Saturday, 19 December 2009

Why should Rage Against the Machine be Number 1 for Christmas?

In less than 1 hour from time of writing this blog post it is likely that either ‘The Climb’, performed by Joe McElderry (winner of X-Factor 2009), or ‘Killing in the Name’ by Rage Against the Machine will be the UK’s new Christmas number one.

It was certainly hard to believe that the campaign to get RATM to number one would gather any momentum when it first appeared on social networking tool Facebook towards the start of December. But the page has become one of Facebook’s most active pages ever (and has crashed several times as a consequence) and sales of the single ‘Killing in the Name’ has been in the lead by about 10000 copies for most of the week.

However, since hard copies of McDreary’s ‘The Climb’ began to be sold on Wednesday the gap has closed and the race for the top spot is very close indeed. But why does it matter?

Creators of the pro-RATM campaign, Tracy and Jon Morter, put it like this in their Facebook group, ‘Fed up of Simon Cowell's latest karaoke act being Christmas No 1? Us too. So we are going to do something about it’.

If the campaign does succeed in getting RATM to number one for Christmas then many would see it as an epic victory for the UK music charts. A very loud message to today’s music industry that there are a great many people out there who are fed up with music being manufactured and rolled out to a formulaic blue-print void of feeling or, dare I say it, any talent.

A successful fan-powered campaign against such odds should set entertainment powerhouses like SyCo (Cowell’s television production and music publishing house) quaking in their boots. A poignant reminder that they do not own the charts after all. The era of music downloads has made the pop charts much more democratic and open than it has been for a great many years.

Cowell has already shown some amount of unease at the prospect of not being number one. Before the X-Factor winner was announced on 13 December, Cowell attempted an assault on the campaign during a press conference, labeling it as, ‘silly’ and ‘cynical’ and presupposing that the campaign might be directed more at him than with any desire to change music.

Certainly, a great many people have joined the campaign and displayed a great deal of dislike for Cowell, but I think the suggestion itself harbors a great deal of cynicism in it. The public is not stupid and in a democratic society with free speech it will find a way to have its voice heard if it needs too. Sales of RATM are saying quite clearly, that the British public is tired of the insipid dross being rolled into today’s chart, and it is time for change.

Both Cowell and fellow X-Factor judge, Cheryl Cole has publicly said that a RATM win would ‘spoil’ it for Joe McElderry. Cole even went so far as to say that she would be ‘devastated’ if the campaign was successful. In my opinion this surely displays how far they have become so wrapped up in the hype of their own machine; it almost sounds as if they assume any other artist actually selling more records would somehow be cheating.

Surely any kind of battle for the Christmas number one is better for pop fans than none at all? And does it not betray a degree of arrogance to assume the Christmas top slot is now reserved for the X-Factor winner?

Critics have been quick to point out that both Cowell’s SyCo and the Epic label which distributes RATM are owned by Sony BMG, and that, ultimately, the money will still find its way to Cowell as a shareholder of Song BMG. But that’s not really the point. This is not anti-corporate protest.

If RATM is awarded the UK Christmas number one by Reggie Yates’ chart show on Radio One this Sunday 19 December then it will be seen as a huge up yours to the music industry.

Those who are still concerned about the ‘hypocrisy’ of an anarchic message being sold by a conglomerate can take some solace in the following statement (made some time ago indeed) by band member Tom Morello:

‘When you live in a capitalistic society, the currency of the dissemination of information goes through capitalistic channels. Would Noam Chomsky object to his works being sold at Barnes & Noble? No, because that's where people buy their books. We're not interested in preaching to just the converted. It's great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it's also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart.’

And those with an anti-Cowell agenda should be reassured that, whilst Cowell might not need the money Christmas number one will bring him, he does at least need to show that the X-Factor brand can still guarantee and chart topper.

So, whilst there is still 5 minutes left of 19 December 2009, go now and get ‘Killing in the Name’ from iTunes, Play or whatever your preferred digital music vendor is and then give generously to Shelter.

If there is one thing this battle for the charts is bringing the world, it’s a great deal of money to a very good cause.

(And if you’re one of those who has complained that those campaigning should be putting their efforts towards a real issue, then get over to and make a difference before another writer gets the can for telling the truth)


20 December 2009

Rage Against the Machine take the Christmas Number One 2009

It was more than just a battle for Christmas number one. It was a statement that we are fed up with mass-produced factory standard music (especially music that has spawned from a glorified karaoke contest!).

The silent majority got their voices heard through the democratic singles market that the download chart has finally offered the people.

