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Rage Against the Machine on Breakfast

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Richard Jackson | 13:33 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

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We've had our moments with bad language on 5live Breakfast before. I'll never forget when, a few years ago, Nicky got his tongue tied trying to say West Kent Hunt. We got a couple of complaints - and a lot of people saying they'd never laughed so much. It was unintentional and certainly unplanned.

As it was when a very polite sounding woman on the phone-in earlier this year suddenly said "Oh f*** it!" in the middle of a well-argued, reasoned argument. She just, it seems, got caught up in the passion of her point - and forgot where she was. When the former Arsenal footballer Emmanuel Petit was on a while back to talk about the row over Thierry Henry's handball and described the reaction as "bull****" it was equally unexpected.

Rage Against the Machine

But when Rage Against the Machine swore on Breakfast this morning, some people felt we should have seen it coming. The song Killing in the Name includes the F-word in the lyrics - and when the band accepted our request for an interview for today's programme and then agreed to perform the song live from Los Angeles, we were aware of the need to address this issue.

Which is why our producer had several conversations with the band and their management about the requirement not to swear. We told them it was a breakfast show. We took them at their word when they said there would be no bad language. When it became clear on air they were including the F-words, we faded the song out and apologised.

Not before we heard some swearing on air. We're sorry for that and I apologise again to anyone who was offended.

The response on texts was in many ways similar to the West Kent Hunt incident. A minority were angry or offended. Some thought we had been naïve. A fair number reckoned the song was awful. But many people said they find these live, unplanned, unpredictable moments the highlight of their listening - and they were quick to tell us so.

Richard Jackson is Editor of the 5 live Breakfast Show


  • Comment number 1.

    Oh please... Just stop appologising
    The F word needs to be there, get over it. That's the whole point of the song. Without it it's loosing its character... Which is very important in this whole campaign
    Use the F word and say "enough is enough". We don't want X Factor number one for the 6th year running

    F* !!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Anyone that has any knowledge of Rage Against The Machine is aware that the use of the 'F' word is something that's going to happen. On reflection I think I'm more offended by the suggestion from Shelagh Fogarty that people should buy Joe McElderry's single following the swearing.

  • Comment number 3.

    It would certainly liven up the day if swearing was allowed. "Oh, for ..... (insert expletive of choice here) sake minster, answer the question!" but thats more suited to newsnight, it would seem.

    Good job 5Live listeners are mature enough to not get offended by some swearing. Your safe until a newspaper points it out with the BBC complaints number.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    that song for xmas i heard this morning can only be classes a NOISE and was terrible! how on earth this kind of rubbish can ever get out of the garage where they invented the crap! As for the language, you guys did a great job of getting rid of the rubbish!

  • Comment number 6.

    This is amazing!!! I love Rage so so much. One of the best, most passionate, incendiary bands of all time.

    Of COURSE they weren't going to be edited. This is a band who once stood in silence, naked on stage, with taped mouths for 15 minutes to protest against censorship. They have incredibly strong convictions, advocate for minority groups and unseen/unheard people. They are pro democracy, they are advocates for the homeless, they speak out about the poor treatment of textile/sweatshop workers, they condemn violence towards innocent people, they promote justice and equality.

    You may dislike their music, which is fine, but these are men who stand up for what they believe in and act to change things for the better. Too many people do nothing these days. The members of the Rage for Xmas Number 1 battle have already raised over 43,000 pounds for Shelter. Completely in the spirit of the band.

    I really hope Simon Cowell matches the final donation to Shelter, whatever the outcome of the chart battle. It would be a wonderful gesture and he can certainly afford it!

  • Comment number 7.

    My freinds, that last portion of the track is the very reason it was chosen as the figurehead for this protest. Music is dying in the UK due to manufactured pop being forced onto kids in order to sell, sell, sell. Well, we're the old boys. We're back and we care about music and our musical heritage.

    That's why we say "I Won't Do What You Tell Me" to Mr Cowell and the rest of his cynical industry.

    Merry Christmas,


  • Comment number 8.

    Rage is real, raw sounding, & anyone who says it sounds terrible or like noise your obviusly foolish enough & have no musical knowledge because they're using REAL instruments, not computerized sounds! which takes real talent, people wouldnt slate mozart and any of his symphonies, this is just the saem, both are creating real music, not like Joe, & guess what, his song is a cover of a Miley Cyrus son! pfft pathetic, she insulted Radiohead so obviously her abilities are inadequate

  • Comment number 9.

