Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jordan: Rule Britannia

When I was young a top British recording star would be named to sing for us at Eurovision, but the choice of song was left to a public vote. In those days, incidentally, voting involved sending a postcard.

This year we have the public vote back, but no stars. Joe and Jake (me neither) will be singing 'You're Not Alone' for us in Sweden in May.

This video would have been my choice.

It comes from Derek Jarman's 1978 film Jubilee, which I saw at a university film club that year. (Those were the days when teenagers went to university to encounter dangerous new ideas, not demanding that they be protected from them.) It has not been much seen since, but deserves a viewing if only as a historical curiosity - I am going to order the DVD.

Stuart Jeffries once described Jubilee thus:
The film's framing device has Queen Elizabeth I consulting her court astrologer Dr John Dee (played by Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O'Brien). Dee shows his queen a vision of her realm 400 years hence. It is over-run by roving gangs of girl punks and thuggish police. Dorset has become a fascist state within a state where the rich luxuriate behind barbed wire. The old Queen Elizabeth (played by Jenny Runacre) is horrified. 
It's likely that Elizabeth II, whose silver jubilee celebrations are mocked in the film's ironic title, wouldn't have cared for Jarman's vision of her kingdom either. She especially wouldn't have liked Jordan dressed as a punk Britannia, miming to a souped-up reggae version of Rule Britannia and lifting her skirt to show her bum. 
In a sense, Jarman was expressing similar nihilistic views to those of Johnny Rotten in God Save the Queen. Neither believed in the English disease that the political philosopher of Britain's decline Tom Nairn described as "the glamour of backwardness". Jarman told the Guardian's Nicholas de Jongh in February 1978: "We have now seen all established authority, all political systems, fail to provide any solution - they no longer ring true."
You will also read more about Jordan in that article. Here real name is Pamela Rooke and her character in Jubilee is called Amyl Nitrate. She was interviewed in the Guardian in 2004.

I don't know what the Europeans would make of it, but combining punk and patriotism ticks a lot of British boxes.


Phil Beesley said...

My student film club recollection of Jubilee is that it was a lousy film. Somebody has to say it.

Danny Boyle had a go at "combining punk and patriotism". He pulled it off for an audience of millions at the Olympics.

Boyle made a film about Indians in India. He made films about Scots in Scotland.

And some of that was utter shite.

Jonathan Calder said...

Bad films can sometimes make more interesting historical documents than good films.