The music industry feared downloads would reduce sales, but it has only increased them. Now they ought to fear that the public might not buy what it is told to buy.

This is not a victory for RATM. This is a victory for the people.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Raising Money

Dear friends,

Whilst I’m busy writing a piece on the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China I thought I might alert your attention to my ‘Everyclick’ widget in the right hand column.

It’s a neat little fund raising gadget I discovered just the other day. Now, if you haven’t already visited Gobi Desserts Justgiving pages ( or then head over there now (if you didn’t already know, Gobi Desserts is my very own league of adventurers with philanthropistic intention), otherwise read on.

This is a great little search engine (Everyclick) that actually raises funds for charities.

The clever thing is, every time you search through this search engine 1p is donated to one of the charities I’ve been raising for recently (in this case Mercy Corps).

I’ve set my homepage as and I beg you to do the same. Not permanently, just a few weeks, just to eek out a few more pennies. Whilst you’re there, add it to your searchbar too, for quick searches.

I should say it isn’t as efficient as Google or Yahoo. I wouldn’t want you to use it a few times and then abandon it because it simply isn’t as good. Instead think of it like this. Instead of typing the URL of familiar pages, type ‘Hotmail’, ‘Twitter’, ‘BBC News’, ‘Facebook’, or whatever into it. A slight ‘adjustment’ to the way you use the internet currently to raise money for doing nothing in particular! Brilliant!

For detailed searches I suggest typing ‘Google’ or ‘Yahoo’ (or any other popular search engine) and going from there.

If you’ve got your own cause, then why not use it yourself?

Register, it takes a few seconds, choose your charity and start searching. Brill.


UPDATE: 20 December 2009

The widget is now unavailable. All other links in my post are still active.

Friday, 2 October 2009

A muted launch...

Dear reader

I had planned to launch the Roblog on 1 October with a lighthearted and whimsical look at China.

However, the main headlines on the news yesterday were not China’s military parade and the pomp and ceremony of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China celebrations; and the newspapers this morning will almost certainly not feature a stony-faced Hu Jintao in his ‘Mao-suit’, presiding over his ‘new and modern army’ on the front page.

Straight after the UK’s main story (another depressing child abuse case, this time in a Plymouth nursery) were scenes of devastation from elsewhere in the Asia Pacific.

Typhoon Ketsana has ripped through Southeast Asia leaving at least 277 people dead in the Philippines, 92 people dead in Vietnam and 14 dead in Cambodia (with a further 10 people reported missing in Laos).

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, was hit by the worst floods in 40 years during the weekend, submerging up to 80% of the city and affecting nearly 2 million residents.

Aid workers today reported that they are fearful Typhoon Parma (due to make landfall in the Philippines soon) will hamper relief efforts already underway with little clue as to whether it’ll change direction and fizzle out or turn into a ‘super-typhoon’.

In pictures: Philippines floods (BBC)

In pictures: Philippines floods (Guardian)

In pictures: Philippines hit by typhoon (Telegraph)

On Tuesday 29 September American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga were hit by a Tsunami following an 8.3 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Samoa. The confirmed number of deaths in these three small countries exceeds 150 people but is expected to be much more. Thousands have been left homeless.

After inspecting the southeast coast of the main island Upolu, the hardest-hit area in Samoa, Samoan Prime Minster Tuilaepa Sailele has said ‘the devastation caused [is] complete’. He went on to say “in some villages absolutely no house was standing”.

His own village of Lesa had been washed away.

In pictures: Pacific Tsunami (BBC)

In pictures: Tsunami devastates Samoa and Western Samoa (Guardian)

In pictures: Samoa Tsunami (Telegraph)

The following day two earthquakes struck not far from Padang on the Indonesian island of Sumatra (one a massive 7.9 on the Richter scale). The death toll already stands at well over 1100 people according to the UN, and is likely to rise much higher in the next few days.

The earthquake stuck in the late afternoon and brought down hospitals, schools and shopping malls whilst people were going about their day.

In pictures: Indonesia quake (BBC)

In pictures: Sumatra hit by second earthquake (Guardian)

In pictures: Indonesia earthquake (Telegraph)

I visited Indonesia in 2003 when the SARS virus closed the school I worked at in Hong Kong. Shortly after I arrived in Jakarta ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation’ began. Opposition to the war was strong in Indonesia and students marched the streets declaring the beginning of a new war of religions and quite strongly hinting that any westerners should ‘go home’. Despite this, however, I don’t think I have ever met a friendlier and welcoming people in the whole world.

I enjoyed every moment in that country and my thoughts are with them at this time.

Please donate to UNICEF's Asia Pacific disasters children's fund