In 1977, The Sex Pistols hijacked the Silver Jubilee, taunting the Queen and “her fascist regime” with their two-fingered “God Save the Queen”.
Now punk’s most notorious figures will fly the flag for anarchy at an alternative Diamond Jubilee festival – but this time it’s all to raise money for the Princess Royal’s charity.
The Pistols’ anti-royal anthem will be aired once again at The Last Jubilee, a counterpoint to the Palace’s official June bank holiday celebrations. Staged at Bath Racecourse, the three-day festival features an original Pistol – Glen Matlock – and a host of punk survivors including The Damned, The Buzzcocks, UK Subs, The Vibrators and Hugh Cornwell, formerly of The Stranglers.
The Last Jubilee organisers describe the gig as a celebration of the true, anarchic spirit of 1977. Family tickets are available for £350 so ageing punks can give their children a taste of the phlegm-coated music of their youth.
However, when the likes of Menace, Anti-Nowhere League and the punk poet John Cooper Clarke entertain the pogoing crowd, they will be doing so for a worthy, royal-endorsed cause.
Jeremy Sellick, of the promoters Jam On It Events, said: “One of the charities we are raising money for is Wooden Spoon which helps disadvantaged young children. Princess Anne is the patron. She is a very hard-working royal and we would like to invite her.”
Glen Matlock, who will perform with his band The Philistines, said of the gig’s beneficiary: “It shows you what goes around comes around. I won’t be standing there as either a monarchist or anti-monarchist. This is just a good opportunity for a gig.”
Matlock, who wrote the music for The Pistols’ best-known songs before allegedly being kicked out for liking The Beatles, stands by his alternative “God Save the Queen”. “It’s got a fantastic guitar riff, great chord changes and great lyrics from John [Lydon, formerly Johnny Rotten]. Although the jury’s out about whether he really wanted the end of the monarchy.”
Unlike the band’s snarling singer, Matlock is backing a Facebook campaign to get their national anthem to number one over the Jubilee weekend. According to punk conspiracy theorists, the song was denied the top spot during the Silver Jubilee despite outselling Rod Stewart’s official chart-topper.
“My bank manager started that campaign,” Matlock joked. “It would be great if someone else came out with a new song 35 years on which had the same weight and import, but they haven’t.”
Music history could have been very different. “The song was actually written the year before and it was called ‘No Future’,” Matlock said. “After I left the band, Malcolm McLaren saw the Silver Jubilee was coming up and changed the name to ‘God Save the Queen’. It was a little bit opportunist.”
Will the 5,000 punk veterans expected to attend the Bath festival rebel against the event’s royal beneficiary? No, believes Sellick. “It’s a chance to revisit the days of anarchy for a good cause,” he said. “You can jump around for 10 minutes like you are 17 and then lie down for three weeks afterwards.”
Adam Sherwin, The Independent