As monarchists prepare to celebrate the Queen’s 60th anniversary on the throne, news comes that a new version of the Sex Pistols’ breakthrough album, complete with the wildly controversial and influential track God Save the Queen, is slated for release later this year.
John Lydon, better known for his Johnny Rotten persona as front man of the short-lived punk band, revealed there would be an “expanded and repackaged” version of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.
Thirty-five years ago the most incendiary track on the album – calling Britain a “fascist regime” with “no future” and dismissing the monarch as “no human being” – was put out as a single timed to coincide with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
A publicity stunt on the River Thames ended in fisticuffs and arrests and helped spur moral panic about the band. The Pistols were being described as the biggest threat to British youth since Adolf Hitler. The track was banned from most airplay but still reached No. 2 on the charts, and sparked an enduring theory that the establishment prevented it from going to No. 1.
This year, the Queen is gearing up to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. But a reappearance of the Pistols’ album is unlikely to spark the sort of moral fervour and hand-wringing that greeted the material in the late 1970s. Never Mind the Bollocks has come to be seen as a pivotal moment in musical history and Mr. Lydon, although still acerbic, appears to have softened.
In recent years Mr. Lydon has drawn a distinction between the current Queen and the monarchy.
In 2010 he told reportedly told The Times that he “never personally hated” the Queen. And last year he revealed to the Toronto Star that he thinks she’s “quite charming.”
“You can be bitter about the institution but not the human being,” he said, showing a level of nuance not always evident in the band’s heyday. “And there is a difference.”
Also last year, he left many fans aghast with his praise of William and Kate’s engagement, saying they seem happy and that she should not be criticized for gold-digging. “That horrible class thing always comes out in Britain and it’s got to stop,” he said.
And in an interview tied to the album’s re-release, slated to appear tomorrow in NME, he joked about getting together with the Queen for “a cake fight.”
Among indignant fans the bun-fight has already begun.