Wednesday, 2 December 2009

29: Rage Against The Machine - Sleep Now In The Fire

Two years before 'Bowling For Columbine' (and subsequently 'Fahrenheit 9/11') made Michael Moore a household name, he directed my favourite music video of all time. On January 26, 2000, the New York Stock Exchange was forced to lock its doors in the middle of the day. A large crowd had gathered on Wall Street, where Rage Against The Machine were filming their anti-capitalist video to 'Sleep Now In The Fire'. The NYPD were forced to step in when band members attempted to gain entry to the Stock Exchange, and Moore was arrested. The video intersperses footage of that day with a satirical version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?', criticising the US government's failure to deal with poverty amongst the American population. If you've never seen the video before, I implore you to click 'play' on the embedded video below.*

At the time, if I had been forced to go on 'Mastermind' to answer questions about Rage Against The Machine, I'd have struggled. I knew 'Killing In The Name' and 'Bullet In The Head' from pogo-ing to them at indie nights. I knew Rage were considered to be one of the most legendary bands of their era. And after hearing 'Wake Up' at the end of 1999 movie 'The Matrix', I was keen to investigate more, and so early in 2000, I purchased 'The Battle Of Los Angeles'. But essentially, I was still a Rage novice.

That all changed when I went to Leeds Festival 2000. Playing on the final day of the festival, in the early evening slot between Blink 182 and Slipknot, they drew the largest crowd of the entire weekend. And it was berserk. I've never seen a crowd like it, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people, all screaming along to every word, bouncing with energy. The moshpit was violent, but yet somehow welcoming. This was to be their last UK show before splitting up, and although they've subsequently reformed, I still feel privileged to have been present at a mind-blowing show, one of my top five gigs ever.

'Sleep Now In The Fire' was the fifth track on 'The Battle of Los Angeles' and the second single to be released from that album. It's typical Rage - a complex riff; lyrics from Zack De La Rocha in the form of a fierce political diatribe, spat with venom; a totally unnecessary, but completely brilliant Tom Morello guitar solo. The song covers themes of greed, slavery, the conquest of Native Americans, the bombing of Hiroshima, and the use of Agent Orange in the Vietname War. It follows in a fine tradition of protest songs, but then virtually every Rage song falls into this category.

* The video was nominated for Best Rock Video at the MTV Video Music Awards that year, but lost out to Limp Bizkit, prompting Rage bassist Tim Commerford to climb a fake palm tree on the stage in protest, interrupting Fred Durst's acceptance speech.


  1. great video...

    albeit full of pretentious socialist bullshit

    Tell me, does Tom Morello give all of his money to the "masses" or does he live in a big house?

    hypocritical cocksuckers

  2. In what song did he say he'd do that again?