In one of the most unexpected victories of this decade, Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” beat out The X Factor winner Joe McElderry’s “The Climb” to become the U.K.’s Christmas Number One single. The victory was aided by a grassroots Facebook campaign that chose Rage’s 1992 hit to halt a run of four consecutive wins for the Simon Cowell-produced reality competition show. According to the BBC, the final tally revealed Rage had beaten McElderry by around 50,000 downloads.
The race was at one point much closer than the 50K-gap outcome, but Rage’s announcement last week that they’d perform a free “thank you” gig in the U.K. led to a late frenzy of downloads before the December 19th deadline. “It will be the victory party to end all victory parties,” guitarist Tom Morello promised, adding that both McElderry and Cowell would be invited to MC the show. On his Twitter early this morning, Morello tweeted, “Quite a day! Thanks again for making Rage part of this historic campaign. Changing the charts or the world: together we can’t be stopped.” Rage has also vowed to give all the royalties from the “Killing” downloading spree to charity Shelter.
Despite previously criticizing the campaign, Cowell took the Christmas single loss admirably, saying he had already called Jon and Tracy Morter — the organizers of the Facebook effort — to congratulate them. “I called Jon on Saturday to congratulate the two of them that, win or lose, they turned this into a very exciting race for the Christmas Number One,” Cowell told the BBC. Even Paul McCartney, who appeared on the massively popular X Factor this season, spoke out in support of Rage’s campaign, saying a victory for the 1992 song would be “funny” and “prove a point.”
“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,” Morello told the BBC5 moments before Rage performed “Killing in the Name” live over the airwaves. Rage’s performance was cut short after frontman Zack de la Rocha sang “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” four times over the air.