On June 2, 1953, the day of Elizabeth II’s coronation as queen of the United Kingdom, buttoned-up Italian-American singer Frankie Laine was number one in the singles chart with polite, easy-listening ballad I Believe, and pre-Beatles Britain was still a long way from starting swinging. Fast forward 70 years, and Charles succeeds his mum on the throne at the same time as songs including Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding’s donking trance rave anthem Miracle, giant Y-fronts-bedecked Scots soul-boy and social media over-sharer Lewis Capaldi’s Forget You, and Miley Cyrus’s Flowers – an allegorical ode to, nudge-wink, “self-love” – all compete to be crowned top of the pops.
The country, its mores and its music have changed massively in the last seven decades, more than in any other monarch’s reign. Mostly for the better (Capaldi’s big pants perhaps notwithstanding). The royals haven’t had much to do with this sociocultural revolution, being symbolic heads of state with zero political or executive power (not that I’m a republican or anything). But with a tiny, white-gloved royal wave, they have greeted the pop age with good grace and cheer, even once letting Brian May from Queen do a massive guitar solo on the roof of Buckingham Palace.
Determining the particular musical tastes of our new sovereign is a slippery proposition. A pan-generational official coronation playlist featuring everything from Kate Bush to Harry Styles feels carefully focus-grouped. But wherever his passions may lie, undoubtedly Charles has been around to bear close witness to pop’s gilded age, with the sort of access-all-areas ubiquity that only the world’s most famous heir apparent can enjoy. Seriously, try googling him together with about any pop star you like and there’s probably a photo. Charles with Beyoncé? You bet! Charles and ABBA? Mamma mia! Charles with Prince (Rogers Nelson)? Purple reign! Charles with Cheryl from Girls Aloud? Not clear why, but they seem to hang out all the time!
Bow down, then, as we recall seven decades of music in the starry life of the artist formerly known as Prince Charles.
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1960s: the mop-haired heir
Story goes that as a teenager, young Charles wrote off to request The Beatles’ autographs just like any other kid swept up in the earth-shaking youthquake of the moment. He got them – course he did. But it was one of the thousands of sets “forged” by the Fab Four’s road manager, Neil Aspinall, to help keep up with insatiable demand. Aristocratic privilege be damned, the times they were a changin’.