sex pistols

Music for the Apocalypse #36: God Save the Queen, by The Sex Pistols

Queen Elizabeth II
God Save the Queen (but if he can’t, dibs on that hat)

Liz X from The Beast Below, Doctor Who
“I’m the bloody queen, mate.”

As the second longest reigning monarch of these isles of Britannia (the longest reigning being the formidable Victoria), there’s a lot to admire in Liz II. In fact, the queens of Great Britain have a lot going for them altogether. Pope Sixtus V said of Liz I: “She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all”, and the success of both Liz I and II’s reigns inspired the rather wonderful Liz X, in one of the most marvellous episodes of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who, ‘The Beast Below’. Liz X saves her people from the death of the Earth by whisking them away on Staship UK.

And yet, although any girl with what it takes to survive an apocalypse has to admire these ladies, the apocalypse is rarely kind to royalty. James Herbert’s ’48 begins with the protagonist occupying Buckingham Palace – deserted after the end of the world. In I, Zombie, by Al Ewing, the palace becomes a pulsating incubator for horrifying insectoid aliens. And, even though the human race survives in her hands, The Beast Below is hardly uncritical of monarchic rule, as the police state she has created and allowed to continue appears dangerously restrictive, culturally stultified, and is founded on the enslavement and torture of a wondrous sentient being: a star whale.

As a nation the UK sustains ambivalent feelings towards the monarchy. We enjoy the spectacle (and the bank holidays) that they bring, and the queen remains a global icon, but we mutter darkly about our tax money being spent on them and wonder about the place of a monarch in a 21st Century democracy. As in our post-apocalypse fiction, royalty hold a tension between fascination and the desire to overthrow the ruling class. What better way, then, for a blog about the apocalypse to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, than with ‘God Save the Queen’, by The Sex Pistols?

It is rumoured that the song was written to coincide with the Silver Jubilee, although Paul Cook has denied this. It has been rereleased to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee. The anarchic lyrics equate monarchy with a ‘fascist regime’, describing a society with ‘no future’, where the population has become moronic from over-regulation, and where people are ‘Potential H-bomb[s]’ – fuelled by pent up anger and frustration, threatening to explode and either destroy us all or clear the way for some new anarchic future. In a genre that places the downfall of civilisation as we know it at the centre, apocalypse and political commentary go hand in hand of necessity, and what could better symbolise this than The Sex Pistol‘s vibrant and violent corruption of the national anthem?

God save the queen.

 – Apocalypse Womble out.

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