    It was great - I'd like to think the producers knew there was a chance of this happening. It's pretty clear with the lyrics that they don't like to what they're told to! A result for rock, cheers 5Live!

  • Comment number 10.

    Think the producers were over-focusing on the swearing in the lyrics and missed the bit where it says 'I won't do what you tell me' 17 times - kind of a big hint the band might not stick to the rules?!

  • Comment number 11.

    I'd like to thank those at R5 who thought that this would happen and weren't frightened to go ahead given the current climate at the BBC. It's a shame that there hasn't been more prominence given to the charity donations associated with the campaign.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Great to hear RATM on 5 live this morning. Really dissapointed with Shelagh's tetchy response though - I've always enjoyed the banter between her and Campbell. Not so keen on the programme now. Hopefully the silly "furore" will encourage even more people to download the track and for once we'll have a decent xmas number 1...

  • Comment number 15.

    yea rageeeeeeeeee

  • Comment number 16.

    Like several posters above, it was not the swearing that annoyed me, but Shelagh's reaction to it. Below is the text of a complaint I've just submitted to redress the balance. Anyone agree?

    I was highly offended when the BBC distorted the central message of "Killing in the Name" by asking the band to sing a Bowdlerised version of it, and then compounded the error by cutting them off when de la Rocha (rightly) re-inserted the essential lines, before one of your presenters called on listeners to similarly avoid ever hearing anything challenging by buying the X-Factor record instead.

    I appreciate that gratuitous swearing can cause offence, but this is a perfect example of a case where it is a key part of a piece of work that is simply ineffective without it; what makes this song an appropriate choice as a protest vote against the X-Factor is precisely the way the key line "F--k you, I won't do what you tell me" is repeated 16 times, the first 8 in a tone of building, seething resentment, then the last 8 in one of unfettered, vindicated rage - an appropriate metaphor for how many people feel about putting up with the saturation coverage of the X-Factor and the like. While the band went along with your censorship for the first (resentment) part, they could not possibly have done likewise for the (rage) climax without utterly compromising everything it and they stand for.

    If, despite this, you were still cowardly enough to insist that the full version was inappropriate for that particular show's audience, then the band should have been invited to appear on a different show instead.

    The video version of the recording which appeared on the 5Live website was even worse - here the defence that listeners were unprepared for it does not apply - in fact it was the controversial content that was the key feature advertised in the frontpage links leading to it. But why put a warning for bad language next to a clip, and then bleep out all occurences of it? (even going so far as to distort hand signals made by the singer) The warning should suffice - have some respect for the intelligence of your audience and let them view the (complete) performance as it was intended.

  • Comment number 17.

    As a RATM fan I am disappointed that they didn't mute all the swearing. It's about respect. It's not a big deal for the listener, but I don't think they did their band any favours.

    That said, I bought the single (and so did many of my friends) despite owning all of their albums and think the reports on BBC haven't been quite as neutral as they should be. Certainly in choosing sources for comments. I think there is an automatic assumption that young kids on facebook are mindlessly rebelling against what they think is uncool.

    I'm a 24 year old phd student and think Tom Morello summed it up well. "Killing in the name" was clearly chosen because it's a well-known popular RATM track that would sell. Otherwise I'm sure a fan would have chosen "Take the power back" or "Guerilla Radio" for a more apt message. Supporters on the whole are the silent majority, that couldn't care less for X Factor and are sick of bland manufactured pop singers and the ever decreasing number of true artists to support today. RATM as a band, best encapsulate that feeling.

  • Comment number 18.

    Vapid, karaoke wallpaper musak has spread like a disease and although there may be 12 million or so sheep watching the six month long advert that is the X-Factor, there are probably more of us who hate it and all it stands for with a passion. I have noticed that coverage of it has even started to ooze its way onto your news bulletins...why? - is it just more evidence of the BBC dumbing down? Cowell and his marketing plan do not need your help to sell this crap to a gullible public and I for one do not want to hear about what goes on on that moronic, woeful end-of-the pier musical abomination, so please don't pollute my life with it. Some of your listeners actually have functioning brains, you know. Please do not insult our intelligence. Thank you.

