She believed in genuine inspiration and was able to write quickly because she was so talented, but she never just knocked something off. She had real craft as well.
She wasn’t a good musician technically. She wasn’t interested in mastering an instrument, but she was great at putting chords together. Her expertise was melody, lyrics and harmony. She’s one of England’s greatest ever pop lyricists, she believed her songs should be almost like mini-novels, and she was a fucking Jedi at harmony… She had her own system that was all her own […]
She came from Stiff records and she was well suited to that no bullshit mentality: “A good pop song, get it right, don’t fuck about, we’re not hippies”. She was no nonsense, but at the same time she believed in magic. A true artist, in a class of one, and irreplaceable. – Johnny Marr
Twelve years ago today, the music world lost one of its most original and memorable talents to a tragic and completely avoidable accident. The untimely death of Kirsty McColl on December 18th 2000 came as a shock to music fans everywhere – her witty, wry and honest songwriting and endearingly distinctive voice had gained her many admirers over a twenty-plus year career.
Born into a musical family (her father was the legendary folk singer Ewan MacColl), Kirsty started her pop career – like so many of her generation of musicians – in a punk band. Although this project was unsuccessful, it brought her to the attention of the influential Stiff Records who signed her to a solo deal.
I was about 19 when I first heard a Patti Smith record. It was Horses. I remember sitting there, very taken by the sound of her voice, this ferocious delivery. Later I was struck by how literate her lyrics were, how intellectual and political. I loved how, in her songs, she talked about anything other than the love in her heart for a man. And I loved her image: this non-glam look with the chopped-off hair, looking like a skinny boy. She was the complete opposite of the images that were pumped into me as a child, of what I was supposed to aspire to as a woman.
She is a soldier. She will not be defeated. I look at today’s charts, at the women who are selling the most records, getting the most column inches, and I’m terrified by how so many of them are controlled by a male corporate idea of what women and rebels should be. When some teen-pop singer is taken seriously as a rebellious figure, we have a huge problem. I’m just glad that Patti is still willing to get up there and fight for what she believes in. It makes me feel less alone. – Shirley Manson
Whether you like her music or not, Patti Smith still cuts a distinctive, empowering figure in the creative world. Never less than entirely herself, she has stubbornly endured the decades, the changes in musical fashions and her own personal tragedies to remain an inspiration to generations of female (and male) musicians, poets, writers and artists – yet there is still no-one else anywhere near like her.
Fantastic. It’s Christmas Day again. You’ve stuffed your face with turkey and all the trimmings. The Christmas pud nearly set fire to the curtains (again). Crackers have been pulled, and various family members have insisted on taking embarrassing photos of you wearing a downright silly paper hat. You’ve just avoided a minor civil war over whose turn it is to do the washing up. You’ve opened all your pressies and expressed your dutiful delight at those horrible socks you seem to get from your auntie every year. Your uncle is now snoring in the only comfy armchair in the room, and you’re desperately looking round for a way to escape The Great Escape on telly again. Help!
Someone turns the radio on. You groan, knowing that, today of all days, all that will be playing will be schmaltzy, saccharine seasonal pop and horrible manufactured Simon Cowell/X-Factor tat. But wait! What’s this?
The DJ is playing the Christmas number one, and suddenly the living room is full of the sound of righteous rage, ripping through the speakers and terrifying your granny. “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME! MOTHERFUCKER!” yells Zack de la Rocha fiercely, making your prudish auntie blanch as you sit there, grinning secretly at the sheer fabulousness of it all.
Actually, the very idea of Rage Against The Machine getting the Christmas number one is not as far-fetched as it may seem. In fact, it’s a very real possibility this year, due to the sterling efforts of Jon and Tracy Morter’s Facebook group and the Rage Factor! online campaign, which have been supported by hundreds of thousands of British music fans already and have raised thousands of pounds for charity in the process.
Reacting to the truly ridiculous fact that, since 2005, every British Christmas number one single has been by one of Simon Cowell’s X-Factor pop nonentities, and to last year’s very nearly successful campaign to get Jeff Buckley’s definitive version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to the top of the charts instead of Alexandra Burke’s reality show recording of the same song, this year’s campaign clearly demonstrates how many people are heartily sick and tired of the same old bland pop music dominating the charts.
When I was young, there was always a mystery and excitement about who was going to get the Christmas number one. It was very rare that there was an obvious shoe-in for the position, unlike the situation in recent years. It would seem that I’m not the only one who would like to see a return to the good old days when we would be glued to the radio at 7pm on the last Sunday before Christmas, breathlessly waiting to find out who had won the coveted Yuletide top spot.
The campaign has rapidly caught the imagination of internet users, as well as those in the real world, and has attracted comment and backing from musicians and celebrities including Bill Bailey, Phill Jupitus, The Prodigy, John Lydon (yes, that John Lydon), Stephen Fry, Ross Noble, Skin (Skunk Anansie), Enter Shikari, Matthew Wright (!), Lenny Henry, Fall Out Boy, XFM, Kerrang! and Metal Hammer magazines, Five TV and countless other mainstream media outlets. It’s taken on a life of its own – and maybe it’ll work this year…
So, to ensure that the Christmas airwaves are full of the festive sounds of Rage Against The Machine, you need to buy a download of Killing In The Name from one of the many digital providers listed on the Facebook page here any time between today (13th December) and the end of next Saturday (19th December)- and also visit the campaign’s JustGiving page to donate to the vital work done by the homeless charity Shelter over the Christmas period and beyond.
You know what to do…
UPDATE: WE WON! Yep, Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name is officially the 2009 UK Christmas number one, by at least 50,000 copies! And, in the process, Rage fans have raised more than £75,000 for the homeless charity Shelter. Great to see the music talking for a change – and a job well done by all involved…