Rage Against The Machine steadfastly arrived onto the scene with their debut single, ‘Killing In The Name Of’, and they showed in one song that they were simply not comparable to any other band on the planet.
Together, they had something important to say, and that has always been a deal-breaker for guitarist Tom Morello, whose favourite band of all time are cut from the same cloth as Rage Against The Machine. It’s integral for Morello that artists understand their platform and use it to bring about a fairer, more equal world. This attitude has always made the guitarist stand out like a sore thumb within music, but he can’t change his DNA sculpted by one band in particular.
That band, if you hadn’t worked it out already, is The Clash. The punk pioneers loudly ushered in a decisive new attitude that Rage later adopted and incorporated into their own work. Even though sonically there are differences between the two groups, they share an attitude and approach to music that align them together.
If it wasn’t for The Clash showing that this was possible, then who knows whether it would have been possible for Rage Against To Machine even to exist, let alone thrive in the manner they have.
“The Clash are my favourite rock’n’roll band of all time,” Morello explained to Louder Sound. “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?'”
“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.”
Morello continued: “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. So 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’. I wrote my first political song immediately in the aftermath of listening to London Calling. It was called ‘Salvador Death Squad Blues’. So the possibility of combining kick-ass music and lyrical content that mattered became real.”
The influence that The Clash had on Morello changed his life, and although he’d played music long before he got into that album, London Calling was his musical awakening. Morello was born to write political music, and you never get the sense with him that there is anything forced about it, unlike many who dip their toes into that pool.
Over the last 30 years, he’s carried the baton on from Joe Strummer left off; Rage Against The Machine have made sure that there’s still a place for authentic political rock music and keep fighting the good fight.