"Killing in The Name" is a song by American rap metal band Rage Against the Machine, featured on their self-titled debut album, and was released as the lead single from the album in November 1992. In 1993, the song peaked at number 25 in the United Kingdom, but in 2009 became the Christmas number one. Written about revolution against institutional racism and police brutality, "Killing in The Name" is widely recognized as the band's signature song, and has been noted for its distinctive guitar riffs and heavy use of profanity.
"Killing in the Name" has been described as "a howling, expletive-driven tirade against the ills of American society." The uncensored version contains the word "fuck" seventeen times. The song builds in intensity, with Zack de la Rocha chanting the line "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me", murmuring the line the first four times, building in a crescendo the next four times and screaming angrily the line the final eight times culminating with De La Rocha screaming "Motherfucker!" The song makes the allegation that some members of US police forces are members of the Ku Klux Klan, whose symbol is the burning cross. The BBC News website refers to it as railing against "the military–industrial complex, justifying killing for the benefit of, as the song puts it, the chosen whites." The song reflects the racial tensions that exist in United States; it was released six months after the Los Angeles Riots, which were triggered by the acquittal of four white police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King.
Tom Morello created the heavier guitar riffs while teaching a student drop D tuning. He stopped the lesson and recorded the riff. The next day the band met in a studio and according to Morello the song "Killing in the Name" was created in a collaborative effort, combining his riff with "Timmy C.'s magmalike bass, Brad Wilk's funky, brutal drumming and Zack's conviction". Like all Rage Against the Machine songs tuned to Drop D, it was recorded on a Fender Telecaster.
"Killing in the Name" was originally written and recorded shortly after Rage Against the Machine formed as part of a 12-song self-released cassette. The band's first video for "Killing in the Name" did not receive heavy airplay in the United States due to the explicit lyrics. The song received substantial airplay in Europe and drove the band's popularity outside its home country.
After signing with Epic Records, the band released their self-titled debut album in November 12, 1992. It reached triple platinum status, driven by heavy radio play of "Killing in the Name". The album also included the singles "Freedom" and "Take the Power Back".
The song earned its notoriety in the United Kingdom on February 21, 1993, when BBC Radio 1 DJ Bruno Brookes accidentally played the full uncensored version of the song on his Top 40 Countdown, leading to 138 complaints. Brookes was recording an advertisement for next week's Top 40 Countdown while the song played. This moment of infamy has since been consistently referenced by numerous British rock media.
The song drew controversy again in Britain on November 2008, when it was played over the speakers in an Asda supermarket in Preston, Lancashire, prompting numerous complaints from customers.
In 2012 Tom Morello criticized the UK Independence Party (UKIP) for using the song "Killing in the Name"; Morello stated: "Hey UKIP and Nigel Farage: Stop using 'KILLING IN THE NAME' for your racist/rightwing rallies. We are against everything you stand for. STOP. IT."
In early December 2009, English DJ Jon Morter and his wife Tracy launched a group on the social networking site Facebook encouraging people to buy the song in the week running up to Christmas in order to prevent the winner of the X Factor television show from achieving the Christmas number one slot in the United Kingdom for the fifth year running. On December 15, the BBC reported the group had more than 750,000 members.
As the X Factor song was donating some of the profits to charity the Rage against X Factor campaign encouraged supporters also to give to charity. Alongside the group, a Justgiving page was created to raise money for homeless charity Shelter which, as of 20 December, was reported to have raised over £70,000 (approximately $110,000).
After the creator of The X Factor, Simon Cowell, publicly denounced the campaign as "stupid" and "cynical," the group gained more attention and went on to be mentioned on various UK news channels, radio stations and websites. Rage Against the Machine added their support to the campaign. Guitarist Tom Morello said that achieving the Christmas number one would be "a wonderful dose of anarchy" and that he planned to donate the unexpected windfall to charity. Dave Grohl, Muse, Them Crooked Vultures, Liam Howlett and The Prodigy were among many musicians and celebrities supporting the campaign. The campaign even received support from Paul McCartney, who had appeared on the X Factor with the finalists and X Factor contestants John & Edward also added their support. Critics noted that both The X Factor and Rage Against the Machine are signed to labels that are part of Sony BMG. Tom Morello dismissed conspiracy claims as ridiculous. After its occurrence, Kasabian's Tom Meighan and Sergio Pizzorno expressed their happiness at the campaign's success in an NME interview, where they also heavily criticised The X Factor.
