I don’t think so. Why deny the spite? What’s wrong with a bit of contempt?
If it wasn’t spite against the Royals then it smacks of contempt for the teenagers handing over their hard earned dole money to take part in your little counter-culture statement. Wasn’t it an act of rebellion against all the jingoistic isn’t Britain great nonsense the media throws at us every so often so that we forget what a state we’re in? If it wasn’t spite then it’s a cynical as Simon Cowell getting the kids to vote for a dancing dog on their mobiles because it’s what makes Britain great (and nicely tops up his bank balance.)
Everyone on the Review Show bemoaned the lack of a visible counter-culture in modern Britain. Where is it? they asked incredulously. Witness the following exchange between my two nieces on Facebook. Emma is 22 and Amber has just turned 18.
Ambz – So who’s the queen’s kid then? Princess Diana? Prince William?
Em – Are you on crack? Prince Charles!
Ambz – What? I thought that was her husband!
Em – I’m as proud of you as you are of your country.
Funny certainly, but Amber’s comments strike me as the ultimate in counter-culture. She couldn’t give a monkey’s about the Royals, they mean nothing to her, not even enough to protest against. She won’t have downloaded the re-issue of God Save The Queen (who did?) because it is as irrelevant as the National Anthem. She is utterly indifferent. There’s your counter-culture Review Show pundits! It’s invisible because the Facebook generation don’t even bother to acknowledge the establishment or the outdated rebellion against it. Incidentally, I asked Amber if she’d heard of John Lydon or the Sex Pistols and she said ‘I don’t know who that John guy is but I’ve heard of the Sex Pistols.’ I bet she couldn’t name a single song though, and why should she be able to?
The current lionisation of Punk as untouchable is as ridiculous as not being able to question the validity of the monarchy because the Queen has been on the throne for 60 years, and isn’t she marvellous? It’s easy to be marvellous when you live in a palace, and it’s easy to be untouchable when you believe your musical movement is the only one that has relevance.
In this one statement Paul Morley reminded me of the stereotypical old bloke shouting, ’I didn’t fight a world war for the likes of you. Show some respect.’ The difference is that the old bloke did actually fight in a world war whereas Punk used its art-school education to appropriate establishment symbols, have a pop at the Queen and sell records. I’m being deliberately antagonistic here but it’s certainly one way of lookin at it. I actually think real Punk stood for something, and what it stood for was the right of people to question the establishment, not to accept that whatever John Lydon does after Punk doesn’t matter because for a couple of years he was genuinely subversive. By the end of ‘77 Punk was a commercial enterprise just like any other.
Unlike everyone on the Review Show I will be going to a street party. Why shouldn’t I? I’ve paid my share of tax besides, I like the kitchiness of the bunting and the cut-out Royals and I’ll talk to neighbours I would normally just nod at. Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. But while I tuck into my cucumber sandwiches I won’t be agreeing how marvellous the Queen is. I will change the subject or (depending on how many Pimms I have had) make my views known because it is my right to do so. I won’t just accept the established fact of her being marvellous because someone says it’s true.
I look forward to seeing if next year’s honours list brings John Lydon a surprise and what Johnny Rotten will do if it does.
In the meantime, my fictional take on the Royal Wedding is available to read on the Stories page of this website.