  • Comment number 19.

    I just wanted to say thank you to the 5L breakfast show this morning for having the courage to broadcast the RITM song live. I'd never heard the song before but I loved it and will be buying it despite Shelagh's protestations.

    I think that the BBC should perhaps have realised that this iconoclastic band were unlikely to leave out the swearwords which are integral to their song, and its message, but I'm glad I got the chance to hear it and I found the fact that you were all caught out rather hilarious. It made my day. :-)

  • Comment number 20.

    Listened to the "incident" this evening online. My main concern was for the female dj (no idea who she is) advocating for the public to buy the X factor single. Surely this is a form of advertisement, if not payola on behalf of the broadcaster. Has the vacuous DJ been reprimanded? If not why?

    If a bit of swearing, which is integral to the impact of the song, offends her so much, perhaps she should get a job on an inane pop programme on commercial radio. It appears that cutting edge broadcasting is dead at the BBC.

    Rage Against The Machine people.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thank you 5 Live for interviewing and broadcasting RATM, one of the most iconic bands against censorship. I'm sure most BBC people involved knew this was going to happen, and I say hats off to you.

  • Comment number 22.

    Rage have always been at the forefront of political activism. Quite what the BBC had in mind is beyond me, Rage have never -ever- shied away from their true motives and personal selves. They have to be commended for what they have done on Radio5. Censorship kills off all growth, the candy-wrapped music of the X Factor simply has to go ... Rage Against the Machine still provide us with that much needed lifeline and breath of fresh air in an otherwise deep and murky pool of tripe and over-produced musical products.

    It's appalling that there is no BBC coverage of Rage's charitable donations through the proceeds of this single. Where are the donations from Joe McElderry and his Miley Cyrus cover? Oh, wait.... There won't be any.

    Finally; the BBC presenter ought to be warned for advertising Joe's single based on pure bias. Falsity, censorship and bias - that's all the BBC is able to produce....

  • Comment number 23.

    funniest thing on radio in along time .bbc v itv.why else would they have rage on a talk radio station.There looking to spoil simons party,there still pi--ed about the dancing people getting beat in the ratings.

  • Comment number 24.

    A bit confused with this.
    Was the news agenda so light that a normally busy breakfast programme has time for this 9 minute plus item. Ok no scientific evidence here on average length of individual items but to allocate over 9 minutes to this one seem strange.
    Or is it??
    Maybe the BBC is having a poke at ITV/Xfactor/Cowell trying to undermine their commercial sugary sweet success with a bit of rage.
    Normally Shelagh is one of the most professional broadcasters, but I'm afraid she panicked big style when she belatedly realised what was happening. I can't believe she fell asleep with the noise coming through the link and you would have thought the producers would have had their fingers hovering over the fader given the discussions before broadcast.

    But then maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree?

  • Comment number 25.

    I heard this song today and absolutely loved it, the fact there was swearing made no difference as this added to the freedom of this song, I was very disappointed that Shelagh Fogarty used this program unfairly to promote Joe she should definitely be brought to account on that made to apologise on the show, at the end of the day she is a bit of a hippocrit when she has done something she knows she is not supposed to!

  • Comment number 26.

    Great to have something to bring some spice to the Christmas charts. I'm close to 50, and no spring chicken. So it's not just the kids larking around buying this. I like many RAtM fans, think this is a good way to support the good charity Shelter, especially at this time of the year. I have already got the song, so I got the explicit version this time. Nice to see that freedom of speech is still around, and to those that where shocked at the lyrics. Maybe you should listen close to them, as it is telling a story of someone being forced to fight against thier wishes, so the expletives are in context. Showing thier increasing unwilliness to kill.

  • Comment number 27.

    C'mon what did you think was going to happen I'm overjoyed they used the original lyrics, even if it was for the end of the song.
    As for buying the Joe McElderry single, maybe as a Christmas present for Shelagh Fogarty but then I'd still send her a copy of a"Killing In The Name Of" as Well.

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh dear Shelagh.

    I expect you will have some support for your spontaneous comments, but will be vilified many more times over due to your naievté. I usually have a lot of time for your views, but on this occasion Nicky called it right, and you were exposed in the heat of the moment. Nicky was a Radio DJ (in a former life) and understands the passions and enthusiasm that music evokes. Maybe you were sold down the river by RATM, their management, and your producers - but really, you should have known better.

