Two Decades Of ‘Rage Against The Machine’ – 20 Things You Might Not Know

It’s almost 20 years since a band of political activists armed with guitars and microphones released their self-titled debut album ‘Rage Against The Machine’ and set a the incendiary standard for politically charged rap-rock. As the band prepare to celebrate the anniversary on November 6 with a new box set reissue, here are 20 things you might not know about the record that launches their legend:

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Photo: Richard Johnson

1. The uncensored version of ‘Killing in the Name’ contains the word “fuck” seventeen times.

2. The original ‘Rage Against The Machine’ demo tape, which was recorded in 1991, was sold by the band for $5 at early gigs.

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3. The album’s cover features Malcolm Browne’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Thích Quảng Đức self-immolating in Saigon in 1963. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk was protesting against President Ngô Đình Diệm’s government’s oppression of Buddhism. The photograph played an important role in drawing international attention to the monks’ cause and led to John F Kennedy withdrawing his support for Ngô Đình Diệm’s government.

4. Rather than musical heroes, the sleeve note’s “Thanks For Inspiration” section names activists including Provisional IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton.

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Photo: Andy Willsher

5. Zach de la Rocha was “straight edge” at the time the album was recorded, eschewing all drink and drugs. Ian MacKaye, Fugazi singer and originator of “straight edge”, is also thanked in the sleeve notes. de la Rocha took up smoking, reportedly as a way of sparking up conversations when visiting Mexican rebel group the Zapatistas.

6. No samples, keyboards or synthesizers were used in the making of the record.

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Photo: Andy Willsher

7. The album reached number 17 on the UK album chart.

8. ‘Killing in the Name’s video struggled to get played on MTV in America due to the explicit lyrics.

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Photo: Richard Johnson

9. Tom Morello reportedly created ‘Killing in the Name’s famous riff while teaching a guitar student drop D tuning. Having found the riff he stopped the lesson to record it.

10. Morello plays a Mexican-made Fender Telecaster on the record.

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Photo: Tom Martin

11. ‘Know Your Enemy’ features Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan on vocals during the bridge section.

12. ‘Wake Up’ is heard over the end credits of ‘The Matrix’.

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Photo: Andy Willsher

13. The name of the band, and album, comes from a song written by de la Rocha for his previous band Inside Out.

14. The phrase “rage against the machine” was coined by writer and DIY label owner Kent McClard in the zine No Answers. McClard had worked with Inside Out.

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Photo: Richard Johnson

15. The liner notes refer to the band simply as “Guilty Parties”.

16. Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins added extra drum parts to ‘Know Your Enemy’.

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Photo: Richard Johnson

17. The album was supported by a 1992-1993 tour that included dates at London’s Underworld, Manchester’s Boardwalk, Newcastle’s Riverside and Nottingham’s Rock City.
18. The success of the album helped the band land their first NME cover on 1 May 1993.

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Photo: Tom Martin

19. The album was produced by Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, whose recent work includes the last three Biffy Clyro records.

20. After the success of the online campaign to get ‘Killing In The Name’ to Christmas Number One in 2009, more than 180,000 people applied for tickets to the band’s 2010 victory concert in Finsbury Park.

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Photo: Richard Johnson