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RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

17-12-2009

The perfect exercise in brainwashing? A middle-aged man without a scintilla of street credibility, but considerable control of the means of production and distribution tells young people what music they should like and hundreds of thousands dutifully do precisely what he tells them. Time, says Steve Beauchampé (a middle aged man without a scintilla of street credibility himself) to Rage Against The Machine.

I appreciate that events in Copenhagen could go a long way to determining the future of mankind, but do try and find a moment between now and Saturday evening to give that nightmare before Christmas, Simon Cowell, and the latest in his roster of insipid musak makers, a good kick in the Christmas baubles by downloading Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name to help make it the UK’s Number 1 selling single this Yuletide.

After realising that Jon and Tracy Morter’s Facebook and Twitter campaign to deny the X-Factor winner the festive top spot for the first time since 2003 might actually work, Cowell’s anger was palpable and - I’d venture to suggest - massively counter-productive. With a childish strop that would have done justice to Alex Ferguson or Arsene Whinger, Cowell bleated how his latest big bland ball of wetness (see, I’ve forgotten his name already) could be denied the moment of glory the boss believes to be the God-given right of all X-Factor winners by the success of this “orchestrated campaign”. Ha!

Oh, hoist on your own petard smugface! Nothing could be more orchestrated than Cowell’s almost complete domination of peak time television schedules, radio airwaves and record charts - it’s as orchestrated as a Soviet May Day Military Parade.

Everything Cowell does is calculated to generate maximum sales of his artists, maximum exposure of his product and maximum income and influence for the man himself. His control of the nation’s mainstream entertainment would impress the Chinese government - and its intrusiveness is almost as unwelcome.

Yet here are a couple of nobodies galvanising fans of real music and threatening to piss down on his parade. Clearly it’s reached the point where Cowell not only expects to always get his way, he no longer accepts that there should be any opposition.

I’ve never watched X-Factor - I don’t need to, it’s everywhere, inescapable - and for every minute media outlets devote to it, someone, somewhere goes unheard, their talents, stories, ideas and arguments overlooked and ignored.

Where this really matters is when the BBC, charged as a condition of receiving the licence fee with developing and promoting original, challenging and cutting edge output, gives over hours of its mainstream radio shows to incessant chatter and gossip about both X-Factor and Cowell’s spring offensive, Britain’s Got Talent.

I was once reprimanded by a Radio WM presenter for mentioning that I’d heard a record on the John Peel Show, chided that I was promoting a rival station! Nowadays some of Radio WM’s frontline regularly plug ITV’s flagship shows, while their counterparts at Radio 1 are arguably worse, prattling on about them ad infinitum.

The choice of Rage Against The Machine as standard bearers for the fightback (and sure, it’s a token fightback, the popularity of Cowell’s shows and artists won’t suffer one iota) is a great one. A less festive song it would be hard to find, Killing In The Name is an unrelenting attack on the religious right, war, racism and a call for independence of thought and action; oh, plus it’s strewn with the F word (17 times in fact).

For its supporters, the choice of track, its release date and its main target ticks every box. - it’s as much a two-fingered salute as was the Sex Pistol’s release of God Save The Queen in the week of the 1977 Silver Jubilee.

So salute away, even more so since Rage’s Tom Morello announced that the band (who played no part in hatching the plot) have announced that they will donate their royalties to a UK charity which provides children with musical instruments, adding that the Facebook initiative is “a wonderful dose of anarchy”.

Your 79p is a statement of support for every band, every solo artist, everyone who writes their own songs, who plays their own instruments, who isn’t just in it for vacuous fame, whose ‘journey’ has taken them to the dives of the UK gig circuit, who played to fifty people upstairs at a pub, or who squeezed together freezing cold in the back of a van at 1am on their way back from a gig.

And it’s only for one week. Mr. Safe as Milk’s unlistenable love song, or by-the-numbers power ballad (I don’t know which it is, I’ve not heard it and don’t intend to), will end 2009 as the year’s biggest selling single, and that Scottish woman who makes money murdering Wild Horses will top the album charts.

But the point will have been made, the seditious possibilities of community action proven - and the campaign must move on. Anyone up for lobbying Alistair Darling to introduce a Susan Boyle scrappage scheme in the next budget?

To qualify for chart entry, Killing In The Name of must be purchased from one of the following outlets: 7Digital, iTunes and Play.com

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