On Sunday 20 December Rage Against The Machine‘s track ‘Killing In The Name’ won the battle for Christmas Number One after an online campaign. In this guest blog, Tom Morello explains how it happened, and what it meant to him.
It was such an honour to be drafted by the campaign and to have our song, which – from the frontlines of anti-globalisation protests to toppling The X Factor from the top of the charts – has been a rebel anthem that’s been wielded in many ways and we’re pleased that it was used in this endeavour.
The campaign first came to my attention a couple of weeks ago when some friends of mine in the UK emailed me about it. I checked it out online and as it began to gain momentum I realised what a potentially historic moment it could be – and the band knew that we needed to throw our weight behind it.
I think Brad (Wilk, drummer) and I heard about it separately and somebody sent an email link around but then we all got on the phone and realised what this could mean.
It was Zack’s idea we play the show for BBC Five Live. I was actually at the airport flying to Chicago for the holidays and had to turn the car around to play that last minute show which was the beginning of our intense involvement in the process.
It was when I heard the numbers of fans and freedom fighters who had signed up on the Facebook page, it felt like it wasn’t just a lark – make no mistake about it, this was a political act. This was an entire nation delivering a stinging slap of rejection to the whole notion of pre-fabricated pop ruling the charts.
And Rage’s victory over The X Factor was an act of God. That the bad winter weather came in, keeping people away from stores and thus making it more of a fair fight, because we didn’t have hard copies in stories. When Paul McCartney and Mother Nature agree on something it’s going to be unstoppable!
It was tremendous, it was an incredible campaign to make a hard-hitting political song Number One with a budget of zero, and it outmatched this enormous machinery. Normally the panel stands in judgement of the contestants, but this week the whole UK stood in judgement of a reality TV game show controlling a nation’s musical identity and X Factor didn’t make the cut.
What’s more, this momentum can be used for other causes. Ordinary people when they band together in solidarity can do extraordinary things.
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Last night I was reading the wall comments on the Facebook page and one young man’s comment really struck me, he said, ‘It’s almost like we can actually change the world if we stick together’.
Now imagine that kind of revelation coming from something that has to do with the UK Christmas charts. You just never know where the spark is going to come from, but we were really honoured to be part of the greatest chart upset in the history of the UK.
This was no Sony ‘conspiracy’, as some have claimed. I couldn’t even get a return email from Sony UK. I was like ‘Are we still on your label? Something’s happening over there’ – and nobody hit me back.
Now, of course, we are doing a free gig in the UK. We’re thrilled about doing it. It’s going to be the victory celebration to end all victory celebrations.
If ‘Killing In The Name’ is the song that liberated the UK charts, we are planning to go there and make it as big and as free as can be.
Also it shouldn’t be overlooked that a substantial amount of money was raised for Shelter, the homeless organisation in this process. It’s not something Jon and Tracy Morter were trying to profit from, it’s not something Rage Against The Machine were trying to profit from. At the end of the day the winners are the fans of real music in the UK who have at last come out on top by up-ending the status quo.
Rage Against The Machine was built for moments like this. That historic chart upset the other night is one we’re very proud to have been a part of, but more proud that it showed that people uniting in solidarity can do anything. That’s the lasting message from this.
It went from being ‘let’s kick X Factor off the top of the charts’ to a real people’s movement, and in the future the energy behind it can be used for other social justice causes, and not just chart-topping.