Rage Against The Machine were one of the many artists who felt inspired to create visceral rock by The Clash, the punk pioneers who ushered in a new attitude that Rage incorporated into their sound. The importance of bringing politics into music and becoming one of the biggest bands in the world was an achievement that both acts managed to do with aplomb. It makes this cover White Riot by The Clash from RATM nothing short of the perfect tribute.
When Rage Against The Machine took over Finsbury Park in 2010 it was only fitting that they paid tribute to those British punk acts who had inspired them so greatly. They performed a thunderous rendition of a song by The Clash while on stage for their self-proclaimed “victory concert”. The 2010 show was held for free after a campaign to get the band’s quintessential punk anthem ‘Killing In The Name’ to Christmas number one on the UK charts was successful and toppled the X-Factor machine which had been continuously securing the top spot on the chart’s since the now ‘rested’ programme’s inception.
“10 years ago today Rage Against The Machine performed a free ‘Victory Concert’ for 90,000 people in Finsbury Park, England to celebrate the successful ‘people’s campaign’ that dethroned Simon Cowell’s X Factor and put Killing In The Name at THE #1 SPOT ON UK XMAS CHART (17 yrs after its initial release),” guitarist Tom Morello reminisced on Instagram on the ten-year anniversary of the show.
“The band donated 100% of sales from the single to UK homeless charities and the show may go down as the greatest in the band’s history,” he added. Looking back at the footage, it’s hard to deny it and what better way to celebrate the victory of a grassroots campaign than with The Clash’s legendary song.
The punk spirit that was lit in Morello as a child played a pivotal role in Rage Against The Machine going on to become the unstoppable force of rock they were by 2010. The Clash and their counterparts had passed on the anarchic attitude. “I couldn’t believe that there was a band for me. Up until that point, I was settling. When I discovered The Clash I didn’t have to settle anymore,” Tom Morello once said about his love for the band in Classic Rock.
“The Clash are my favourite rock’n’roll band of all time. London Calling was the launching point for my love of the band. Until I discovered punk, I was a heavy metal fan and it was the cover of that album that first piqued my interest and made me think: ‘Who is this great new heavy metal band?’,” Morello recalled.
“I devoured that record. I could not believe how great it was; it made much of my heavy metal collection seem very silly. It was music I could relate to lyrically much more than the dungeons-and-dragons-type lyrics of my metal forbears. The conviction with which the band played and with which Joe Strummer sang were indescribable.”
“It was at a time that I was becoming politically aware, and here was a band who made me feel that I wasn’t alone; it was a band that told the truth – unlike my president, unlike the people on the national news, unlike my teacher – and I thought: ‘I’m in’,” Morello stated proudly.
Check out their fierce cover of ‘White Riot’, below which I’m sure would have made Joe Strummer proud as punch. To see his teachings still living on all these years later and being passed on to new generations was at the centre of everything he stood for.