So Rage Against the X Factor won: Rage Against the Machine are number one for Christmas!
Should I be pleased? I guess so, but the reasons are all to do with nostalgia, and nothing to do with the defeat of the X Factor single. I thought Olly won, it turns out it was John or Joe or something (?) and I was sad Stacey did not win, cos I have seen the X Factor now and I liked her style. However having actually watched one and a bit episodes of the X Factor now on the “I dropped acid on a Saturday Night just to see what the fuss was about (youtube link contains sound)” principle — I can’t really see what the problem is. I am constantly amused by what I see Simon Cowell has said – and to be honest I have never seen him on TV except on the X Factor and The Simpsons, so maybe I just have not had time to get annoyed.
Still I see no reason to not like Simon Cowell: I think I admire him actually. So he’s immensely rich and i’m shockingly poor? So what, so are many people. Good for him! So he manipulates the minds and media of the UK? Who doesn’t try, he’s just better at it than me? Rock and Roll – it’s a swindle (youtube link contains sound) — and Cowell took “anyone can be a pop star” and dressed up the punk dream of you can make it baby in super-capitalist colours. Good for him. Filthy lucre ain’t nothing new… I think the real raging aginst the machine was the KLF: the K Foundation burn a million quid (youtube link contains sound) remains a high point in pop history. They said anyone can get a number one and proved it,(youtube link contains sound) did a great album, made a cool million, they took it to a shed, poured petrol over it, and burned it. Rock n Roll! That’s high art, and pretty seriously anti-capitalist if that’s what you are looking for – but I’m not sure the KLF viewed it that way. It remains one of the most moving and interesting films I have seen. If you have never seen this you should, but be warned – it’s emotional stuff, because you are really conditioned to care about money, and what it represents, so watching someone just burn all theirs can hit hard. I think it’s a really necessary piece of art, and a film that could be shown in schools to get a good classroom discussion going, but seems to make a lot of adults weep for some reason.
I did once have an idea for a TV show involving Cowell. I was trying to come up with programme ideas for Ben at ITN, and Living had just done Ghosthunting With Girls Aloud, and so I suggested something on similar lines – my idea was Coup d’Etat with Girls Aloud. You know, arm them with AK-47’s, some high explosives, get Simon Cowell dressed as Che Guevara, and let them stage a coup to seize control of the Isle of Wight. Take over the Post Office – you always seize the Post Offiice, then move on to the Telephone Exchange, blow the harbour facilities and declare independence from the UK in an act of High Treason, setting up a supercapitalist rightwing anarchist/libertarian tax haven within easy reach of London. I thought Cowell would make a great revolutionary. There were three main problems with my idea i) we were not sure they would want to do it, ii) we had no ending for the scenario, unless it was when Royal Marines stormed the island and shot them all, which might have negative career and health implications for them and iii) after careful consideration by top lawyers I was led to believe that staging coups and overthrowing the government for a reality tv show is a teensy weensy bit illegal. I thought t was a good idea, but sadly ITN did not. I sometimes wonder why I am no longer working with anyone in tv? (Incidentally this is not my WORST ever idea for a TV show – this one would not have provoked a UN Security Council meeting. If you want to hear my bad pitches, just ask nicely — here’s a hint — my worst ever idea involved Michael Caine, and Iceland – the country, not the supermarket, and I pitched it an interesting time in that countries fiscal history…)
Anyway back to Mildly Miffed With the Military-Industrial Complex. Anyone who was dj’ing back in 1992 knows just how funny and ironic the sight of 150 goths and rockers bouncing up and down in perfect unison chanting “F*ck you I won’t do what you tell me!” is. Plastic rebellion for plastic people. I’m afraid, all testosterone and pointless negation. I was never a Rebel: I’m a good lad at heart — but the song has a certain charm.
And let’s face it, Rage made sense in the context of their time and place 1992, Los Angeles. LA had been burning, in epic riots, and it really did seem for a while that Babylon was burning. Ice T and the Bodycount let out a howl of anguish and fury with Copkilla, and I think we have to look at Killing in the Name of… in the context of police racism and the Rodney King affair, and a summer that saw LA turn in to a battleground. I link these events in my mind the same way The Smith’s Panic (youtube link contains sound) will always remind me of the Handsworth, Brixton and the Broadwater Farm riots here in the UK in 1985. Now there may still be racists in the LAPD – I mean what institution exists on Earth without racists? — and there may be neo-nazi cells in the US Army (freedom of speech boys!) and so forth but at the end of the day RATM‘s song is a call for a sort of violent Baader-Meinhof style de-nazification I think – let’s go kick some Klan members, cos these white Eurocentric bigots are poisoning America. All well and good, but RATM’s fans even get what eurocentricism means? May as well talk about Patriarchy to them – talking of which, feminist statements don’t come much stronger than this – don’t click on this if at work, or offended by anything but especially aggressive female sexuality — it makes South Park look tame – Consolidated, You Suck, (youtube link contains sound ) from 1993.
Still in 1992, I was there, and yeah I own a couple of RATM albums. 1992 was the era of Heaven & Hell at Gas nightclub Cheltenham, DJ Johnny played this endlessly, and hey, James Muskett took some fantastic photos – a couple to give you the feel of that place – those were different times…
It was fun: I have fond memories, and hearing Killing in the Name of .. sends me straight back to that sweaty dance floor…
Anyway that was a very long time ago. Nowadays I’m a staid conformist – I lost my leather jacket, my hair is cut short, and now I’m a dedicated hard working respectable kind of bloke. I don’t want to shout “F*ck you I won’t do what you tell me!”, because as I have already hinted it makes me think of this scene from the Life of Brian…
Brian No, No. please, please, please listen. I've got one or two things to say. Crowd TELL US! TELL US BOTH OF THEM. Brian Look. You've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody. You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals. Crowd YES! WE'RE ALL INDIVIDUALS! Brian You're all different. Crowd YES. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. Folowr5 I'm not. Crowd turns on dissenter.
So I’m afraid this Christmas I might very well do what you tell me, and be cheerful, self effacing, and quite pleasant about it. I fear I’m just not cut out to be a nonconformist, and I can’t be bothered to Rage against the X Factor, because until I was at my sister’s house and it happened to be on I had never even seen it. If you don’t like it: turn off your radios and TV’s? Gosh, I have become a dull old conformist haven’t I?
Oh well I expect I’ll go get an office job now, settle down to worshiping Cheryl Cole and become incapable of thinking for myself: mediocrity awaits. But in these days where payola is everything, and payola is no longer clandestine but achieved by blatant Berlusconi type media manipulation, let’s raise a glass to those of us who dare NOT to be too different, and have the courage to be happy anyway. I may have become dull and mundane, a faceless sheep following the herd, I might even apply for an office job one day soon, but really, is it any worse than orchestrated individualism? 🙂
Happy memories, great music, and congratulations to Rage Against the Machine, and commiserations to Simon Cowell (and Joe whatshisname) who after the chart battle boosted sales of both records is laughing all the way to the bank anyway. Everybody wins when the great rock n roll swindle stuffs the turkey. 🙂
Have a merry Christmas , and God Save the Queen!