The Theater of Provocation

A small ferry shoved off from the Charing Cross Pier and motored out into the Thames.  She was named the Queen Elizabeth and would be used in just two days to carry celebrants participating in the Silver Jubilee of her namesake, Queen Elizabeth II.

The boat continued downriver until it reached the Chelsea Bridge.  As it came about, a banner was unfurled: THE SEX PISTOLS “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.”  Amplifiers were flicked on and the feedback from an electric guitar shattered the eerie quiet of the foggy evening.  Johnny Rotten screamed out above the squeals: “God save the queen! She ain't no human bein’!” making a mockery of the planned river procession.  Police boats appeared and followed the Queen Elizabeth back upriver - “No future for you!” - past Parliament and Westminster – “No future for me!” - all the way back to the pier where a constabulary force was waiting to end the stunt.  A dozen arrests were made but authorities filed no formal charges against the band.

Although their single sold well amid the hype, their anarchic message was not generally accepted; most people at the time still carried a respect for their nation’s institutions.  Violent attacks on the band occurred everywhere they performed.  Before they disbanded six months later, Johnny Rotten remarked bewilderedly, "I don't understand it.  All we're trying to do is destroy everything."

Today, the Sex Pistols are actually remembered fondly enough that they were invited to participate in the 2012 Olympic ceremonies in London (though they declined), and ironically in the same year as their Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

On February 21, 2012, another punk band made their own protest against their nation’s institutions.  It remains to be seen if they will be remembered as fondly in a future Russia after serving their lengthy prison sentences.


Prixie said...

I couldn't help but smile at this line: “God save the queen! She ain't no human bein’!”

cyurkanin said...

LOL Hi Prixie :) I guess I'm old enough to remember all of the hoopla about that too, crazy how tame it all seems compared to the stunts pulled today.

Enbrethiliel said...


LOLOLOLOL! I should have seen where you were going with this . . .

I know nothing about the Sex Pistols (Shocking, I know), but was Johnny Rotten really that bewildered that his attempts at destruction were so poorly received?

In other news, I'm always very impressed--even moved--by how much the British seem to love their queen.

cyurkanin said...

Well, in Johnny Rotten's defense, he WAS probably loaded up on heroin at the time (it's a safe bet, anyway).