John Lydon, aka “Johnny Rotten,” has made a career out of outrageous and provocative statements, often coming in the form of song lyrics such as those in the classic Sex Pistols track, “God Save the Queen.”
“God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being,” Lydon famously growls in the beginning of the track, protesting a dismal economy in England at the time of its release against the societal backdrop of what he saw as a useless and outdated monarchy.
The song was released to mark the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the lyrics caused quite a stir. According to the Guardian, John Lydon and the Sex Pistols took a boat trip on the River Thames during the Jubilee, causing a major commotion and getting the band banned from the airwaves in the United Kingdon. It also resulted in the band being hassled by police and even attacked on the street by people who had a more reverent view of the British monarchy.
Now, closing in on 40 years later, Lydon’s tone toward the Queen has taken a more polite turn. According to the Quietus, Lydon recently explained in an interview that he does not want the song to be used in a tasteless celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s passing when she dies. Despite once growling that “she ain’t no human being,” Lydon now insists her humanness is the very reason it would be wrong to celebrate or mock her death.
“That’s about a political situation and the demand for obedience to a monarchy I don’t believe in,” Lydon said of ‘God Save The Queen’ on the Quietus Hour.
“But she’s a human being and I will sorely miss her as a human being on planet Earth. It’s not her fault she was born into a gilded cage. Long may she live.”
John Lydon was only 21-years-old when “God Save the Queen” was released, so it’s natural that the punk rock legend, now 61, would be less abrasive and confrontational now than he was in 1977. Philosophically, however, Lydon still makes it clear that he is no fan of the monarchy. He simply doesn’t think it’s right to celebrate the death of a human being.
It’s also quite possible that Lydon is trying to guard himself against the inevitable. Queen Elizabeth will be 91-years-old in April and there were rumors swirling earlier this year that she was severely ill and possibly on her deathbed after she missed some events and was not seen outside Buckingham Palace for several days. Those rumors turned out not to be true, but at some point the news will break that the Queen has passed, and regardless of anything Lydon says, the song will be used to tastelessly celebrate her passing. Perhaps by distancing himself now, he can offset some of the ill-will that may be headed in his direction as a result of his role in the spectacle.
In other John Lydon news, the Tribeca film festival recently screened a documentary on Lydon’s career after leaving the Sex Pistols, according to Brooklyn Vegan. John Lydon formed another band that went on to some success called Public Image Limited (PIL). That band has existed in various forms, having most recently toured behind a new album in 2015, What the World Needs Now.
Some fans may be dismayed that John Lydon seems to be stepping back from his earlier, more abrasive stance against the Queen and the monarchy. That’s understandable, but it’s clear from his words that he remains opposed to the idea of the monarchy. Lydon just doesn’t feel that a celebration of a human being’s death is a very good idea.
[Featured Image by Karl Walter/Getty Images]