So the drive to get Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name a Christmas number one spot seems to be polarising opinion among left-leaning people I know.
Some of the pro-Rage reaction seems to be quite superficial, and reminded me of last year, when many people were expressing their disgust that Alexandra Burke had got to number one with a cover of “Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah.” Too busy flashing their alternative credentials to realise that Buckley’s version itself was… a cover. Although it has become the “definitive” version for a generation brought up with The O.C., as one of those oh-my-God-it’s-so-deep sort of songs.
On the flip side of the coin are conspiracy theorists who point out that RATM’s record label are owned by Sony, who also own the rights to the X-Factor contestants’ music. What if the whole thing is a cynical ploy by Sony, they cry.
It isn’t. As ever, reality is much more depressing. A genuine revolt against the ridiculous private monopoly that Simon Cowell has over the Christmas number one turns out to be making money for the same corporation. It seems like another example of the capacity of capitalism to absorb dissent. Herbert Marcuse must be chuckling in his grave.
We are in the middle of the biggest recession since the 1930s, and our government is fighting a war that in can’t win for reasons no-one can understand. This very week, we are staring at the spectacle of the murderous inactivity of world leaders at the Copenhagen summit. Their refusal to do so much as the geo-political equivalent of switching to energy-saving lightbulbs has rightly infuriated the entire world.
And despite all this, the grandest counter-cultural gesture that anyone can come up with is… “Let’s go out and buy a seventeen year-old song.”
In Cambridge, Killing in the Name is the only Rage song you ever hear. In fact, scarcely a club night gets by without it. The spectacle of liquored-up private school kids waving their floppy hair, apparently without a hint of irony, to a song which forcefully denounces church, state and privilege, never ceases to amaze me.
As for me, I already have the song.
But I do fucking hate Simon Cowell…