  • Comment number 29.

    I took Shelagh's advice when I heard her comments after the 'sweary' incident and went straight out and bought the track. How nice of her to throw her weight behind this campaign.

    Oh, I bought the RATM track!

    The main reason being is that it seems to annoy so many people like Shelagh and Simon Cowell. Which is more than enough of a reason to buy it. So keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 30.

    Wish people would get off their high horses and whilst swearing directly at people in an insulting manner is not acceptable, it exists and it's one of those things... and whilst we are on about high horses, I have just got on mine and want to know what has happened about the free advert for the X-Factor winner??

  • Comment number 31.

    So her name is Shelagh?
    Is she on the Cowell payroll?

  • Comment number 32.

    The most rudimentary research into this band would have revealed their stance on censorship and their previous reactions to being asked to 'tone down' or comprise by the shows they have appeared on. The fact that the offending phrase also contained the words 'I wont do what you tell me' should have been a hint about how the band would react.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the producers half expected this. Thank you for putting it on anyway. I respect your responsibility to uphold the law and to 'protect' listeners, but to be honest I would rather have my kids listen to 'F you I wont do what you tell me' than some of the other stuff that makes it through the censor's net. When Akon censored his oderous song to 'I wanna LOVE you' for the radio... that was not really enough to protect the young from his chauvinistic and seedily sexual attitude.

    By the way, is there anyway to download this video or audio? With or (preferably) without the bleeps? Whether or not Rage makes it to number one, this performance would make an absolutely lovely little piece of Rock memorabilia.

  • Comment number 33.

    An amazing performance and an absolutely relevant message. It’s a shame the female host felt so embarrassed by human expression she found it necessary to cut it short and make an embarrassing quip to buy the other xmas single

  • Comment number 34.

    The offence was from Nanny Shelagh Fogarty and her knee-jerk reaction. Maybe she isn't cut out for live radio and it's unpredictability and is more suited to the cosiness of the Daily Mail nursery.

    The highlight was Nicky Campbell's exclamation "Oh Shelagh" which is now my ringtone.

  • Comment number 35.

    If this is an anti Simon Cowell/X Factor/Britains Got Talent vote then surely to God we can come up with something more fitting than a song full of foul mouthed bad attitude. I've been a rock/metal fan almost all my life and nothing would please me more than to have a top sound as Britain's No 1. I would love it if Lemmy's version of Run Rudolf Run got to the top to show that even rock and metal fans can have a sense of occasion and get into the spirit of the festive season. A lot of people are just blindly following this campaign like sheep for RATM to be number 1. Let's face it, it won't get air play on any radio station cos it contains too much bad language. A real case of baaaaaaah humbug

  • Comment number 36.

    Let me see if I've got this right... A really, really big corporation (seriously, really big) has a radio program and invites a band to play live and then gets caught off gaurd by a couple of f-bombs? Ok, the band may have even "promised" to be good boys. They may have even pinky-promised, who knows? To think, they broke their word and got all "sweary" live on air. Shocking, huh?
    If the producers couldn't be bothered to learn about the basics of the song in question, then surely the clue would have been in the name of the band? Seems to me a few f-bombs are the inevitable result of RATM playing live. Hardly surprising.
    RATM, even if they don't go #1 they'll still be getting air play long after little karaoke-lounge-singer boy is fogotten and dissapears. (or simply gets dropped in 12 weeks by the other machine)

  • Comment number 37.

    I enjoyed RATM appearance on 5live, although this particular song isn't really for me. I would have preferred to support a Slade Christmas renaissance. However, I do strongly support what RATM stand for on this occasion. Anyone who speaks against the blandness of X-Factor's annual reworking of existing songs using wannabees who are so eager to be a 'success' that they are happy to be moulded into what Cowell sees as saleable, is a friend of mine.

    Of all UK broadcasters, the BBC and probably Channel 4 have been the least nervous about the use of the F word in the proper place. Indeed, I have heard it used on two occasions during this week on Newsnight. But the BBC has a responsibility to consider the sensitivities of the audience that particular outlet is likely to attract, and also to the time of day and whether children are likely to be listening. It's not a big deal, but I would suggest that maybe 9am on 5live is not likely to be the best time to use the word out of context.

