In case you hadn’t noticed, the first of this summer’s bunting-clad blockbusters, the Diamond Jubilee, is a matter of weeks away. Of course, some smart-arse marketing type is using it to re-release the Sex Pistols’ 1977 establishment-rattling Silver Jubilee riposte God Save The Queen. Not that Johnny Rotten is having anything to do with it.
“I am pleased that [it’s] being put out there for a new generation. However, I wish for no part in the circus that is being built up around it,” he said.
Still, such was its impact in 1977, that there is something about monarchical celebrations that is now inexorably linked with punk. Which is precisely why artist and punk archivist Toby Mott has teamed up with The Vinyl Factory in London for a genre-defining exhibition and an accompanying limited edition book, Jubilee 2012: Sixty Punk Singles.
Advance press for the exhibition reflects on a 1977 where a fractured nation’s youth railed against outdated traditions and social injustice. (Do they mean us?) The Queen was the focal point for much of this anger and when her official Cecil Beaton Jubilee portrait was defaced by Jamie Reid for the iconic Pistols sleeve, the burgeoning punk movement got its Che Guevara image.
Toby Mott has been a collector of punk ephemera since that Silver Jubilee watershed. He has pulled together a wealth of 45s from the era for this new show; their immediate, lo-fi, largely black and white sleeves carrying that same snarling urgency as the songs contained within. (See our high50 selection of punk covers.)
Well-known classics from The Clash, The Buzzcocks and The Undertones brush worn edges with cultier cuts from the Snivelling Shits, Patrik Fitzgerald and The Wasps.
Punk posters and other souvenirs from The Mott Collection make up the rest of the exhibition. The limited edition book features an essay by Mott and an exclusive 7” recording of the Sex Pistols famously sweary Bill Grundy interview. Given that the limited run of 100 has sold out in advance, it might come down to an old-fashioned punch-up to get hold of the remaining exhibition copies.
The Vinyl Factory, as well as being a plant for prestigious pressings, has had a gallery space underneath a trendy Soho record store for a while. Jubilee 2012: Sixty Punk Singles is one of the first exhibitions at its new Chelsea outpost. Fitting really, as the much of the punk movement was rooted in the surrounding area.
Indeed, ‘High Rise Living’ by those angry young upstarts Chelsea is one of the featured singles, a song once hailed by Mojo magazine as one of the greatest punk rock songs of all time. Hard to place now that the area is populated by the sort of vacuous toffs beloved of that inexplicably popular E4 ‘reality’ show (until they go home to Fulham to sleep).
Other things have changed too. Today, Toby Mott is more likely to be found in sober tailoring than a studded leather jacket, and Johnny Rotten is flogging us Country Life buttah. But 35 years on, the Jubilee has proved that, as Mott’s exhibition preview states: “Punk is as relevant today as it was back then. The Queen represents quintessential British values. Punk represents Britain’s inventive spirit.”
See our exclusive high50 selection of covers from the exhibition (you’ll need to sign up to high50)
Jubilee: Sixty Punk Singles runs from 30 May–24 June 2012 at The Vinyl Factory Chelsea, 91 Walton Street, London SW3 2HP