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MURRAY CHALMERS: God Save The Queen? I saw no reason to celebrate the Silver Jubilee and even less now

Murray then and now. And the God Save The Queen T shirt still fits 45 years on.
Murray then and now. And the God Save The Queen T shirt still fits 45 years on.

In 1977 I walked through London’s Petticoat Lane Market with a knife pressed into my back, barely breathing in case any sudden movement caused my early demise.

I was 17 and sporting a Sex Pistols T shirt commemorating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

However, some passing Teddy boys took such great exception to this garment that they decided to stab me.

I’ve heard of dying for your art but even I found that a bit extreme.

These bequiffed royalists were upset because my T shirt featured their Queen with a safety pin through her lips and the provocative words “God Save The Queen, she ain’t no human being, there is no future in England’s dream”.

Suddenly the idea of free speech had got very real. In fact, you could say it became a matter of life and death.

Wearing this T shirt during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was like wearing a target on your chest with a sign begging “please kill me”.

Back then, the Queen and her family were beyond reproach.

No one dared criticise them, even at a time when the nation was in crisis. Just as it is now.

Instead, we were encouraged to pack up our troubles in our old kit bags, unfurl the flags, roll out the barrel, and conga our way to the benefits office with a smile, smile, smile.

We might have been Her subjects. But we worker bees were used more like objects, bit players in a fantasy predicated on wealth and privilege.

Would Dundee roll out the red carpet now?

The Queen even came to Dundee.

The Queen met crowds in Dundee during her Silver Jubilee visit.

It followed a previous visit in 1969 when we were given the day off school to cheer and wave flags as she desperately thought of something interesting to say about the multi-storey blocks of Dudhope Court.

The multis had been freshly painted so she didn’t have to see the gritty reality of other people’s lives.

Even as a kid, I remember feeling like Oliver Twist wanting more.

As a disaffected teenager, I resented that the British class system meant we were sold the lie that the Royal Family were superior to us, just because of their lineage.

Subsequent decades and increasing foolhardiness by the Firm would show this not to be the case.

Increasingly, revelations about some of their behaviour make them appear more like alley cats than any elite.

I saw no reason to celebrate the Royals for the Silver Jubilee of 1977 and I see even less reason to now. Just because they’ve managed to cling on to their wealth and power while so many others in the world suffer hardship.

In many ways the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee reflects a nation with even more problems than she managed to ignore during her last one.

God Save The Queen was our call to arms

1977 was a massively troubled year.

Inflation was sky high and there was widespread unemployment.

Strikes, IRA bombings, social unrest and a vote of no confidence in an ailing government were just some of the things this beleaguered country had to face then.

Street parties and Union Jacks – the traditional view of the Silver Jubilee.

As always in times of such discord, the far-right National Front had started to become bigger and increasingly bullish. This led to violent clashes in Lewisham and Birmingham.

On the bright side, at least Covid, genetically modified crops and Jacob Rees-Mogg hadn’t been invented yet.

Not for nothing was 1977 described as the year when the two 7’s clashed.

The peace and love of the hippy era was forgotten. And its flower children were replaced by the street urchins of punk, our clothes ripped and torn and our anger palpable.

Amid this chaos, the Silver Jubilee was sold at BOGOF prices to an ailing nation, a panacea hiding very real sickness at its heart.

Never had fun felt as forced and fake as it did in that wretched year of delusion, when the sound of Vera Lynn seeping in from an endless Morris dance meant we commoners didn’t hear the world falling apart.

No wonder we embraced the Sex Pistols’ anti-monarchy anthem God Save The Queen like the three-minute call to arms it was.

If the cap (and the T shirt) fits…

Banned everywhere, vilified by the Establishment and our parents, what could be better than an anti-Jubilee song in Jubilee year?

This – not The White Cliffs of Dover or ABBA – was the real sound of 1977.

As another T shirt said: “We’re the 1% who don’t fit and we don’t care”.

The problem was, we cared too much.

Now, as we prepare to celebrate yet another pointless anniversary of an anachronistic institution, this new Jubilee is starting to feel like the dregs of the party before it’s even begun.

Which is why it’s so funny that the Sex Pistols are re-releasing God Save The Queen on May 27 and Danny Boyle’s punk miniseries transmits on May 31.

Both just in time for the Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend starting on June 2.

I’ve even dug out my old T shirt for the occasion and it still fits. Now there’s something worth celebrating.


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