The U.K. has broken out the bunting, found an old “I ❤ Lady Di” teatowel, and bought some cheap plastic flags to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. But what should be the soundtrack to this glorious occasion — and help drown out the boos anytime Boris Johnson makes an appearance?
Listeners of BBC Radio 2 voted Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” as their choice of song to mark the jubilee. As lovely as that song is for a raucous singalong, a) it’s the Platinum Jubilee, not the Diamond Jubilee (that was in 2012), and b) Neil Diamond is from New York not actual York.
The queen herself likes the kind of music you’d expect a 96-year-old to like: thrash metal, reggaeton and glitch techno. No, wait, according to a 2016 documentary she likes Vera Lynn, marching bands and, in a nod to modernity, Gary Barlow.
Not everyone likes the queen and her family, however, and there’s a rich tradition of anti-monarchy songs. Here are 10 of them for your listening pleasure or disgust, depending on your views on the royals.
The K**ts — “Prince Andrew Is A Sweaty Nonce” (2022)
At the time of writing, this reimagining of the children’s nursery rhyme The Grand Old Duke of York to make fun of scandal-plagued Prince Andrew (with a Britishism for child molester in the title) is competing with Ed Sheeran to be the No. 1 song in the charts. Whatever your views on the queen’s pizza-eating middle son and his links to a convicted sex offender, the late Jeffrey Epstein, this is bloody awful. It’s also the only song we’re not linking to because, er, lawyers.
The Sex Pistols — “God Save The Queen” (1977)
The best ever punk song? Maybe not. The best ever piece of musical marketing? Unquestionably. Released to coincide with the queen’s Silver Jubilee, Johnny Rotten’s sneering about “the fascist regime” has lost none of its power. Legend has it that the charts were rigged by “The Man” to prevent it from getting to No. 1 in the charts, with Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” officially being the biggest selling single of that week.
The Smiths — “The Queen Is Dead” (1986)
Morrissey’s shift to the political right is so great that’s he probably wearing a Union Jack suit while out campaigning for whatever UKIP are called now. But back at the height of his powers, the Smiths frontman penned this about her majesty — “her very lowness” — with “her head in a sling.” In another Smiths classic, “Nowhere Fast,” Morrissey sang “I’d like to drop my trousers to the queen/Every sensible child will know what this means.” Quite.
Manic Street Preachers — “Repeat” (UK) (1992)
This one is NSFW, with the Welsh punk band taking aim at “dumb flag scum.” Off to the Tower of London with them!
Billy Bragg — “Take Down The Union Jack” (2003)
This flag-festooned weekend must be tough for Bragg, who put down the whole country, not just the queen, in this song: “Britain isn’t cool, you know, it’s really not that great … It’s just an economic union that’s past its sell-by date.”
Blur — “This Is A Low” (1994)
Blur’s Parklife album was a love letter to a lost Britain and a rebellion against the Americanization of the U.K. (and yes, I did just spell “Americanization” with a z) but the nostalgia doesn’t extend as far as the monarch. “The queen, she’s gone round the bend/Jumped off Land’s End.”
The Stone Roses — “Elizabeth My Dear” (1989)
The gentlest (and shortest) song on this list, the Roses took the melody of the English traditional ballad “Scarborough Fair” and married it to anti-royal lyrics. “It’s curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear.”
Slowthai — “Nothing Great About Britain” (2019)
The nation was up in arms at those naughty Sex Pistols decades ago. By 2019, Slowthai aimed a very naughty word indeed at the queen — and made, er, romantic overtures towards the Duchess of Cambridge — and no one seemed to mind very much.
The Housemartins — “Flag Day” (1985)
Trying to affect change is “a waste of time if you know what they mean/Try shaking a box in front of the queen/’Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams.” It sure is — the queen’s stamp collection alone is worth a reported £100 million.
Bow Wow Wow — “Louis Quatorze” (1982)
Widening the net a bit with this one, with its lyrics about sex with a “young and dangerous” Louis IV despite being just 14.