5 Of The Best, And Most Controversial, Rock Songs About Queen Elizabeth II
By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta
September 8, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-serving monarch in British history, holding the throne from 1953 until hear death on September 8, 2022.
During her reign, the Queen was a source of inspiration and even frustration to many U.K.-born artists. As a result, it's not uncommon to hear her mentioned in song.
Even if the meaning of the lyric was not always clear, Brits often bristled at their Queen's name being evoked in music so unrefined as rock 'n' roll. Tempers have died down over the last 40 years or so, but there was a while there where any mention of her majesty in a pop song was bound to court controversy.
Here are a few of our favorites below:
The Beatles "Her Majesty"
The Beatles actually reference Queen Elizabeth II in four songs: "Her Majesty," "Penny Lane," "For You Blue" and "Mean Mr. Mustard." Yet, for some reason this 23-second Lennon-McCartney-penned ditty (one of the first "hidden" album tracks ever) caused plenty a stir with lyrics about romancing Britain's highest ranking monarch.
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl/But she doesn't have a lot to say
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl/But she changes from day to day
McCartney has always considered the song more comic than critical, though he once acknowledged that it was "mildly disrespectful." In any case, the Queen didn't seem to hold a grudge and McCartney and other Beatles have been honored often over the years by the crown.
Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen"
Of course the most controversial song ever about Queen Elizabeth II comes from one of Britain's most controversial bands ever, the Sex Pistols.
The band can credit their much of their acclaim to their fierce anti-monarchy stance of the late-'70s. The Pistols' vulgar working class anthem "God Save the Queen" rocketed to (almost) the top of the charts (No. 2) in 1977, despite radio stations refusing to play it.
The band promoted the release of the single by crashing the Queen's Silver Jubilee, performing the song live from a boat on the Thames River.
As the biopic miniseries Pistol depicts, frontman John Lydon originally titled the song "No Future," but agreed to change it to the more provocative moniker at the urging of his bandmates.
For the Queen's Platinum Jubilee this past spring, Lydon explained in an opt-ed that he never had "animosity against any one of the royal family" but rather the "institution" of royalty. He added that he is ultimately proud of Her Majesty's long reign, acknowledging that "she's put up with a lot" over 70 years on the throne.
The Smiths "The Queen Is Dead"
The lyrics appear to depict a kind of murder-fantasy about the deaths of members of the Royal Family, but their true meaning might be more satirical, regarding the media's hyper-fascination with the monarchy.
Queen "Killer Queen"
There's little evidence to suggest Queen's 1974 track "Killer Queen" was honestly about Queen Elizabeth II, so this one might be more of an honorable mention.
Freddie Mercury described the lyrics as depicting a high-class call girl — a subtle dig at the upper class, but he never suggested that it had anything to do with Her Majesty.
However, it's not crazy to think he was being deliberate about protecting his band from controversy. In addition to being a style-defining track for the band, "Killer Queen" was Queen's first bonafide hit in the U.K. and in the U.S.
But if you're a band from England called Queen and you write a song with 'Queen' in the title, it's hard to believe the actual Queen didn't provide some inspiration.
The Stone Roses "Elizabeth My Dear"
Another quick one about the Queen was far more critical of Her Majesty with its terse nursery rhyme-like chorus. Stone Roses singer Ian Brown had no love lost for the monarch when he sings the lines
Tear me apart and boil my bones/ I’ll not rest till she’s lost her throne/
My aim is true/ My message is clear/
It’s curtains for you Elizabeth my dear”
During a gig in 2012, Brown referred to "60 years of tyranny" before performing "Elizabeth My Dear."