A Happy Metal Christmas To You
Yes folks, we did it, around half a million people (or 100,000 people with 5 downloads each) agreed with John and Tracey Morter's thought that they'd had enough of the X-Factor's manufactured pop every Christmas and instead propelled Rage Against The Machine's expletive filled Killing In The Name Of to the Christmas #1 spot.
X-Factor fans and people who hate the song are now falling all over themselves in an effort to prove that the people who bought Rage were as manipulated just as much as people who bought Joe McElderry's cover version single. There are different levels of manipulation though, X-Factor has a ten week long prime advertising television show backed up by massive coverage in the popular press and media, the Rage campaign was started two weeks ago by a couple launching a Facebook group which then snowballed.
Heavy metal is an odd thing to have in the charts at all, never mind at the top spot for Christmas, and this isn't because it doesn't sell well. Many of the biggest selling music acts in the world are rock bands, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Green Day, AC/DC, Metallica, U2, Iron Maiden all shift millions of albums and sell out vast tours which grind on for months at a time. There are hundreds of other rock and metal bands out there who have had very successful careers, sold vast amounts of music and yet have hardly touched the mainstream consciousness at all, Rancid, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Thrice, Sepultura, Bad Religion, Pantera, these are names that every rock/metal fan knows well, but whose wider impact has been much less pronounced.
The thing is, when you're a metalhead it is a bit like being a Leeds United fan, everyone hates but we don't care, and if you're a metal loving LUFC fan, well, you're doubly buggered mate. The BBC and especially Radio 1 hate us, hang on they cry, you've got the Rock Show, oh yes, a couple of hours tucked away on the time schedule in a dark deserted corner. Under my musical heroes Alan Freeman and Tommy Vance, the Rock Show used to be on mid Friday night, now it begins at midnight on a Tuesday where current disc spinner Daniel Carter presumably hopes that he gains a few more listeners via i-Player and podcast download. The rest of the media tend to ignore metal until someone eats a bat.
Radio 1 made one of its few forays into live rock music broadcasting when it put out The Wildhearts gig from Leeds about ten years ago. Ginger paused in between songs and asked the crowd whether they would like to say something to Radio 1, he counted down 3 - 2 - 1 and as one the crowd bellowed "Fuck Off!". This probably isn't the reply you'd get to the same request at a Leona Lewis gig, but Leona's fans wouldn't feel that their preferred music is marginalised and ignored.
Something that did make me laugh about the Rage campaign was hearing two Radio 1 (DJ's ? Presenters ? Why do they need a small crowd of people in the studio to do one show ?) DJ's freaking out at the Killing In The Name Of, and not because of the swearing, but because the song is five and half minutes long. A lot of pop songs weigh in at the 3-4 minute range, this doesn't work for metal which often needs a couple of minutes for a classical violin intro, four minutes of actual song, then another two minutes of solos by guitar / drums / keyboards / heavy artillery.
I think part of the reason that this campaign has excited such strong public opinion, both for and against, is that rock and metal really do care about their music. Like myself, metalheads tend to be of the opinion that music should be written by the band, that the band must be able to play their instruments, and that the band must be able to perform live, the X-Factor wouldn't work in a metal setting because metal fans don't want someone who can do a passable imitation of Till Lindemann, they want either....
a) The real Till Lindemann
b) Why don't you stop pissing around with cover versions and form a band instead you lazy tosser ?
It isn't really a case of we are metal and nobody likes us but we don't care, in the words of another big selling rap metal band "We care a lot about you people yeah you bet we care a lot." Thanks to everyone that made RATM #1 this week, here's to real music, rock 'til you drop.