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Rage Against the Machine defined their own genre. No band before them or since have ever managed to successfully implement heavy riff rock with angry, political statements rapped with such definition. It's hard not to like Rage Against the Machine. I will go as far as to say that to a point, Rage Against the Machine were the pioneers of riff based rock, showcasing that a guitar can be a lot more than just strumming chords and doing solos. The riffs could become hooks in their own right. All of this was achieved with one album and, although the music they created afterwards was also excellent, Rage Against the Machine could have quite comfortably stopped after their debut self titled album and still remainded the musical and political legends that they are today.
I remember being 14 years old coming home from some shit caravan park "holiday" in Britain with my family listening to the Top 40 for company on the ride home when I first heard Rage Against the Machine. The sound coming through the car stereo was the angst ridden "Killing in the Name Of" and I remember thinking how original this sound was. I was a massive fan of Nirvana at the time and no other new bands even pricked up my ears, but Rage Against the Machine instantaneously aurally penetrated me and Monday morning saw me going to my local record shop and picking up a copy of their self titled debut album. What was also amazing was the show I was listening to appeared to have played the uncensored version because what I heard at the end blaring from Radio 1 was "Fuck you I Won't do What You Tell Me!" I couldn't believe me ears and thought that they would realize and stop it but luckily for me that day, they didn't and I heard the real version of "Killing in the Name" and I became a Rage Against the Machine fan.
The Self Titled album began life as a 12 track "demo" that was recorded in LA in 1991 prior to the band ever playing live. It wasn't long before Rage started on their local gigging circuit and being the entrepeneurs they are, they sold cassette versions of this demo for $5 a pop. It turns out that even before they had a label they sold 5,000 copies which can cost you $200 each to buy these days through eBay. This initial success caused a MASSIVE bidding war between most of the major record labels, and for their own reasons, Rage Against the Machine decided to make Epic Records their home. As is the story when any successful independent band signs to a major, the fans thought that as Epic was owned by the Sony Corporation that this record deal would see the start of a sell out Rage Against the Machine. The band retorted stating that a major record deal was the only way that they could successfully spread their revolutionary message.
"Killing in the Name" was the first of four singles [Killing in the Name, Freedom, Bombtrack and Bullet in the Head] released from this album and instantaneously almost became a calling card for the Rage Against the Machine message. Unbelievably, "Killing in the Name" only actually contains six lines of lyrics and amongst that the word fuck is used 17 times! What made Rage Against the Machine popular amongst fans and press alike was the sheer attack of Zack de la Rocha's lyrical content and delivery coupled with the sheer "out there" approach that Tom Morello brought to his guitar work. Both were like nothing anyone had ever heard before and since. In a world (at the time) where heavily distorted guitar chords were the staple diet, Rage Against the Machine's approach, riffs and lyrical content was revolutionary. They weren't singing self important nonsense about how they hate themselves and want to die. They were sticking it to the man....HARD.
Rage Against The Machine's self titled debut album ended up becoming a triple platinum selling album and is now recognized by most as an album that will forever retain its place in history for changing and shaping modern music as we know it today.
Bad news came in 2000 when Rage Against the Machine announced they were splitting. Apparently the internal decision making democracy of the band wasn't working very well and that saw the end of Rage Against the Machine. All the other Rage members apart from Zack de la Rocha went on to form the middle of the road band Audioslave with ex Soundgarden veteran Chris Cornell. During it's lifetime, Audioslave produced three full length studio albums which gradually got worse with each release. Running parallel to this, Zack de la Rocha did a bunch of one off collaborations and continued working on his solo album.
2007 saw the return of Rage Against the Machine for a "one-off" gig at Coachella. However, since that day they have played several more shows including powerful headlining shows at this years Reading and Leeds festivals. Rage Against the Machine currently have "no plans" to record a new album as they are happy now just getting back on the bike and learning to ride it again. I keep up hopes that in a world which is more fucked up than ever that Rage Against the Machine will rise again to provide a meaningful message to the youth of today about freedom, peace and choice.
"Killing in the Name" 5:14
"Take the Power Back" 5:37
"Settle for Nothing" 4:48
"Bullet in the Head" 5:09
"Know Your Enemy" 4:55
"Wake Up" 6:04
"Fistful of Steel" 5:31
"Township Rebellion" 5:24
Various songs from this album have been featured in loads of video games and films including, The Matrix, Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Guitar Hero II. Edited versions of "Bombtrack" and "Take the Power Back" are also featured in the Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers.
So who is the Guy on the Cover?
