Why Rage Against The Machine Is The Most Outrageous Protesting Band Ever?

Rage Against the Machine has always been a successful band from their self-titled debut which is cited as one of the greatest albums of all time, to its follow-ups many of which topped the Billboard 200 chart. During their first decade, they managed to become one of the most popular and influential bands in music history. In addition to being well-acclaimed, RATM also has sold over 16 million records worldwide as of 2010.

There’s no doubt that the band has an impressive career, but that isn’t the main feature Rage Against the Machine is known about. As you know, their music expresses revolutionary political views as a priority. The band members are also well-known for their leftist anti-authoritarian and revolutionary political views, and nearly every song of the band revolves around these themes.

Furthermore, the band members, vocalist Zack De La Rocha, bassist, and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk participated in numerous political protests and other activism throughout their music career. They simply see music as a tool for social activism, and there are a few shocking moments in their career that took place as they were quite determined to advocate their beliefs. Let’s take a look at these incidents together.

RATM Walked On Stage Naked With A Ducktape On Their Mouths

Only two years after their formation, Rage Against the Machine was set to perform a 15-minute set as part of Lollapalooza 1993, in Philadelphia. After realizing their lead singer Zack De La Rocha was having trouble with his voice due to overusing it in prior performances, the band was left with a number of choices.

They were either going to cancel their show and give their place to another band or attempt to perform with a guest singer. While most bands would just cancel their show and hope for the best for the next time, RATM members came up with a brilliant idea to protest something they were against since they couldn’t afford to cancel their set.

As bassist Tim Commerford told ESPN’s Dan Le Batard in 2015, the band saw that PMRC was handing over Parental Advisory stickers that are still used today to prevent access of children to inappropriate and explicit music. Since they were strictly against the idea of censorship, all the band members stripped down naked, painted PMRC letters on their bare chest, and duck-taped their mouths to protest for 15 minutes straight.

In the interview, Commerford said:

“We were on the main stage and we were the first band on. It was right when people started to know and like us in America. This was our big moment. We went on stage and it was back when Tipper Gore, Al Gore’s wife, had just started the PMRC to spearhead the Parental Advisory stickers that they, to this day, put on records. We were against that, we thought it sucked. We were like, ‘We shouldn’t play this show, we should protest it.’

Our way to do that was to go on stage with our instruments and then just lean them against the amplifiers and let their feedback, and do it all naked. We had PMRC, on our chests, each guy had a different letter on his chest.”

That day, July 18, 1993, went down in the history of rock music as the day that thousands of people in Philadelphia witnessed all the members of Rage Against the Machine walk on stage wearing nothing but a ducktape on their mouths, literary all naked including their genitals.

RATM Dressed Up As Prisoners With Bags Over Their Heads

After they proved that they can do pretty much anything to defend their cause, everybody knew that RATM’s show at Reading Festival on August 22, 2008, wouldn’t be an exception. The band lived up to their reputation and they arrived on stage in a dramatic and bold fashion choice. 

The headlining band went on stage dressed in Guantanamo Bay prisoner-style clothes and bags over their heads. While fans thought they would change clothes before performing their first song, ‘Bombtrack,’ they proved them wrong by perfectly playing the song without their eyesight.

Shortly after finishing the track and when the lights on stage went down, all of the members changed their outfits and performed the rest of their songs in regular clothes as it wasn’t practical to complete a concert without seeing anything.

In addition to the striking statement they made through their clothing, frontman Zack de la Rocha also took the opportunity to make a speech slamming America’s 43rd president George Bush and United Kingdom’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair on stage. During his speech, the musician said that they both should be judged for war crimes. Talk about a statement.

Below, you can watch the band’s ‘Bombtrack’ performance at that show.