Music and its queen

Music and its queen
Music and its queen
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In the 90s, britpop made peace with Elizabeth, after years of disputes. There are medals, and grandparents

The relationship between the britpopfor decades one of the most prosperous British industries, and the monarchy it has always been a question of chromosomes or, if you like, of heredity: the queen as an immanent and eternal presence, a stable and perennial institution. This is why the attention of the modernist minds of music has rarely been concerned with the subject, except in cases of exasperation, attributable more to a psychological reaction than to a real political confrontation, more to the perception of submission to a repressive mother than to an effective anti-monarchical conception. Then the thing has always faded, with Queen Elizabeth returning to her place as an inevitable presence and even looked at with affection, a comforting icon of that national identity satirically baptized “Little Britain”.

Noel Gallaghermind of Oasis, talks about it in a recent interview, claiming that the charm of the British monarchy is gradually fadingmore or less like the call of religion, launching a parallel between the two ideas: “The monarchy today is a bit farcical and those who believe that the British really feel like subjects are very wrong.” But then he adds: “Anyway the death of the queen will be a problem for many, because she has always been there. It is not a question of being for or against: we were all born that she was already there “.

Rock stars largely played their part in the sticky social grief liturgy following Elizabeth’s disappearance: Mick Jagger, who once publicly referred to her as the “witch”, posted a photo of the queen on Instagram, writing: “Her Majesty Elizabeth II has always been there all my life. I remember seeing her wedding on TV as a child. She is a beautiful young woman who has become the beloved grandmother of the nation ”. The grandfather of English rock who pays homage to the national grandmother. The band’s entourage echoed him: “The Rolling Stones extend their solidarity with the royal family for the death of her Majesty, a constant presence in their lives, as in countless others”. A loyalist of the Crown like Sir Elton John, singer of the monarchical myth since he adapted his “Candle in the Wind” to the death of Diana (the “England’s rose”) expressed himself with a post in white letters on a black background: “A presence that has guided the country in best and worst moments, always with grace, decency and sincere warmth “. And so on:

: “The thought of England without Elizabeth II is devastating”; Victoria Beckham: “She will be remembered for her loyalty and my thoughts are with the royal family”; the Duran Duran cite Elizabeth as an “extraordinary example”.

This relationship of proximity has deep roots, which go back to the happy intuition of the Royal House to attempt the annexation of Beatlemania by appointing the Fab Four as baronets (with John Lennon in the part of the urchin who told of a joint smoked in the bathrooms of Westminster). Same Beatles admit the presence of the ruling entity in the words of their own songs, as in “Penny Lane”, which speaks of a fireman carrying “a portrait of the queen” in his pocket, or in “Abbey Road”, which contains the piece- splinter “Her Majesty” (only 25 seconds) written by Paul in an affectionate music-hall style, in which Elizabeth “changes from day to day” but never ceases to be the object of his gaze.

Until the crisis arrives, the rebellion against established authority. In the acrid and exhibitionistic era of punk, feelings change direction (“Pistol”, the new series by Danny Boyle on Apple +, tells it flawlessly) and in ’77 the Sex Pistols publish “God Save the Queen” to celebrate the queen’s jubilee in their own way, the “queen” that they rhyme with the anathema “Fascist Regime”. The truce is over. In the great critical essay “England’s Dreaming,” Jon Savage recalls the moment: “What was terrifying about the jubilee was the sheer unanimity: the only critical press coverage was in the New Statesman, while unsubscribe festivals were treated as nonsense. Any dissenting voice was silenced ”. This is how Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, sees the extraordinary promotional opportunity of making his proteges raise the banner of protest, convincing Johnny Rotten to transform “No Future”, the nihilist song he was working on, into a personalized invective. against the sovereign. When “God Save the Queen” reaches number 2 on the charts, unfairly excluded from the first position in favor of a less compromising piece by Rod Stewart, the provocation constitutes a shock.. By comparison, Freddie Mercury’s cheekiness, who had assumed the identity of Queen for his own ambiguous performances, is pure entertainment.

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The attack of the pop becomes frontal. Although Rotten is attacked on the street by a gang of old order supporters shouting “We love the queen, you bastard!” (two tendons cut by a knife), the bank is broken: the British eighties are the time of unemployment and class division and the guys with guitars attack the queen for what she represents. Morrissey sings the teasing “The Queen is Dead”, In which Elizabeth is the emblem of a dissolute empire. Ian Brown, of the then hugely popular Stone Roses, he echoes in “Elizabeth My Dear,” shouting, “I will not rest until he has lost the throne.” THE Manic Street Preachers they don’t go for the subtle in “Repeat” (“Repeat with me / Fuck the queen”). Rivaling the hated Margaret Thatcher, the sovereign becomes a symbol of undeserved privileges, social injustice and sclerotic conservatism, intercepting the feeling of hostility against the entire British establishment. THE Pet Shop Boysin “Dreaming of the Queen”, they portray Elizabeth as a sad figure, drinking tea with a disconsolate Diana. Damon Albern’s “This Is a Low” by Blur paints her as a lost character: “The queen, went around the corner / and jumped off Land’s End.”

The wave of hostility only subsided in the mid-1990s, when the country’s economic prospects began to improve. The beauty is that today both Morrissey and John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten) do not hide their reactionary sympathies: Lydon as an avid fan of Donald Trump and Morrissey as a supporter of the far-right movement For Britain.

The Cool Britannia wave, however, puts Blairian England back at the center of the musical map, The Spice Girls photographed in ’97 with the Queen and Prince Charles are the emblem of a bond that is once again cemented. The monarchy has overcome the musical contest without too much damage, while the themes of the hit songs are stripped of political responsibility and return to the usual introspective questions. English music starts on tangential trajectories, social criticism belongs to it less and less and it takes little to restore the established order. It is no coincidence that the monarchy resumes distributing honors, playing its part in the game of parties. The Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2003, Sting becomes Knight of the queen, then it’s up to Kate Bush in 2012, ad Adele the following year, a Rod Stewart in 2016. Mick Jagger is made the object of the teasing of Keith Richards for having accepted the honor, however declined by David Bowie and Paul Weller. In 2017 even Ed Sheeran becomes a “Member of British Empire”, for his services to music. Prince Charles puts the medal on his chest and he declares: “My grandfather would have been proud of me”. The monarchy rewards success, underlines the economic value, refrains from judging the contents. A relationship of coexistence which renews its canon and which has so far proved to work in spite of the apparent contradiction.

The feeling is that with the new king things will continue in this direction, in a renewed complicity that wants to have benign reflexes, even patrons, but which above all reveals the conviction that “it’s the economy, baby”. That is to say that in a modern state an extravagant distribution of roles can also be contemplated, as long as the protagonists are happy and that the public, if nothing else, has something to entertain.

The article is in Italian

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