It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention in the UK at least that there is a wedding of two privileged people this Friday that will take place in front of a worldwide audience, shutting down the normal workings of much of central London for the day – and indeed the rest of the country as an additional bank holiday has been declared, and not to mention crowding out lots of more important (and actual) news in the media as they all fawn over the minutae of the wedding. Be that a dress, or the guest list, or seating plan. I am one of the many who couldn’t give a toss about the wedding, and will be watching none of it on Friday. If the weather is good, I’ll be in a park somewhere with like-minded friends, and if the weather isn’t so good, I’ll be in the pub – hopefully one without any coverage of it (which may make it tricky).
So anyway, this week’s Tuesday Ten – the first for a few weeks – is inspired by the forthcoming events, and so is one about Royalty, related privilege, and the concept of Kingship generally. It actually surprised me more than it should, perhaps, to find that there aren’t a great deal of songs that are pro-monarchy – and this is most certainly a Candle In The Wind-free zone. Brickbats and other suggestions to the usual address, of course.
It’s remarkable, really, that the Manics got away with releasing this as a single. One of the most vehement, furious anti-monarchy songs I’ve ever heard, it sets it’s stall out from the start as the Public Enemy sample subsides, with James Dean Bradfield proclaiming “Repeat after me – Fuck Queen and Country“. From a band that declared that they wanted to be “going to number one worldwide” and then “split anyway”, this snarling attitude seems very apt. The band that they became twenty years on – rather more mellow in sound, part of the rock establishment – you could never imagine releasing this now. One last point with this: the quote in the liner notes for this song (there was a literary quote for each song on Generation Terrorists) come from 1984, which nicely sums up the monarchy system in the UK, in some respects: “The party is not concerned with perpetuating itself. Who wields power is not important, providing that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.”.
Elizabeth My Dear
The Stone Roses
Ironically enough, one of the bands that the Manics hated around this time were apparently similarly minded about the monarchy. The shortest track on the The Stone Roses’ legendary debut album was little more than an interlude bridging the first and second halves of the album, a delicate acoustic track with just four lines of vocals that makes it’s views perfectly clear even before the final kiss-off. And listen out for the little twang, presumably to denote something being fired or thrown.
Storm the Palace
Equally Cursed and Blessed
Life after fame: it’s a tough place to be. The Manics’ Welsh compatriots Catatonia hit the big time with International Velvet, but when the follow-up arrived, things had moved on somewhat and suddenly the movement known as Britpop wasn’t quite the force it was. So this is something of an ignored album, and while the feelings on this song might be heartfelt (“Turn it into a bar / Let them work in Spar“), you can’t help but feel this track was an attempt at stirring up some controversy in the aftermath of the outpouring of vicarious grief following Princess Diana’s death. That it never really did suggests just how far the band vanished off the radar in just two years.
God Save The Queen
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols
A band rather better at stirring up controversy, of course, were these famous punks. One of the most famous anti-royalist songs of all – and perhaps one of the first to reach mass acceptance, maybe? – it was dubiously denied the number one slot in the charts around the time of the Silver Jubilee, and the cover for the single – featuring a defaced picture of the Monarch – apparently breaks the law too.
Punk’s Not Dead
Put a little more directly, perhaps, from another punk band of a similar time. No such popular exposure for these guys, and in the lyrics they took full advantage, snarling and cussing their hatred for the monarchy. Musically it’s not exactly the most advanced song in the world, but in the first wave of punk that was hardly the point, was it. If I looked hard enough, I’m sure I could find a full ten songs of anti-monarchy punk songs, but I prefer to have some variety…
The Queen Is Dead
The Queen Is Dead
It might have a rather jarring title, but as with so many Morrissey-penned songs, it’s all about the details. While it’s about some wishful thinking on the part of the monarch’s fate, it’s also perhaps about a country falling out of love with it’s monarchy – something that I suspect was far more the case during the mid-to-late eighties than in the decade before, or now. Those details, though – imagining Charles in his mother’s bridal veil on the front of the ‘Mail, invading the palace as a kid with “a sponge and a rusty spanner”. It’s almost a resigned recognition that his own views will never change anything.
Let’s move away from Royalty to privilege for a song. Incredibly this snarling tale of class warfare in Berkshire was revealed a few years ago to be David Cameron’s “favourite song”, which resulted in some sneering from various corners, not least Paul Weller, who retorted “Which part of it didn’t he get? It wasn’t intended as a fucking jolly drinking song for the cadet corps.”. Needless to say this is not a song glorifying the privileged education establishment in Eton – which of course is where Prince William was educated.
The Queen And The Soldier
The first song in this list to be a fiction, rather than based on a particular point in time, this is a slightly curious song. A folky, acoustic ballad, it tells the tale of a soldier who crosses the breach to confront a fictional queen – and to ask why she sent him and his compatriots to war. Intriguingly, the response the soldier gets is perhaps not what he expected. But then, what the queen is asked is perhaps not what she expected, either…
Well, his name is Prince (and I never did like Queen). And on this track, the opener to his unpronounceably titled album, he not only makes us all aware of exactly who he is, but he also suggests that God created him – ruling by divine right, of course, being something a number of Kings and Queens have invoked in the past. This track is also notable for being from the last of his, um, purple patch, that had lasted broadly from about 1980 – and this came out in 1992. Almost every new album of his since, with the possible exception of 3121, have sadly only been passable at best. Still, if I ever get another chance to see him live, I’ll be there (I’ve never managed it before).
Who’s The King
All Boro’ Kings
You know what the biggest surprise is? Not that this album sold over 600,000 copies, but that Dog Eat Dog are still going. They’ve hardly released too many albums over the years, but I only remember two songs – this and the monster alt-rock hit No Fronts. Both songs are somewhat inoffensive, good-natured rap-metal, with added saxophone – but this song is mocking those “gangsta” types who are trying to be king of the streets. Now I come to think of it, songs like this remind me more of Just Say No from the eighties. It’s bad, man. According to Wiki, Beavis and Butthead hilariously referred to these guys as “a bunch of butt-munches.” It’s hard to argue, y’know…