I got into work today and was surprised to discover that the hash tag #RATM was a trending topic on twitter. As anyone who grew up in the 90s knows RATM stands for one of the best bands of that era, the Rock/Rap group Rage Against The Machine. After doing some quick digging, I found a story that hasn’t really been covered much in the U.S. media because it mostly deals with a strange U.K. tradition. I think its worthy of coverage, though, because it has given British rock fans one last chance to rage before they go gently into the good night of commercialism that has already overtaken us here in the U.S.
Since the 1970s, the number one spot on the U.K. charts on the Sunday before Christmas (or Christmas day if it falls on Sunday) has been a coveted position for musicians. Whoever holds that spot will receive a lot of media coverage and records companies stand to make a lot of money. According to Wikipedia, this started in 1973 when two successful bands released Christmas songs to try and get that spot and it’s now such a big deal that people would place bets on which song gets to number one. Recently, though, the Christmas number one has regularly gone to whoever wins The X Factor, the British version of American Idol also presided over by the media mogul/TV douchebag, Simon Cowell.
This last fact particularly enraged one British fan who started a Facebook group urging people to buy Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” instead. The page says “Fed up with Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No.1? Me too… So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th as a protest to the X-Factor monotony?” They stand in opposition to Simon Cowell and Joe McElderry a clean cut cookie-cutter reality show contestant who is singing a cover of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb”. Ugh.
The campaign has spread all over the U.K. and, as of today, the Rage track is beating the other song by 30,000. And it has led to a resurgence of interest in Rage Against The Machine in the U.K. They were even interviewed by BBC Radio and asked to perform a radio edit version of “Killing In The Name.” Rage to their credit obliged the interview and their performance had to be cut short when Zach De La Rocha went into the non-radio friendly chorus of “Fuck You. I won’t do what you tell me!”.
Unfortunately, despite their early lead, the odds stand against Rage and British rock fans as the physical copy of the reality contestant’s track was released yesterday and it looks to have strong sales throughout the week. But it gives me hope that maybe in America, someday, fans of original music can stage a futile protest of their own so that our silent minority can’t be ignored at least for one day.
Here are the Rage song, the BBC Radio interview and performance, and their opponent’s song.