In the U.K. the Christmas week Number One song is a big, big deal. It's a long held tradition, where they even have bookies making betting odds on what song will win the crown. It has become pretty much a done deal that in the last five or so years, whomever won the X-Factor (U.K.'s American Idol - Simon Cowell's also) won the Christmas week battle, since their show ends the week before and all the lemmings go out and buy the winning single. (Yes offense, if you like lame AI songs).
Well, not this year. A British guy by the name of Jon Morter started a Facebook page/campaign to get everyone to topple that monopoly by putting up Rage Against The Machine's 17 year old song, "Killing In The Name". Though that song is about racism in police ranks, it does feature the chorus "Fuck You, I won't do what you tell me!" A perfect anthem for this scenario. People immediately joined the cause, and the sales grew until Rage was ahead a few days before the sales cut off last Saturday. Excitement started to build across the world, as the main opponent, Joe McElderry (X-Factor winner) and his cheesy Miley Cyrus cover, didn't seem to be representative of the U.K. masses after all. Odds were in Rage's favor.
A mini war of words started. McElderry said, "They can't be serious! I had no idea what it sounded like. It's dreadful and I hate it. How could anyone enjoy this? Can you imagine the grandmas hearing this over Christmas lunch? 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." Tom Morello from Rage simply declared McElderry "Goofy". I thought this thing had to be sewn up ... and relished it for the rebellious nature and Yes We Can of it all.
The numbers drew closer. Rage played a live show for the BBC and sang the uncensored chorus, causing people that don't like swearing to be scandal/mobilized to go buy the Hannah Montana cover. Then Rage upped the ante by saying their proceeds would go to the U.K. homeless charity, Shelter. AND if they won, they'd come to England and perform a FREE show for everyone, including "the after-parties of all after-parties".
Saturday dawned and I got a text from Tom that they were BEHIND. WHAT?! Everyone on Facebook was scrambling, I was contacting everyone I knew who'd even HEARD of the U.K. to get people to buy the "KITN" single before midnight. DJ's spun the track and then stopped the music to urge people to get online and download it. I texted that to Tom and he replied "Then on to the next bar!!" and so on and so on. People hosted downloading parties, and were encouraged to knock over ladies buying the X-Factor schmaltz (in jest, I think). The clock hit 12 and all anyone could do was wait for the official announcement on Sunday afternoon.
THEY WON! RAGE IS COMING TO THE U.K.!!! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!! Tom said on his Facebook, "Rage Against the Machine are honored to have been drafted by this historic grassroots campaign to make our song "Killing in the Name" the number one song on the UK Christmas Week pop chart. This is a huge victory by and for fans of real music and we extend our heartfelt thanks to every fan and freedom fighter who helped make our anthem of defiance and rebellion the Anarchy Christmas Miracle of 2009." I mean, WOW. Amazing.
It's more than just a song contest too. It's sheer inspiration. That people can have had enough of anything, and work together for change. If a popular culture mission can be accomplished so deftly, what HUGE and important things can be done with the same efforts? It reminds of of old Bertolt Brecht's quote, "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." That's right. People across the globe got on board to help the British squash the Simon Cowell (who has been asked to MC the upcoming free Rage show over there! Ha.) juggernaut. They stood up to it, and DID IT. I would never have thought of "Killing In The Name" as a Christmas Carol before, but now it will always remind me of the Great U.K. Christmas Rebellion of 2009. GOOD ON YOU, BRITS!
Fa la la la la, la la la LA!