Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
HRM Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) – I was sad, but not surprised, to hear the news of her death. I had been in conversation only days before with a work colleague, I commented ‘I cannot see her (The Queen) lasting until Christmas’. She died just days later, the same day, one year ago, that my mother-in-law had died.
Elizabeth II was Queen of the United Kingdom from 6 February 1952 until her death 8/9/22. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch and the second longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country. At the time of her death, Elizabeth was Queen of 14 other Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK.
I asked myself why I was sad? I didn’t know her, although I have met her the once and spoke with her, briefly. I am not a fan of the ‘Monarchy’? Why am I sad?
I still don’t have a definitive answer but, I suspect my wife’s mother’s death was a factor? I do appreciate anybody who is dedicated to their career, I like honesty and I have a deep sense of both from her. She worked hard, right up to her last breath. She also did give a fuck? She cared about ‘her country’, she took her ‘job, her role, very seriously? I believe that. In recent times she has not had it easy? Her husband’s death during Covid and her fuckwit, nonce of a son, Andrew.
Elizabeth was the 40th monarch in a royal line that followed Norman King William the Conqueror, who claimed the English throne in 1066 after defeating Anglo-Saxon ruler Harold II at the Battle of Hastings.
I am somewhat surprised at the sheer scale, breadth and depth of human reaction to her death, exasperated by a sycophantic, greedy media. A swinging dick contest of who loved her most, who knew her the most? Too much of the, ‘I remember the time when ‘ME’ and the Queen…..’ Yes this is a massive thing, I do accept this is a big deal, a big fuckoff historical event, a new UK Monarch, the first in my lifetime (63 years) but come on, it’s not about you, or you? it’s about her and it? Why not publish the historical context? At least that would be interesting. 24-hour coverage of ‘nothing’, stating the often obvious, same old statements over and over interspersed with, mundane camera shots of the front of an empty Buckingham Palace, The gates at Balmoral? Really?
There is also a heightened sense of antagonism, especially on social media. Opinions for and against the Monarchy and the Queen herself, about her rein, her life, her worth (contributions) are divided although the vast majority are, almost unilaterally, positive. However, the professional (& amateur), keyboard warrior Trolls, are zealously scanning, hunting down the slightest divergence from the event, the slightest Royalist criticism and jumping on such commentators with a level of viciousness I have never seen before. Beware, you ‘Diss’ Madge at your peril people.
A friend of mine posted on FB, ‘Where were you the day the Queen Died? I was putting up a portrait of her, in my new office.’ My friend was (is) a former punk rocker, a teenager of the mid-seventy’s early eighties, an early activist and active participant within the birth of the UK punk movement. Singing in a punk band. The portrait she was hanging above her desk was a portrait by artist, Jamie Reid, the Sex Pistols Artist who is widely renowned for putting a safety pin through the Queen’s nose.
I made an innocuous comment, ‘Boss!’ (I am a Reid fan and I love this particular piece).
Immediately somebody commented ‘What’s boss’ [John Reynolds]?
I replied, ‘the choice of artwork’ [of course].
Seconds later, a rather limp response, – ‘ohh, sorry, my heads all over the place with Lillybet’ I suspect he was looking for an excuse for a fight, assuming my ‘boss’ comment was referring to that I was pleased that his beloved ‘Lillybet’ had died.
I have seen the original Sex Pistols at an exhibition in ‘The Florrie’, Liverpool. Reid, one of Liverpool’s most talked about artists during the Twentieth Century held a unique, free, exhibition at Liverpool’s Florence Institute to coincide with the 40th anniversary of UK punk.
Reid’s 2016, ‘Casting Seeds’ exhibition featured work from throughout the artist’s career and included his original Sex Pistols Mural flown in especially from Milan for the occasion. Other works travelled from Germany and Brighton to showcase the artist’s career. I even had the opportunity to lay on the famous Sex Pistols duvet cover and bed. Reid’s work is considered timeless, always politically engaged, he has produced graphics and art for some of the key political campaigns of the last 30 years.
Over 50 years on the cultural frontline, Reid, has waged a visual war on social and cultural injustices, from Section 28 to the Criminal Justice Bill that effectively put an end to the rave scene. However, Reid is still best known for putting a safety pin through the Queen’s nose as graphic designer for the Sex Pistols.
Reid has spent a lifetime ‘kicking against the pricks’.
Born in Surrey in 1947, his parents were both “diehard socialists” who instilled in him a belief in social equality and a love of nature. Having enrolled at Croydon Art School in 1968, he encountered a fellow student with a crazy mop of ginger hair, Malcolm McLaren. I was privileged to meet McLaren, a management guru and personal hero of mine, he presented me with an award at my graduation from, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, 2001. Fittingly, up until that moment he had been asleep, snoring loudly, on stage, bored shitless! He awoke, instantly clapping, to present me with an award for ‘enterprise’. He had appreciated that whilst completing my degree, as a father, and mature student, I was also holding down three jobs. Apparently, I was the only person he had clapped all day.
