That time Rage Against the Machine pulled off a Christmas miracle

RATM might not scream Christmas, but 2009 was a different time.

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The year was 2009, and the earth had not yet fully cooled. OK, clearly that is a joke, but I promise the rest of this article is real and nearly unbelievable. A 17-year-old Rage Against the Machine song making it to No. 1 on the UK charts for Christmas? That truly happened.

For several years before 2009, the singer that had won the singing contest game show X Factor had the No. 1 song at Christmas. None of these were original songs, however, but simply covers. So while not selling the X Factor's winners short, a great voice does not a musical artist make. One might rather have the singer on their team at their local karaoke sing-off contests instead of spending lots of money on tickets to their concerts.

But one might have spent lots of money to have gone to see the now-disbanded Rage Against the Machine. So that they beat 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry for No. 1 at Christmas should make us feel better as humans. After all, 14 years later, you still know who Rage is, but McElderry's relevance does not exist except to his closest friends and family.

When Rage Against the Machine finished atop the UK charts at Christmas

But how exactly did Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name," which was released in 1992, become No. 1 in 2009? The answer is simple: Jon Morter. Morter was a part-time DJ and full-time logistics analyst living in South Woodham Ferrers who knew how to start a Facebook group devoted to dethroning the X Factor winners from topping the charts at Christmas. He had tried to do the same in 2008 and failed.

While McElderry's attempt to reach No. 1 was a cover of Miley Cyrus's "The Climb," which he had performed in the finals of X Factor in 2009, his would-be adversary Morter asked his Facebook group to buy downloads of Rage's "Killing in the Name." That was the only way to get the song: Downloads. McElderry's single could have been purchased in many ways.

But Morter's group, among others, of course, responded by buying 500,000 downloads of the Rage Against the Machine track which pushed it 50,000 copies past "The Climb." Morter was aided by Paul McCartney getting behind his effort to unseat X Factor's run of topping the UK charts at Christmas, as well as comedian Peter Serafinowicz. Still, Morter at least pushed an authentic musical artist to No. 1 instead of a singer manufactured by a television show.

How did Rage Against the Machine celebrate finishing atop the charts? They gave the profits from the sale of the song to Shelter, a homelessness charity. Rage also performed a free concert in the UK.

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