You may or may not have noticed, but the British Monarchy has been in the news a bit lately, which will no doubt mean that the unfurling news story surrounding Meghan Markle will be eternalised in song pretty soon. In one way or another, news has always bled into music, with the broadsheets’ ink worming its way into the creative realm of song.
Rock music and royalty don’t usually go hand in hand. However, it is a tall tale of quirky fate that led to the Queen Mother being eulogised in The Who’s quintessential 1960s anthem ‘My Generation’.
As Pete Townshend explains in his memoir, Who Am I: “Keith [Moon], John [Entwistle], and I bought a 1936 Packard V12 hearse for £30,” an absolute bargain of purchase, indicative of the era we’re dealing with. Starting any story with a hearse is advisable to grab our attention.
“We drove it home from Swindon,” Townshend continues, “And parked it outside my flat. At some point, it disappeared. I feared it had been stolen, but when I reported this, the police told me it had been towed away. Someone important had complained about it.”
No mere mortal can simply complain about a car and have it towed away, unless it was parked somewhere illegal, which naturally got the band curious as to what had actually gone down.
Townshend explains, “Out of nowhere, I received a call from a man who wanted to buy the Packard. It emerged it had been impounded at the request of the Queen Mother. She had to pass it every day and complained that it reminded her of her late husband’s funeral.” Regardless of the sombre motive behind the request, it is still quite a bombastic notion to simply have the poor, struggling rock star’s trusted vehicle towed away at your behest on a whim of unfortunate circumstance.
A miffed, Townshend continues, “The bill to recover the car was over £200, an absurdly large sum of money, but the buyer offered to pay the fee in return for ownership. I agreed.” The money raised from the sale helped the band to pursue a musical path and by 1965 they were changing the face of music with their debut album.
When all was said and done, we have the Queen Mother’s solipsistic ways to thanks for one of the greatest songs of the era. As Townshend concludes, “I resentfully dedicated ‘My Generation’ to the Queen Mother.”
It would seem that ‘My Generation’ is pretty much the national anthem of the separatist sovereignty of Mod culture, so perhaps it is fitting that the tune has its roots tied to a throne. You can relive the iconic hellraising spirit of the sixties once more by blasting out the track, recorded live at the BBC, below.