The Silver Jubilee in 1977 marked 25 years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of the Commonwealth. The many parties celebrating this milestone were not acknowledged so politely by the Sex Pistols. Their song, copping the title from the national anthem of the United Kingdom, doesn’t share the jubilation.
The Queen (or King) sits at the apex of the executive branch of government. Historically, the executive is the centre of power and decision making, though today we distinguish between the political executive (such as a prime minister and cabinet, or President) and the formal executive like a Queen. Modern formal executive functions include a lot of pomp and symbolism: the monarchy is a living embodiment of the country and realm.
The Sex Pistols harumphed about the Queen being more about bringing in tourism dollars than assisting the working class (though they themselves were to some extent a concocted “boy band” aimed to rake in the dollars as much as punk). But given the ceremonial purpose of the contemporary Queen, apart from officially declaring war on another country – as if that would help – there would be little she could do to help her subjects that had, like the song’s refrain, “No future.” Her Majesty is more of a morale booster, a motivational speaker with royal bling. In this respect, Parliament, not garden parties, may have been a better target for this seminal and powerful punk masterpiece.
It must be said that the Queen outlived punk rock’s heyday: she enjoyed a 60 years young Diamond Jubilee in 2012, along with friend Elton John, whose song for her is reviewed here.