Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rage Against the Karaoke Machine

Sunday, 20 December 2009
Never before in my life have I woke up on a Sunday morning and asked, “What’s number one in the pop charts today?” But I did, today.

A little bit of background: over here in England there always seems to be a bit of a fuss made about the singles charts, especially the week leading up to Christmas. Hours of fun for a music junkie like me, right? WRONG. The charts are full of fluff and novelty records, nothing half decent and I pay about as much attention to them as I do the sliced salami at the supermarket. Take a look at this; here is a list of the Christmas number ones for the last few years and you’ll see what I mean (from

What a load of crap, right? I can never quite wrap my head around the music industry in this country – on the one hand we’ve produced the Smiths, the Stone Roses, U2, the Cure... a significant proportion of my music collection consists of artists that have come from this tiny isle. But I’m here to tell you that the ratio of crap to credible is probably about 20:1. It’s very depressing, and a quick glance through the years on the chart above should be all the testimony you need.**

In addition to having to painfully endure this musical equivalent of hotdog water on the every radio station in the land, our prime time TV slots are also imposed upon at regular intervals over the year. We’ve got ‘Britain’s Got Talent!’, we’ve got ‘Pop Idol’. We’ve also got ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor’. All of these result in what is usually tantamount to nothing more than a nationally televised karaoke competition, save for one important detail: the X Factor show just happens to announce its winner the week before Christmas, and it’s a pretty safe bet that whoever wins this fromage-fest will release a single just in time to be a contender for the renowned ‘Christmas number one’.

But the eagle eyed amongst you might notice a recurring theme over the last 4 years, and his name is SIMON COWELL. He is behind all of these god-awful TV shows, and he is the driving force behind all of these ridiculous warblers getting their number one in the penultimate week of the calendar year.

Well, I’m not the only one who is tired of it. There has been a movement to knock the current year’s X Factor winner off the top spot by a resourceful couple who started a Facebook group to encourage people to download Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ as a protest against all this manufactured drivel which threatens to suck the last dregs of credibility out of the music industry in the UK. You can read more about it here, at

As I type this we are waiting for the result. Being a Rage fan, of course I downloaded the single. But what made me download it more than once is reading what Joe McElderry (aka X Factor winner) has recently done – throw darts at a picture of Zack de la Rocha for a publicity stunt, saying, "I wouldn't buy it. It's a nought out of ten from me. Simon Cowell wouldn't like it. They wouldn't get through to boot camp on The X Factor - they're just shouting."

What a stupid idiot. As if Zack and Tom and the rest of RageATM are right now re-evaluating their life’s work because some crappy teenybop crooner has said that Simon Cowell wouldn’t like it? Hilarious. HIL-FREAKIN’-LARIOUS. If Joe McElderry’s ‘success’ was reliant upon the respectful way to earn his place in the charts (ie; writing it, busking it, gigging to 5 drunks and a dog in a bar which should probably be condemned, etc. etc.) he’d not last 5 minutes. On the flipside, if he understood anything at all about Rage Against the Machine and the kind of integrity it requires to be a shining light of awareness on behalf of many of the world’s injustices, he wouldn’t be on the bloody X Factor anyway. While Joe ‘Nothing-But-A-Ringtone’ McElderry is spitting his dummy out of his cot, someone should point out to him the comical irony of the lyrics of the very song he’s hoping will get to number one this afternoon:

There's always going to be another mountain / I'm always going to want to make it move / always going to be an uphill battle / sometimes you’re going to have to lose.

A dartboard? Seriously? Well, with Cowell in your corner no wonder you’re resorting to those kinds of riotously amusing tactics.

Rage Against the Machine aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – granted. But that was precisely why the track was chosen. I totally love it, and them, and I esteem Tom Morello for being one of the greatest guitar players of the last twenty years – his style is absolutely unique and innovative, and makes those six strings do things that sound effected to the rafters, but are usually pre-production. Check out the solo in this Audioslave track, ‘Like A Stone’ for a great example of what I mean:

Anyway – we’re all on tenterhooks in the Proctor Household waiting to see if a classic Rage track pips the Cowell Machine to the post in the race to the Christmas number one. I’ll be back later with the result.

**If you’re a fan of any of the above music, I offer no apology; I’m not here to debate whether or not Robbie Williams is any good. If your finger is hovering over the ‘Post a Comment’ button to try and convince me of this fact, bring it on; I love a good argument! ;-)

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