Sharing a passion for Guy Debord’s situationist manifesto Society of the Spectacle, Reid and McLaren became fast friends, taking part in a student occupation which made the national papers.
Within two years Reid had founded his own radical magazine, Suburban Press, using cut-ups from newspapers purely because he couldn’t afford Letraset type transfer sheets. Having committed fully to the alternative lifestyle, he was learning the ancient art of crofting in the Outer Hebrides when he received a telegram from McLaren telling him about a group he was managing called the Sex Pistols.
With McLaren pulling the strings, Reid became punk’s provocateur-in-chief, wrapping the band’s sonic hand grenades in ransom note-style sleeves which sent shivers through the establishment.
Aged 17, I watched the Sex Pistols perform an early show at Eric’s in Liverpool, October 15, 1976. This performance came at a pivotal time for the Pistols. Less than a month before, they’d signed a five-year management contract with Malcolm McLaren’s Glitterbest Ltd. Three weeks prior to this show, Nick Mobbs of EMI saw the band for the first time, and on October 8, just a week before the Eric’s show, the group officially signed to the EMI label.
On October 10th the band recorded an early version of “Anarchy in the UK” with their sound man, Dave Goodman, and beginning on the 12th, they played shows in Dundee, Wolverhampton, and Birkenhead before the Liverpool, Eric’s show on October 15. Public opinion, the media and Liverpool City Council had tried to ban the Eric’s performance. The Liverpool Echo reported and downplayed the Eric’s gig “This gig certainly didn’t have the same impact as the Pistol’s Free Trade Hall gigs in Manchester – in fact it almost went unnoticed as there were only about 50 people there…”
Eric’s had only just opened on 1 October, and among the first bands to play were the Runaways and the Stranglers. But on 15 October, the infamous Sex Pistols pogo’ed their way into town…Holly Johnston, Paul Rutherford [both later of Frankie Goes to Hollywood], and Pete Burns [Dead or Alive] were all in attendance that night.” As was, Musician Henry Priestman, a member of the support act Albert Dock (later to morph into the Yachts.) Priestman found fame with both the Yachts and The Christians.
Just two days after the Eric’s show, the Pistols recorded the version of “Anarchy in the UK” that EMI released. Five days later, on October 22, Stiff records released The Damned’s “New Rose”, the first-ever UK punk record, beating the Pistols debut single by about a month.
December 1, 1976, the original Sex Pistols line-up – Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, Steve Jones and Glen Matlock – caused outraged when they swore ‘live’ on a Thames Today programme, infuriating interviewer by Bill Grundy live on ITV. Grundy was criticised and his career temporally stunted for not controlling the interview effectively, in fact he appears to be ‘egging’ the naïve punk rockers on, encouraging them to provoke, to outrage, their audience. The now famous interview practically guaranteed their imminent success.
“When God Save the Queen got to No 1 it proved there was genuine opposition to what was going on,” says Reid. “The trouble is that the people in control have made sure it will never happen again. Look at that last royal wedding. The media coverage was fucking unbelievable. There’s still dissent, you just don’t hear about it.”
When punk nihilism gave way to 80s hedonism, Reid’s confrontational graphics suddenly seemed old hat. By the middle of that decade, he was “desperate for money” and living in a squat in Brixton. It wasn’t until the 90s Britpop boom that Reid found his stock was back on the rise, with his work cited as ‘an influence by a new generation of artists’.
“I find it ironic that people like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin talk about punk being a major influence,” Reid commented in a Guardian Interview (2018) “To me they’re Thatcher’s children, because they were put into power by Saatchi & Saatchi.” Charles Saatchi and his brother Maurice’s advertising agency were in charge of the Conservative party’s election advertising; Charles was Brit-Art’s first major collector. “There’s nothing remotely shocking about what they do.”
In recent years, Reid’s belief in social justice, drives everything he does. Disheartened by Brexit (“a nightmare”) and cautiously supportive of Jeremy Corbyn (“I wish him all the best, but politics is a bear pit”) his simmering hatred of the mainstream only really boils over on the subject of celebrity culture.
These days, Reid keeps his activism closer to home. He moved to Liverpool in the 80s – he has a teenage daughter with the actor Margi Clarke – and raves about the city’s rebellious civic spirit. Each day, he works on his archive in a community building called the Florence Institute, which is where he met the Russian activist, female, punk band, Pussy Riot. His association with them started when they were imprisoned in 2012: in response he made an image of President Putin wearing a balaclava.
The world keeps turning. The struggle goes on. The important thing, Reid stresses, is never to stand still. “Radical ideas will always get appropriated,” he says “The establishment will rob everything they can, because they lack the ability to be creative. That’s why you always have to keep moving.”
I would love to know what McLaren, Reid et.al. think of Lilybet’s passing and the media circus surrounding it?
Thanks for Reading