Released on: Motown Junk (Single #2) Heavenly Records, 21 January 1991
Peak UK Chart Position: #94
Band Ranking: #6
B-sides have long given bands opportunities to experiment in a relatively low-risk way, and ‘We Her Majesty’s Prisoners’, while certainly not a musical revolution (so to speak) fulfils this role for Manic Street Preachers circa 1991. It represents a first in three main ways – at almost five and a half minutes, it is notably longer than any prior Manics track; it prominently features piano in the choruses; and it inaugurates an occasional recurring theme in the band’s lyrics: anti-monarchism. Nicky Wire also makes his first noticeable vocal appearance by singing, or more accurately, speaking a couple of lines.
Right from the venomous, memorable opening riff – one of Bradfield’s best – it is clear that ‘We Her Majesty’s Prisoners’ aims to create the impression of a miniature epic. Musically, this goal is achieved with some success, partly thanks to the novel inclusion of piano offsetting the song’s sheer length, which otherwise might have dragged.
Lyrically, however, the song is something of a mess. Besides a couple of memorable phrases (“unholy leftovers of a compromise” is one, “conscripted into a past that invents out guilt” another) the message is muddled; what the Queen is supposed to have to do with Buchenwald is anyone’s guess. Anti-monarchist tirades would provoke weak lyrics again – ‘Repeat (UK)’ (A18) is even more inarticulate.
‘We Her Majesty’s Prisoners’ was originally known as ‘Ceremonial Rape Machine’, but Heavenly unsurprisingly vetoed this title, a phrase which remains in the song’s lyrics.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“conscripted into a past that invents our guilt”
Buchenwald – a Nazi concentration camp located near Weimar, Germany and the first to be liberated by US troops (on April 11, 1945).