JILL LAWLESS Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — There are several traditional elements of a royal anniversary in Britain: pageants, street parties, the Sex Pistols.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Pistols have been linked since the punk pioneers released the song “God Save the Queen” during the 1977 Silver Jubilee, which marked 25 years of the monarchy on the throne.
The anti-authoritarian anthem – not to be confused with the real British national anthem of the same name – was reissued for Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, or the Queen’s 70th birthday. It’s one of the many cultural ties – critics might say it’s profit – brought about by the royal milestone.
The band members, who rhymed “God Save the Queen” with “fascist regime” and “she’s not human”, softened over the years.
“I don’t mind it,” Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones said of the four-day British Jubilee extravaganza that starts Thursday and includes military parades, concerts, picnics and countless British flags.
“I see all the flags flying everywhere,” Jones said during a visit to London from Los Angeles, where he has lived for over 30 years. “I mean, it’s entertaining stuff. Tourists just love it.”
Sex Pistols vocalist John Lydon, formerly known as Johnny Rotten, recently told Talk TV he was “very, very proud of the Queen for surviving and doing well.”
It’s a far cry from 1977, when God Save the Queen launched on the anniversary weekend with an anarchic Sex Pistols performance on the riverboat – the Queen Elizabeth – that was interrupted by London police.
The song caused outrage; the band members were attacked on the street and banned from radio or television broadcasts. However, it charted at No. 2 behind Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” – although there are rumors that the Sex Pistols song was actually a big hit.
The band’s record label hopes it will hit No. 1 this time around, although it failed to chart after being re-released for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Other cultural institutions are also joining the anniversary campaign. Auctioneer Christie’s is selling two screen copies of Andy Warhol featuring the queen. Competitor Sotheby’s is offering a lightbox portrait of the Queen by Chris Levine and Jamie Reid, the iconic piece for the Pistols song “God Save the Queen”, featuring the monarch’s face covered in a ransom note.
Many museums and galleries hold special exhibitions and events. Some are whimsical, such as the anniversary Drag Queen Bingo hosted by the Horniman Museum in London.
The British Monarchy has a sometimes awkward but increasingly close relationship with popular culture. Who can forget Daniel Craig’s James Bond queen scene during the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, culminating in the monarch’s understudy parachuting into the stadium?
Pop music – nothing too edgy – plays a central role in this week’s anniversary celebrations. The concert outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday will feature artists such as Elton John, Alicia Keys, Duran Duran and Diana Ross, while Ed Sheeran is due to perform at the main anniversary competition on Sunday.
The television series The Crown turned the Queen’s long reign into drama and blurred the lines between truth and fiction for millions of viewers. The Sex Pistols are having their own moment of fact meets fiction with Pistol, a miniseries directed by Danny Boyle based on Jones’ memoir Lonely Boy.
The Sex Pistols disbanded in 1978 after releasing one album. Jones says he’s “enough. It was so dark and terrible at that moment.”
But he’s proud of the band’s legacy, even if he sometimes seems weary talking about it.
“It was an important time in music and I’m glad it happened,” Jones said. “Because it made people think, and made people think, ‘Well, I can do it.’ Before you lived in England, you didn’t have many options.”
But Jones added, “I don’t really listen to punk rock anymore. You know, my musical tastes have changed a lot over the years, and I’m 66 years old. I am no longer a child. I think it would be a little silly if I still carried this flag.”
“I like Steely Dan,” he said, “is that bad?”
Pistols bassist Sid Vicious died in 1979 at the age of 21, but the surviving members have occasionally reunited for concerts. Earlier this year, Lydon and his former bandmates were put on trial when the singer tried to block the use of the band’s music in the Pistol series.
A further musical reunion – possibly for the Queen’s 75th birthday in 2027 – seems unlikely.
“I don’t see it,” Jones said. “But you never know, dude. This group – you never know.”
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