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Monday, 28 May 2012

No future in this jubilee dreaming

Jubilee bunting in Tesco, an old head-and-shoulders pic of Queen Elizabeth aged about 50 on a street poster. Without really noticing, I’ve recently started seeing lots of Diamond Jubilee tat. Tat that takes you back ... to 1977, the Sex Pistols and oh god…..

As if we couldn’t learn the lesson of a third of a century ago, we seem condemned to repeat it now. Farce, farce and more farce.

Play it again John

Anyway, while things like Cassetteboy v The Diamond Queen or this weekend’s Last Jubilee punk festival are mildly diverting, there’s definitely not much edge to them. The former seems almost to celebrate the royal family in its gentle ooer-er-missus satire, while the latter is unashamed punk nostalgia: good fun if you like that kind of thing (and don’t mind spending £125 on a ticket) but well, not exactly cutting-edge art.

We seem to be trapped. Caught in a time warp of lampooning the royals and/or celebrating punk’s own considerable longevity and surprising resilience (a sort of mirror-image to the royals). In fact, with faded punk royalty like the Buzzcocks and the Damned at the last jubilee beano, it’s clear that for some punk fans the Lydon/Reid/McLaren assault on the monarchy will always be its defining moment. And now even I’m doing it…

In fact, I also “did it” last year with the Catherine/William wedding, riffing on the “mad parade” of last year’s bash and the Sex Pistols’ magnificently chaotic ’77 boat gig. So, there’s no way out, even for escapologists and cheats like me …

But … maybe there’s a glimmer of hope in that rather touching BBC feature about ’77-era punks remembering the Silver Jubilee and how they played the SP’s God Save The Queen through open windows to annoy neighbours preparing to pay homage at their street party trestle tables. It's interesting that the majority of the now middle-aged interviewees still dislike the royal family (some vehemently so). After all those rock star accounts of how they were first energised by seeing the Sex Pistols, there must be a very nice book to be written about how punk changed the lives of thousands of “ordinary” people, including by profoundly influencing their politics.

As that well-known political theorist Professor Rotten said in one of his early treatises, “Don’t be told what you want / Don’t be told what you need …”.

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