If you have any doubt about the thoroughness with which Queen Elizabeth II has quietly, stubbornly woven herself into England’s national fabric: John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, the band that recorded “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the irreverent “God Save the Queen,” admitted recently that he’ll “sorely miss her” when she’s gone.
Johnny freaking Rotten!
To be clear, Lydon will not be crying for the fading of monarchy as an institution. (Sure, the Windsors will stick around, but I think we all know that after Elizabeth II goes, it won’t be the same.) Pitchfork points to a recent Facebook Live sit-down with the Quietus, in which he was asked—in view of that excellent Guardian piece about what will happen when the Queen dies—whether he dreads how the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” might be used.
Here it is worth noting that in 1977, at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the single—with lyrics like “God save the queen/‘Cause tourists are money/And our figurehead/Is not what she seems”—was hitting the top of the charts even as it had been banned by the BBC. The Guardian remembers:
Was it a record business conspiracy that kept them from the No 1 spot? The official charts gave Rod Stewart top placing on the week of the jubilee, with only the NME chart handing victory to the Pistols. Keen to milk the controversy, McLaren and Virgin came up with the wheeze of having the Pistols play on a boat cruising the Thames, a parody of the Queen’s waterside procession. This was waving a red white and blue rag at a snorting London police. There was a symbolic moment when the band launched into “Anarchy in the UK” opposite Parliament, but the event quickly turned into the kind of fracas familiar from other Pistols gigs.
Lyndon replied: “Well I hope it’s not misused, because at the same time that’s about a political situation and the demand for obedience or monarchy that I don’t believe in. But that’s a human being. And I would sorely miss her, as a human being on planet Earth.” Pausing, he added: “Yeah, no, I’ll miss her. I will. As a fellow human being. It’s not her fault she was born into a gilded cage.”
He then interrupted the next question and backtracked to add, “Can I just correct this, just slightly? Because it’s important. ‘I will miss her’ sounds ominous and I don’t want that. Long may she live. I don’t know about the ‘reign’ part, but long may she live.”
“And at the same time, I do love pageantry, too,” he admitted. “I loved that last wedding.” Go figure.