They Are the Bulls On Parade

In just the name, you know this band has to be political. Rage – fight. Machine – government, society, culture, oppressors. Rage Against the Machine, their name itself, is the spark to a bigger political flame.

rage 2Rage is a prime and obvious example of a band, very much like the Riot Grrrls movement of the 90s from my previous post, that uses music as a vehicle to spread a larger and political message. Music is a way to speak to people, to get people to listen. It surpasses creativity, surpasses art and morphs into a bigger picture.

Signed to Epic Records (a tier of Sony), many critics have called the band out for being hypocrites. But don’t you have to be part of the machine to fight it? Those listening and buying every record, they already know. They see it, they hear it, and they already relate. But what about the person reading the newspaper at Starbucks? What might he know? So by going through the capitalist channels of our Capitalist society – you reach the people who aren’t the choir.rage three

On an incident with Saturday Night Live, Rage was supposed to perform two songs. The host was Steve Forbes – an ex-Republican presidential candidate and billionaire. A blinding opposite to the rich political man, Rage wanted to hang American flags upside down on their amps. This was shut down every time. During their set, SNL wanted to censor some of Rage’s lyrics. Their inkling to do this was also motivated by the political connections of their host – more professional and  tighter show. When flags had to be removed after their first performance, Rage was asked to leave the building immediately. Rage’s bassist Commerford then stormed Forbes and threw sheard of the flag.

The band also shot their music video for “Sleep Now in the Fire” and caused the doors of the New York Stock Exchange to be closed. This resulted in one of the film maker, Michael Moore, getting arrested; “Our protest stopped trading at the stock exchange for the last two hours of the day. I guess we stopped downsizing for at least a couple of hours.” The band has also protested at both Democratic and Republican National Conventions (2000 and 2008, (dis)respectfully). In 2009, Rage, along with other bands, fought against the use of their music as torture. Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and The Roots (along with others) called to close Guantanamo Prison. (To read more: https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/musicians-protest-tunes-used-in-interrogations/?_r=0)

The list of their activism and acts continues beyond anything I could ever write here. Rage has dedicated their band and their lives to the cause, no matter how aggressive it might end up being. They took music and used it to create an open dialogue. There’s no escapism here – listening to Rage will put you in the thick of it.

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Works Cited:

http://www.musicfanclubs.org/rage/articles/socwork00.htm

https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/musicians-protest-tunes-used-in-interrogations/?_r=0

 

Live in Paris

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The show starts off with Ozzy nearly assaulting the microphone, gripping onto it for dear life, hair flying everywhere. His shirt’s opened and head thrashing every possible moment, jumping around like a madman. Where by his own energy and oddness or a product of the metal 70s time, only he knows.

I imagine the venue as a bigger basement. On one hand, the scene looks simple and a little dingy. A wooden stage, people clustered around. Something is left to be desired – and right now what’s filling that void is Black Sabbath. The band themselves, this could be another casual Monday night practice. Dressed like average rock-metal dudes of the time, the most gaudy thing is large silver cross necklace that guitarist Tony Ioomi is still seen wearing a version of in recent shows. There’s nothing draped behind them, no Kiss-like makeup and costumes. Just the speakers, the musicians and the music. What more do you really need, when it boils down to that?

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From left to right: Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward 

Osbourne’s voice is gravelly and, at parts, forced deeper than it should be. But then he belts “You push the needle in,” and his voice goes soaring. Iommi’s hair almost touching the fretboard as he bobs his head in time with the beat. His fingers and hands gliding with the same ease that Osbourne’s voice seems to fly. Geezer Butler, the bassist, his hair even longer than Iommi’s and his ‘stash more full, seems to lose himself in the tunes, smoothly playing alongside his bandmates, moving with a steady energy.  

Eventually, the stage is bathed in blue lights and Ozzy starts by suggesting everyone clap. He then later screams into his mic, “If someone’s not clapping I can see it,” taking on a much more aggressive tone. Drummer Bill Ward’s hair is sticking to his skin, his face dripping and glossy with sweat. But still he bends with the rhythm, setting the time and beating the drums like they stole his girl (or, knowing Black Sabbath, probably his drugs).

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And that’s when it starts. The first repeated two notes of one of their arguably most popular song, “Iron Man”.  Closing his eyes, Ozzy opens his mouth wide and belts out the opening lines, “As he lost his mind/Can he see or is he blind?”. Photographers kneel and sit, rapidly firing shots of Ozzy and the band as the instrumentals rage on, fingers seeming to fly all over the instruments and Ozzy trashing his head in the beat like nobody else was watching.

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Sabbath’s first album – Black Sabbath

They sing the classics, then some other more interesting B-sides. Iommi seems to reach nirvana as his fingers roll up and down the frets like he owned them, like they were his. Like it was an extension of himself, seeming to make up for the digits he’s missing on two of his fingers. The intro on the record is a rainstorm but here Iommi shows off his talents instead. A not unwelcome change. Ozzy’s presences grows as he states “What is this that stands before me?” A revolution of a line off the first track of their first actual album. He becomes the dark figure standing there, a demonic energy, the vibes of something more than meets the eye. His face is one of pain. The lights on stage have all but fled. When Ozzy belts the desperate scream of “Oh, no!” his voice cracks and his face contorts in a way that makes you believe he is actually about to cry.

It’s not until about halfway through the performance that Ozzy seems to lose his shit on stage. What once was an awkward head bob is now a full fledged seizure.  

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Black Sabbath ends with the song “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots”, all of them sweat-drenched and jamming, the show one long casual performance – the music speaking for itself without flashy add-ons like a made-for-TV deal.