The band created controversy when they performed an uncensored rendition of the song on BBC Radio 5Live in mid-December 2009, despite the hosts asking them to censor the expletive end. During the crescendo of their performance, frontman Zack De La Rocha started out only singing "I won't do what you tell me," with a pause where he normally sings "Fuck You", but after a few lines, he screamed the lyrics, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" repeatedly. Hosts Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty apologized afterward.
On December 20, 2009, BBC Radio 1 revealed the song had successfully reached the number one spot, selling more than 500,000 copies and being the first exclusively download-only single to be Christmas number one in the process. The following week Joe McElderry's cover of the song "The Climb" became the last British number one single of 2009. Killing In The Name dropped to number two, falling 38 places to number 40 the week after, and dropping out of the top 75 the following week, falling to number 100.
The campaign to get the song to Christmas number one had also spread to Ireland, where like in the UK, the Christmas number one had been dominated by X Factor finalists for the previous five years. The campaign was less successful in Ireland and McElderry beat Rage Against the Machine to Christmas number 1, with Rage Against The Machine taking the number 2 spot.
On June 6, 2010, Rage Against The Machine performed at a free 'thank you' gig for 40,000 fans in Finsbury Park. On stage Tracy and Jon Morter were handed a representative cheque in the amount of £162,713.03, representing the proceeds from donations to JustGiving and royalties from sales of the single.
As a result of the campaign, the song is featured in the 2011 UK edition of the Guinness World Records under the category of 'Fastest-selling digital track (UK)', after recording 502,672 downloads in its first week.
"Darkness of Greed" and "Clear the Lane" were re-mastered versions of the respective demo tracks. Another version of "Darkness of Greed", titled merely "Darkness", was included on the 1994 soundtrack album for The Crow. The previously unreleased demo appeared on the XX 20th Anniversary Edition of their debut album, which was released on November 27, 2012.
The video, produced and directed by Peter Gideon, a guitar student of Tom Morello who had a video camera, was filmed during two shows in small Los Angeles venues, the Whisky a Go Go and the Club With No Name. Released in December 1992, the uncensored version of the video clip was shown on European MTV but was banned on American MTV because of the explicit lyrics. As a result, the video's existence was in doubt until its release on the self-titled video.
The cover of the CD-single is Malcolm Browne's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation in Saigon in 1963 in protest of the murder of Buddhists by the US-backed Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm's regime. This photograph is also used as the cover of the eponymous Rage Against the Machine album.
The cover of the Australian version of the CD-single has the words "killing in the name", in large, red block capitals, and a much smaller and tightly-cropped version of the photograph in the bottom right-hand corner.
In July 2009, "Killing in the Name" was voted at number two in the Hottest 100 of all time countdown poll, conducted by Australian radio station, Triple J. More than half a million votes were cast in. The song was also voted at number 17 in the 1998 edition of Hottest 100 of All Time and was voted number 6 on the Hottest 100 list in 1993.
In 2010, 2011 and 2012, The Rock radio station in New Zealand have held the Rock 1000 countdown which counts down the top 1000 rock songs of all time, as voted by the public; in 2010 and 2011, the song was in the top five, while in 2012, the song featured at number seven. In 2011 and 2012, "Killing in the Name" was played uncensored, with a preceding message from the Prime minister, John Key, approving the playing of the uncensored version of the song due to the large number of complaints received by MediaWorks New Zealand regarding the 2010 countdown not giving any warning that the song was uncensored.
The song was performed as an extended instrumental at their first public performance at Cal State in the Quad, on October 23, 1991. Bassist Tim Commerford is known to chant the backing vocals of "now you do what they told ya" of the chorus during most live performances.
Zack de la Rocha sometimes changes the lyrics in the second verse from "Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses" to "Some of those that burn crosses are the same that hold office" when playing live.
