Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Annus horribilis

The first time I came across punk was on a school trip to (I think) Madame Tussaud's. At the end of the museum there was a ride that took us through the history of pop music. It must have  showed Elvis and the Beatles, but the only ones I remember were an animatronic waxwork Madonna doing ‘Like a Virgin’ and Sid Vicious doing ‘My Way’. I can’t remember the Vicious waxwork, but the video for ‘My Way’ shocked me. I didn’t know whether he really had shot audience members at the end of the song or if it was just an act. The ride moved on to the next pop milestone, but I couldn’t pay attention. I asked my Dad as he drove me home what punk was. He said it was a group of people who hated everything.

Years later I got into 90s American pop punk and delved into punk history. I read the Sniffin Glue anthology and Please Kill Me, and watched The Filth and the Fury. I remember Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming was one of the books that sat uselessly on the table in my A Level Media Studies class. Dropping out of A Levels was probably a big part of what drew me to the era and the music, but the Casualties-style reenactors you’d see at gigs served as a warning of the perils of nostalgia.

A major aspect of documentaries and histories was the Jubilee. It always had to be emphasized how different it was back then, how seriously people took the monarchy. One part of Filth and the Fury details Lydon’s attack by royalists, who knifed him in the knee with a machete. The bunting and the street parties all seemed like bizarre period details that aging punks laughed about when they reminisced and tried to emphasize that people really did feel so strongly about the Queen, as if no one today would believe them.

It’s an obvious point to make and I know lots of people are making it. But there is something wrong with the fact that 35 years after ‘God Save the Queen’, despite all the upheavals between then and now, the one thing to stay constant is the pageantry and adoration of royalty.

It’s not that I’m surprised they’re still here — nothing short of a revolution would get rid of them. No, it’s that I am staggered by the deference and fawning over these unbearable cretins. In an age where we apparently can’t afford education, healthcare or wages, what we can afford is a nuclear warhead and parties for the fucking Royal family.

I’ll leave you with the words of punk hip gunslinger and easy target Tony Parsons:

“An old punk until the day I die, I still loathe much about a system that elevates mediocre non-entities like Cameron and Clegg to the highest office. But – like the overwhelming majority of our people – I have nothing but respect, admiration and love for the Queen. She is of course more of a true punk than Johnny Rotten will ever be. Her Majesty has followed her destiny, done what she was born to do – surely the very heart of the punk ethos. [...] The Queen does not represent a life of privilege for a few pampered toffs. The Queen embodies the best of us.”

2012: annus horribilis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So true!

Oddly my awareness of punk came about in the exact same way (the ride, the uncertainty as to whether he'd really shot the audience).