Rage Against The…?

17 Feb

Like thousands of others, I battled the See Tickets website this morning in an attempt to get a ticket for Rage Against The Machine’s free gig in Finsbury Park in the summer. The gig is being put on by the band as a celebration of their chart victory over The X Factor at Christmas.

I’ll speak more about this in a second. Let’s just remind ourselves of how great this band were back in the day:

True to form, See Tickets were as frustrating and confusing as ever with order forms crashing and pages going into meltdown due to the demand. However, after an hour or so of trying, I got a ticket. Go me. Allow me to do a little dance in celebration. You can’t see that obviously but it’s good. So good in fact that I should be paid for it.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. I was in my kitchen making a sandwich but I’m back now. So let’s continue.

I didn’t buy into the whole Rage Factor campaign at all. I didn’t really speak about this at the time because everyone I knew was so determined to get RATM to number one at Christmas that any hint of disagreement was just ripped to shreds, so I kind of just let everyone get on with it.

I felt in December (and still feel) that the whole campaign was a genius case of astroturfing that fully exploited social networking in a way that’s never been done before. You have to ask yourself, why did everybody all of a sudden care about what was Christmas number one? Why was the Facebook page always on my home screen? Why did it get so much publicity? I refuse to believe it to be a grassroots campaign.

The whole thing had Simon Cowell all over it and to his credit, what a great idea. For all the millions that watch The X Factor, there are millions of others who don’t and those people are the ones that got right behind the Rage Against The Machine campaign. So rather than just sell copies of the X Factor single, the alternative choice was going to make people buy a single at Christmas when they normally wouldn’t bother and generate extra money for the same label. I’m sure you are all aware by now that the sales for the Rage single were going to Epic Records (who are on Sony). Epic had no distribution costs and marketing was done by everyone else.

I should also point out that previous X Factor contestants JLS and Alexandra Burke are signed to Epic Records as well as Rage Against The Machine. So people who bought the single because they hate manufactured music and shows like The X Factor have essentially just given a bunch of extra dosh to fund, promote and release those artists.

It’s an opinion that I have and not many others do but I really do believe that the campaign was masterminded by Sony. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me? Uh… I think you’ll find you will. And you did.

Now, the thing is, I’ve not been able to listen to Rage Against The Machine in the same way since all of this began. I’ve been a fan of them since their first album came out. The riffs on their debut blew me away when I first heard it. I was only 10 or 11 at the time. They made me excited about music. They made me want to play the guitar. At a young age, the politics of the band went over my head as you’d expect, but as I grew up, I started to appreciate that side of the band as well. Their power both musically and socially was overwhelming. So many bands have a fake cause. Rage Against The Machine never did.  

But something changed with that Rage Factor campaign. I’m sure there are many who had never heard of Rage Against The Machine before the campaign stated. They are the people that would look disgusted when I used to play Bullet In The Head in my DJ sets but thought it would be “funny” to get them to number one because they shout “fuck you” over and over and (in some people’s eyes) it’s as if the song was aimed at Simon Cowell directly. How pathetic and sad that really is.

Suddenly Tom Morello started issuing press releases about the chart battle and I can never imagine the band caring before. They never seemed concerned about mainstream success. Then all of a sudden, the band are on BBC Radio giving a serious interview about the chart battle. They became a novelty act to me and the lost all their meaning. A song that was written about the racial discrimination of the Ku Klux Klan now means more to people because it stopped The X Factor “winning”.

I have a fear that, taking all this into account, the ‘victory party to end all victory parties’ will be a huge let down for all fans like myself that have been there from the beginning. I get the feeling that there’s going to be a lot of people there that are going just so they can shout “FUCK YOU” and I think it’s a real shame that a band that really could change the world could have, dare I say it, sold out. I don’t mean the tickets. I mean the band’s principles.

An even sadder fact is that if half the people who bought the single actually stood up and protested about the issues that really matter then the world could be a better place. 

I hope I’m wrong of course  but I think this show will leave many fans disappointed. It won’t upset the new fans who will never have been in a mosh pit before. They’ll have a great time with their foam fingers, backwards baseball caps, hot dogs and board shorts but I for one will be cringing when Zak does a rant about how they took a stand against the pop charts and won everyone around me cheers. Who gives a shit about the Top 40 anymore? Why celebrate getting to number one? It’s irrelevant.  And I worry the band are becoming irrelevant too. If they can warrant throwing a free party simply because they beat a song to number one, you kind of wonder if they’ve let their priorities slip a little bit.

I could be wrong of course. It’s inevitable that there are going to be some new fans at the gig who will annoy me and who won’t understand what Rage Against The Machine are really about. I think a lot of their political ideas might scare away the new fans.  However, the band might see this new found success as a real opportunity to rally the troops and do something that really means something. The world is a fucked up place and we need bands who really mean it to put politicians in their place and make the world a better place.

Less Slave To The Machine more Rage Against The Machine please.

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