Revisiting Rage Against the Machine’s powerful cover of Bob Dylan song ‘Maggie’s Farm’
This week Rage Against The Machine have come under hilarious scrutiny from certain corners of the political spectrum. Nothing new, we guess. But this time it was from people who had not yet understood, despite the drastic clue in the band’s name, that they are a political outfit.
It has inspired us to revisit one of the band’s even more political moments when the group gloriously covered Bob Dylan song ‘Maggie’s Farm’ on their 2000 covers album Renegades.
The album would be released two months after the band initially parted ways and saw Rage Against The Machine perform their own version of classic songs. It included them turning their hand to ‘Street Fighting Man’ by The Rollings Stones, Bruce Springsteen’s beautiful ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’, DEVO’s ‘Beautiful World’ with Bob Dylan’s classic ‘Maggie’s Farm’ closing out the record.
Dylan remarkably only needed one take to record ‘Maggie’s Farm’ on January 1th 1965, it then appeared on the album Bringing It All Back Home on March 22nd of that year. Like many other Dylan songs from that era, it is originally an electric blues number.
The track is Dylan kicking out his frustration at being a servant to his record label, where he vents his gripes at the music industry and firing back at the commodification of himself that his label has created. It is not just Rage Against The Machine who have covered the track with U2, The Specials and The Grateful Dead all also playing it over the years but Rage’s effort is, in our opinion, the next best thing following Dylan’s.
Although sonically their music is world’s apart, Bob Dylan played a huge impact on Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello who discussed with Forbes in 2018 how The Times They Are A-Changin’ would transform his life. “This record I discovered late and I had been a fan, my whole life, of heavy music. First, it was metal, then it was punk and then it was hip hop and the harder the better,” Morello said.
“It sort of tapped into my angst and latent aggression and when I heard Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ it stopped me dead in my tracks. I said, ‘This might be the heaviest record I’ve ever heard in my life’. And it opened me to the world of folk music. Three chords and a rusty razor of truth. Then it Was Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and Phil Ochs and then I began writing my own songs. But the weight of those couplets and the songs on that record are so devastating and much heavier than a wall of Marshall stacks.”
He then continued to wax lyrical about the 1964 record: “With ‘God On Our Side’ that last couplet of historical untruths, which he’s been fed, but told to swallow them whole because God is on our side. And then he pivots in that last verse, ‘Through many dark hour I’ve been thinking about this/That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss/But I can’t think for you/You’ll have to decide/Whether Judas Iscariot/Has God on his side’. Meaning none of the Christian narrative of redemption and salvation turns, unless Judas has God on his side, was Judas was part of the plan. And if so what is right? It’s such a heavy and surprising twist on what is a brilliant but surface-level treatise, which becomes this dark rumination on spirituality and what is at the core of good and evil.”
Enjoy Morello and co.’s tribute to the one and only Bob Dylan with their version of ‘Maggie’s Farm’, below.