News Roundup: Rage Against The Machine Save Christmas, Elliott Smith Gets Remastered, Flaming Lips Embrace Their Dark Side

Videos by American Songwriter


Across the pond, a strange battle for pop supremacy is being waged. Angry music fans have launched a Facebook campaign to make Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 f-bomb-laden “Killing in the Name” the U.K.’s Number One Christmas single. The campaign was launched to keep “The Climb,” the new single from The X Factor (Britain’s version of American Idol) winner Joe McElderry,” from dominating the charts; the show has churned out Number One Christmas hits for four years in a row.

Says Rage guitarist Tom Morello: “The people in the U.K. are tired of being spoon-fed one schmaltzy ballad after another and they want to back their own charts, and we are honored that they have chosen our song to be the rebel anthem to try to topple The X Factor label.”

Now Paul McCartney has lent his support to the grassroots effort to keep Britain’s airways safe from Christmas shlock. Keep in mind that this is the same Paul McCartney who gifted the world with the borderline-unlistenable “Wonderful Christmastime.” But that’s another matter.

“Everyone expects Joe to do it,” the former Beatle tells the BBC. “If he goes to Number One then good luck to him. He’s just some kid with a career ahead. I’ve got nothing against that, but it would be kind of funny if Rage Against The Machine got it because it would prove a point.”

On December 18, Rage Against the Machine took to the air on BBC Radio 5 to show their support and help spread the “Rage” virus. Said frontman Zack De La Rocha: “I think it would be a wonderful statement. The kids all over the U.K. have responded to this incredible Internet campaign, and I think it says something about the real tensions that people are experiencing all over the U.K. and the United States as well.” They then launched into the song in question, and despite promising the BBC they’d refrain from cursing on air, de la Rocha dropped the F-bomb four times before the band was cut off. Classic.

The Flaming Lips wish you a merry Christmas, and to prove it they’re releasing their epic cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon as an iTunes exclusive on December 22. Although their version has a somewhat longer title, which is officially The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon. The album will hit remaining digital stores on December 29, and on New Years Eve, the band will perform the album, with Henry Rollins and Peaches contributing “vocal assistance,” live in Oklahomah City. Maybe you should make the “trip.”

Elliott Smith’s presence is sorely missed, seven years after his unfortunate death. On April 6, Smith’s old record label, Kill Rock Stars, will reissue Smith’s 1994, debut, Roman Candle, as well as his final studio album, From a Basement On The Hill. Roman Candle has been remastered by Larry Crane, editor of Tape Op Magazine and archivist for Elliott’s family. Additionally, fans can hear a previously unreleased song, “Cecilia/Amanda,” recorded in 1997 and featuring a signature Smith acoustic guitar riff, here.

Says Crane: “The intention that I had was to make the album more listenable. I felt that a lot of the guitar “squeaks” were jarring and very loud, and that many of the hard consonants and “S” sounds were jarring and scratchy sounding. I felt by reducing these noises that the music would become more inviting and the sound would serve the songs better. When I went to Roger Seibel’s SAE Mastering, he proceeded to equalize the tracks a small amount and to make the volume slightly louder. We never tried to make this CD as loud as current, over-limited trends, but just to match the volume of the rest of Elliott’s KRS catalog in a graceful way. Please note that none of this album is “remixed” from the master tapes – it is still composed of the mixes Elliott created himself.”

In a press release, Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon talks about the profound impact Smith’s music had on him. “In 1994, I had been asked to be on this five-person solo-act tour called Pop Chord with Tammy Watson, Carrie Akre, Sean Croghan and Elliott Smith. The first night at the Crocodile in Seattle, I didn’t pay too much attention and people talked all thru Elliott’s set. Sean Croghan got up next and said “all of you people who just talked through Elliott’s set are bummed because you just misssed something very very special.” The next night of the tour, at The Bottom Of The Hill in San Francisco, I listened very closely to Elliott’s set, and it was basically one of those life-changing moments. Instead of watching the rest of the performers, I went out to the tour van and popped Roman Candle into the player, and listened to it on endless repeat for the rest of the evening and beyond. It completely blew my mind. I have never heard music as heartwrenchingly, gut-checkingly honest, intimate, and wise – before or since.”


Leave a Reply
  1. Hey American song writers all over the USA,

    I’d just like to say how proud I am of the British public I am for bringing such an iconic and amazing song to the forefront of a campaign to stop “manufactured pop” from achieving the Christmas No.1 position in the UK.

    I especially love how RATM themselves have gotten behind the campaign, which was started at the grass-roots level, and generated a bit of publicity as well. No such thing as bad publicity after all. I really think some people got a shock when this clip was aired at 9am UK time… cornflakes were probably spilled.

    Keep on ragin’

    Glasgow, Scotland, UK (A.K.A “England”)

  2. Britain’s “version”? This will seem petty but it started over here so American Idol is the version of our Pop Idol, another shocking show done by Simon Cowell. Apart from that I didn’t have a problem with your article. It would be amazing if RATM got to no.1 in merry old England 🙂

  3. ah but you miss the point entirely and may i remind your american establishment that American idol is the american version of Pop idol not the other way around. its rather annoying how americans seem to believe they are the sole inventors of everything uh hello? pretty much everything including the tv and internet were invented by britain or british inventors.

Leave a Reply

English Lyrics, Italian Ears