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Credit: RATM

Music

Rage Against The Machine's most iconic moments

@josephtaysom

Rage Against The Machine built their reputation off the back of causing controversy wherever they went. The group’s rebellious streak made them the enemy of the state, and they had two fingers permanently pointed at the establishment.

As their name suggests, Rage Against The Machine aren’t ones for sitting back quietly and accepting the status quo. They use music to bring about social change and make the world fairer for those who sit at the bottom of the ladder.

There are no quaint acoustic ditties, and instead, anger is the emotion that fuels their work. After forming in 1991, the band shared their debut towards the end of the following year, which spectacularly announced their arrival.

It’s unusual for a band that wears radical politics on their sleeve to invade the mainstream and sell millions of records without ever compromising their unflinching stance, but Rage Against The Machine pulled it off. Over the last 30 years, Rage have been responsible for plentiful jaw-dropping moments, and below are some of their most unforgettable.

Rage Against The Machine’s most iconic moments:

Infamous tour with Wu-Tang Clan

In 1997, Rage Against The Machine teamed up with Wu-Tang Clan, which local authorities tried to stop coming through their areas. In Washington, Sheriff Wiester attempted to intervene and pleaded with the venue to stop the show because of the “violent and anti-law enforcement philosophies of Rage Against the Machine and Wu-Tang Clan.” 

He believed the two acts would cause a riot in Grant County and feared they’d upset the local community. He needn’t have been so worried as Wu-Tang Clan left the tour early because they couldn’t get all nine members to turn up for the shows.

Lollapalooza (1993)

Rage Against The Machine’s set at Lollapalooza left fans feeling dejected, but they felt their actions were for the greater good. The band were on-stage for around 15 minutes and didn’t play a single note of music to the crowd.

They stood on the stage naked with duct tape covering their mouths with each member having a letter painted on their chest which spelt ‘PMRC’, for the Parents Music Resource Center. 

The PMRC was responsible for putting explicit content stickers on albums that enraged Rage, but their protest would ultimately fall flat. However, they did make it up to fans who hoped to see them at Lollapalooza by playing a show for attendees at a later date.

Democratic National Convention (2000)

By 2000, Rage Against The Machine had been cooking up mischief for almost a decade and were an unwelcome presence at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) is an understatement.

They pitched up across the street from the convention to perform a guerilla show, and over 8,000 people turned up to see a powerful set. “Our democracy has been hijacked,” Zach De La Rocha said after taking to the mic.

He continued: “Our electoral freedoms in this country are over so long as it’s controlled by corporations. We are not going to allow these streets to be taken over by the Democrats or the Republicans!”

Republican National Convention (2008)

Rage Against The Machine were inactive during President George W. Bush’s time in office, and therefore, he managed to escape their wrath. However, after reuniting in 2007, they turned their attention to the Republican National Convention (RNC) and caused mayhem.

Unfortunately, after they took to the stage at 7pm, it was shut down by police despite the venue having a license for live music. Zach De La Rocha and Tom Morello stayed on stage to perform an a capella version of ‘Bulls on Parade’ before leading the crowd on a march before police fired tear gas at them.

Making the New York Stock Exchange collapse

When Michael Moore teamed up with Rage Against The Machine, bedlam was expected. Still, few could have expected them to shut down the New York Stock Exchange for the first time in 200 years while shooting the video for ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’.

“We’ve got a permit to play on the federal steps,” Morello explained. “We do not have a permit to play on the city streets, but we’re going to be up on the federal steps. But don’t stop playing, no matter what happens.”

He continued: “Mike says, ‘OK, now we’re going to go down of the city sidewalk’ — the unpermitted city sidewalk. And we continue to play, continue to mime along, and a police sergeant comes up to me and says, ‘You’ve got to get back up on the steps.’ I remember what Mike said — no matter what happens, to keep playing — so this clearly falls under the auspices of that.

“So I keep playing, and [the policeman] is getting mad and madder and madder. The vein in his neck is popping out. He’s like, ‘Get the f–k back up on the steps! Get on the steps!'”

Police arrived and arrested Moore, but, Rage Against The Machine managed to continue playing and created an iconic video in the process.

‘Saturday Night Live’

Rage were a strange choice for Saturday Night Live in 1996, and everybody at home was waiting for something wild to happen. Furthermore, to make the situation even more absurd, the episode was hosted by Steve Forbes, the two-time Republican presidential candidate and billionaire who epitomises everything they detest.

According to Morello: “RATM wanted to stand in sharp juxtaposition to a billionaire telling jokes and promoting his flat tax by making our own statement.”

They made their statement by hanging American flags upside down from their amplifiers which angered those working on the show who pulled the flags and ordered the band to leave the building immediately.

‘Killing In The Name Of’ hits number one

Almost two decades after its release, ‘Killing In The Name Of’ took on its weirdest incarnation when it remarkably toppled the monster of the X Factor and stopped winner Joe McElderry from becoming the UK Christmas number one.

This achievement resulted from a grassroots campaign and, as a way of saying thanks, Rage Against The Machine played a one-off free show at London’s Finsbury Park in 2010. Additionally, all the proceeds from the single went towards charity.

Coachella reunion

After seven years, Rage Against The Machine buried the hatchet to headline Coachella in 2007, and it was an explosive show. Morello explained the band couldn’t stand idly by any longer after President Bush had allowed America to drift into “right-wing purgatory”.

Initially, the show was supposed to be a one-off performance, but they couldn’t resist getting back on the saddle and making it a full-blown reunion. Rage had the biggest crowd of the weekend and made their political message known by flying the Zapatista Army Of National Liberation (EZLN) flag.