The guy being burned alive on the cover of the album is none other than Thich Quang Duc who was a Vietnamese monk that burned himself to death in 1963 in protest of his governments oppression of Buddhists.
The photo, taken by Associated Press correspondent Malcolm Brown drew international attention and persuaded the U.S. President at the time [John F Kennedy] to withdraw America's support of the Vietnamese Goverment.
Production Credits, The Band and Guests
Rage Against the Machine Producer, Art Direction
Zack de la Rocha Vocals
Tim Commerford Bass
Brad Wilk Drums
Tom Morello Guitars
Maynard James Keenan [Tool frontman] Additional vocals ("Know Your Enemy")
Stephen Perkins [Jane's Addiction drummer] Additional percussion ("Know Your Enemy")
Garth 'GGGarth' Richardson Producer, Engineer
Stan Katayama Engineer
Craig Doubet Assistant Engineer
Jeff Sheehan Assistant Engineer
Bob Ludwig Mastering
Midas Mixing / Production
Andy Wallace Mixing
Steve Sisco Mixing Assistant
Nicky Lindeman Art Direction
Fuck You, I won't do What You Tell Me
Since their inception, Rage Against the Machine have taken part in some ground breaking political statements to promote their music and their message. Listed below are three of the best:
1. Music Video on the Steps of the New York Stock Exchange - New York, 2000
With the video for "Sleep Now in Fire" Rage Against The Machine decided to draft in Michael Moore to direct a "live" one take video on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange which resulted in it being shut down early for the day for the first time in it's history. Pissed off that Limp Biskit beat them for best video, bassist Tim Commerford pulled off a protest of his own on live TV by climbing the set.
2. Upside Down Flags of Distress - New York, 1996
Rage Against The Machine were due to play on the popular American comedy show Saturday Night Live. According to guitarist, Tom Morello "RATM wanted to stand in sharp juxtaposition to a billionaire telling jokes and promoting his flat tax by making our own statement." As such, the band decided to protest the fact that the show was being hosted by billionaire Republican politician Steve Forbes. In true Rage Against the Machines "I don't give a fuck" style, they hung upside-down American flags on their amplifiers [considered a distress signal].
Tom Morello says this represented:
Our contention that American democracy is inverted when what passes for democracy is an electoral choice between two representatives of the privileged class. America's freedom of expression is inverted when you're free to say anything you want to say until it upsets a corporate sponsor. Finally, this was our way of expressing our opinion of the show's host, Steve Forbes.
Just before the band performed the first song the producers tore the flags off and then threw the band out of the studio even though they were supposed to perform two songs that night.
The band had this to say about the way they were treated:
SNL censored Rage, period. They could not have sucked up to the billionaire more. The thing that's ironic is SNL is supposedly this cutting edge show, but they proved they're bootlickers to their corporate masters when it comes down to it. They're cowards. It should come to no surprise that GE, which owns NBC, would find "Bullet" particularly offensive. GE is a major manufacturer of US planes used to commit war crimes in the Gulf War, and bombs from those jets destroyed hydroelectric dams which killed thousands of civilians in Iraq.
3. Protest Gig With Megaphones - St.Paul, Minnesota, 2008
Showing that Rage Agaist the machine are still around to cause a stir they decided to setup a gig to play during the Republican Party convention that was in St.Pauls, Minnesota that day. As they turned up they were bombarded by riot police who forced them to do an impromptu live set in the middle of the crowd with nothing but a megaphone.
"Imagine if in Beijing during the Olympics a Chinese band whose songs were critical of the government was told they'd be arrested if they attempted to sing those songs in a public forum -- there would have been an international human rights outcry. But that's exactly what happened in Minnesota. But this is a band that has made a living singing a song that goes 'fuck you, I won't do what you tell me,' so we weren't about to go back to the hotel with our tails between our legs. So we out-flanked the police line and went into the middle of the crowd, and played a couple of songs passing a bull horn back and forth, and it seemed to go over pretty well."
Go out and buy this
In conclusion, it is my humble opinion that you cannot consider yourself a music lover if you have not ever heard this album. The Self Titled Rage Against the Machine debut album is one of those albums that is excellent from start to finish; all killer no filler if you will. My personal favourite tracks on the album are Bombtrack, Killing in the Name, Take The Power Back, Bullet in the Head, Know Your Enemy and Township Rebellion. However, they are all amazing.
You must own this album.
Now don't quickly think to yourself, "I'll download it". Fuck that shit. Go to your local record shop and buy it NOW!