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Andrew Cowan's Big World of Rock: A royal family of musical has-beens.

Byline: Andrew Cowan

Before I get carried away, I'd just like to make it clear that I have nothing against the Royal Family, per se. Her Majesty seems like a pretty nice girl, though she changes day to day. Prince Charles will no doubt make a pretty groovy king one day and the Britpop Princes seem like funky fresh dudes.

So with the knighthood protected, I'd like to stick my neck out to say I found Monday night's jubilee gig at the Palace a thoroughly nauseating affair and symptomatic of everything that's phony about this confused island.

Don't get me wrong, I love a party as much as the next man. Indeed, Monday found me blotto on the sofa, a bottle of Gordon's gin and a worn copy of the Pistols' God Save the Queen on the Dansette. Perhaps it was this heightened state of mischief that prompted me to start cussing when Brian May appeared on the Palace roof to crank out his catstrangling version of the National Anthem.

Queen (the band, not the treasured institution) have connived to ruin my well-earned four-day beer bust. They've been pretty unavoidable really. An affectionate tribute on the telly, numerous interviews on the radio and their wholesale mugging of the crowds at the Palace have curdled any milk of human kindness within my normally benevolent frame.

Once again, it's that Ben Elton that's really got my goat. So ubiquitous was he this holiday that I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that he was out to hijack the whole jubilee thing for his own nefarious ends.

On the day of England's metaphoric defeat at the hands of the plucky Swedes, he had the gall to say to one hapless interviewer words to the effect that if pop was the World Cup, England would win it every time. Precisely the sort of guff you'd expect from a selfinflated Champagne socialist who still believes that Annie Lennox is at the cutting edge.

Ben, mate, British rock and pop is at its most impoverished since the days of Pearly Spencer. Compared to now, the pre-punk era seems like a golden age and it looks like we're going to have to suffer this mediocrity for some time to come.

The sight of Ben Elton Gene Simmondsing all and sundry to get in a tawdry plug for his rancid musical based on Queen's songs was lamentable. The whole so-called television celebration of Queen's music was just an extended advert for Elton and Bob de Niro's show.

Me and Freddie Mercury fell out in the 80s when his band of merry racists broke the artistic boycott to play Sun City in South Africa. In my radical youth, this was a crime on a par with kitten boiling and, had others followed his despicable lead, poor old Nelson Mandela would probably still be in jail.

Queen's apologists will no doubt say that Freddie did not recognise musical boundaries and point to the fact that the band redeemed themselves at Live Aid where they stole the show. But they'll always be scabs in my house.

Other bizarre sights this weekend included Sir Cliff Richard and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi flanking Prince Charles at the Palace. We can but imagine what Saint Cliff and Satanic Iommi talked about, but it's probably safe to say they steered clear of talking about Alistair Crowley or the number of the beast.

I felt sorry for Ozzy Osbourne. Clearly bewildered about why he was there, it must have taken him a Herculean effort to last 15 minutes without swearing. He declared that the day was the highlight of his career, a clear warning that drugs screw you up.

Speaking of which, pity poor Brian Wilson. The befuddled Beach Boy, currently enjoying an autumnal rebirth of sorts, suffered the indignity of being surrounded by various S Clubbers and other no marks not worthy of touching the hem of his garment. A sort of history was made when he performed with his old sparring partner Paul McCartney whose artistic voodoo spurred Wilson on to his greatest achievements and subsequent nervous collapse.

Macca, always the most Royalist of the fab four, actually managed to hang on to some dignity and his playing of Your Majesty from the Abbey Road album was a masterstroke. Informing the Queen that he wanted to 'make her' (in the parlance of the swinging 60s) probably caused a smirk on the Duke of Edinburgh's face.

Another favourite bit was the soundman fading down Paul Cattermole's mic as he was announcing his departure from S Club 7, a brilliantly subversive move.

The Queen, naturally, was late for the gig, showing the sense of taste and restraint which has marked her glorious reign.

The National Grid reported a massive surge in power after the show finished declaring it the result of a nation of sated Brits charging the kettle for a lovely cup of char. Quite how they prove this is beyond me. I'd like to think that up and down the country punks young and old were cranking up the stereo and listening to the latest single by Bum Gravy.


Queen guitarist Brian May flies the flag for poodle-haired rock on the roof of Buckingham Palace
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 6, 2002
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