Rage Against the Machine performed the song live in 1999 at the Woodstock '99 festival, burning the American flag during the song. In this performance, de la Rocha changed the lyrics to "Some of those that work forces are the same that burn churches".
|1.||"Killing in the Name"||5:13|
|2.||"Darkness of Greed"||4:09|
|3.||"Clear the Lane"||3:47|
|UK Singles Chart||1993||
|New Zealand Charts||1993||
|Dutch Singles Chart||1993||
|Irish Singles Chart||2009||
|Scotland Singles Chart||2009||
|UK Singles Chart||2009||
|European Hot 100 Singles||2009||
|UK Top 100 Songs of the Decade||36|
|UK's Official Top 100 Downloads Chart||Position|
|UK Download Chart (All Time)||79|
During one of his last performances before he died, American comedian Bill Hicks ended a set by smashing his microphone against a stool while singing along to "Killing in the Name" playing over the loudspeakers.
As part of the US War on Terror the song was used by military interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Music was played at painfully high volume levels for hours on end, as a form of psychological torture. "The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me," noted Morello.
In the Daria episode "The Big House", the opening guitar riffs from "Killing in the Name" can be heard in the background in the scene where Daria Morgendorffer is reading a book while her sister Quinn is pacing back and forth.
A cover version of "Killing in the Name" is a playable song in the Guitar Hero II video game for PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360. The song reappears in Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, also for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 as well as the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3, where it is a master recording. The song's lyrics are altered in both games to remove the expletives.
The song is offered as downloadable content for the guitar games Rock Band 3, released in March 2012, and Rocksmith 2014, released in December 2014. The song also briefly appeared in the South Park episode "Guitar Queer-O".
That’s the "Killing in the Name" guitar, the "Freedom" guitar, "Testify" … all those jams are written on that cheap Telecaster.
Rage Against the Machine's first video for "Killing in the Name" did not receive any airplay in the U.S. because of the language in the song's refrain.(PDF)
Bruno played the wrong version while doing the Top 40 rundown. There were 138 phone calls of complaint to the BBC.
Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics and comedians Stephen Fry, Ross Noble and Bill Bailey are amongst the other celebrity supporters of the Tracy and Jon Morter's campaign.
The Los Angeles rock band's hit also set two records: it is the first single to reach the top of the Christmas charts on download sales alone and has achieved the biggest download sales total in a first week ever in the UK charts.
[Simon Cowell] The X Factor creator and judge said the Facebook campaign, which he saw as a personal vendetta against him, was "cynical" and "dismissive" of the show's viewers.
Well, we were expecting it and asked them not to do it and they did it anyway – so buy Joe's record.
Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello has said that beating the X Factor single to Christmas number one will be a "wonderful dose of anarchy".
Grohl joins The Prodigy, Hadouken!, Enter Shikari and the Stereophonics in endorsing the Facebook campaign.
this is the biggest rise up against the ' industry manufactured shite ' in years and thats why its important --- and fukin funny at the same time act now.
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.
Paul McCartney, Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell get dragged into the most heated race for Christmas No 1 in years
The great irony [...] is that both the gormless Joe McElderry and everyone’s favourite alt.metal anarcho-rockers are signed to the same label
Whoever wins, though, the bosses of Sony Music will doubtless be full of festive cheer as both McElderry and Rage Against the Machine are signed to labels owned by the recording behemoth.
He also disputed claims that their track reaching number one would benefit Simon Cowell as it is released by Sony Records.
Tom Morello, guitarist with the band Rage Against the Machine — whose song Killing in the Name of was also used – said: "The fact that music I helped create was used as a tactic against humanity sickens me."
while the song choices may sometimes verge on the unintentionally funny, this appropriation of music by the military is anything but a joke
Scottish rockers surprise the audience at Reading's Introducing stage with an impromptu set, including a Rage Against The Machine cover.Includes BBC iPlayer video (UK only).
"Hallelujah" by Alexandra Burke
|United Kingdom Christmas number-one single
"When We Collide" by Matt Cardle
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December 20, 2009 – December 26, 2009
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December 20, 2009 – January 2, 2010
"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
"Undisclosed Desires" by Muse
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December 20, 2009 – January 17, 2010
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