    Apart from that, I hope RATM enjoy their Christmas No1.

  • Comment number 38.

    The campaign is not directed personally at Simon Cowell but at the endless production line of pre packaged sanitised rubbish that is force fed to the public. There are millions, yes millions of music fans out there who are fed up of this sugar coated trash being massively hyped and promoted under the guise of "talent" This campaign was started by an individual as a bit of a jokebut has obviously touched a raw nerve both with real music fans and the twee establishment that wants to live in some kind of Beatrix Potter world of make believe. At least you had the guts to give Rage some airtime and not only play the track but let the band themselves make their point. As for the swearing, you knew well in advance what was coming, you knew what would happen and let it go on just long enough to try and outrage the public. Unfortunately for you we are not as stupid as the brainwashed masses that fall for the x-factor televised karaoke show and we can see through your cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion. The single Killing in the name of was carefully selected for this campaign because of the message it contains, not a few swear words which can be heard regularly on prime time TV any night of the week (Check out the F word with Gordon Ramsay if you don't believe me) So take off the rose tinted spectacles and have a look around you at the real world then go and buy the RATM single to strike a blow for freedom of choice

  • Comment number 39.

    RATM win Xmas No1!!! YYEEEAAAHHHHHHH!!! I'm not normally so excitable, but here's a thumb in your eye, Sheila. Oh, and stop gushing over Nicky all the time. Just get a room.

  • Comment number 40.

    Yes - why should RAtM keep their word and not use swear words. Stupid BBC for trusting them. They have a right to lie to the BBC about what they are going to do because they ... ah ... ah... well anyway, they can do what they want and do not have to obey rules or be honesty if they do not want to. RAtM should decide what goes out on BBC, not the BBC. Glad the public wants RAtM to represent the UK's version of what Christmas is all about. Maybe we should sing their songs around the piano after Dreaming of a White Christmas or Away in a Manger with the whole family. Where can I get the sheet music before the 25th?

  • Comment number 41.

    The thread seems to have drifted into a discussion about swearing. Surely this is about the annual roll-out of Cowell's latest soon-to-be-forgotten singer, and the X-Factor viewers who have paid Cowell to allow them to advise him as to what they will buy. It's about the lack of any any real choice around Christmas, and the way other acts just give up in the face of the 4-month money-spinning juggernaut that seems to be the only thing keeping ITV afloat. There was a time when we bemoaned the fact that Christmas brought on the usual Shakin’ Stevens/Cliff Richard/Terry Wogan/Paul McCartney Christmas songs, but at least we had a choice between them, and it wasn't an annual forgone conclusion.
    I don't use foul language myself. Not because it particularly bothers me, but because I am able to call upon the correct words when I wish to make a point, and don't just insert the "f-word" when I need to say something expressive. There was nothing wrong with Shelagh's reaction. However, the occasional swearword that has crept into broadcasting, doesn't offend me as much as the unimaginative, unchallenging money-spinning pay-to-vote 'reality' television that is taking over broadcasting at the moment.
    One final point. I have heard it said that more people vote in X-factor than in a general election. That may be so, but that doesn't equate to more PEOPLE voting. We only get one vote in a general election, but I have heard one person say they cast over 300 votes in X-Factor, (enough money to pay for a television licence for two years). I understand the sales for the X-Factor single were around 450,000, so where were the '10 million' who voted on X-Factor? Indeed, where were the 18 million viewers who cared so much they just couldn't miss the final? If our music industry needs support and people really would like to support it, then voting in X-Factor will not help. People would do better to watch live bands, and pay for the music they enjoy.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm a little late to this blog but I just wanted to state my surprise at the people who feel they are 'offended', 'annoyed', 'embarrassed' or 'concerned' that Shelagh quipped that people should now go out and buy the X Factor single and that this somehow implied that she is 'on Simon's payroll' or unfairly 'advertising' that record. It may have escaped your attention but the BBC were airing a full live version of RATM's song (not just a clip for informing those not familiar with the style of the song) as well as the preceding interview on the breakfast show of a news and talk based radio station.....not only that but they postponed the nine o'clock news whilst it carried on! I know they had Joe on the next day, and Shelagh amusingly quipped about hoping he didn't swear too (though I'm sure some people would see this as being a 'nanny')...though I had to leave for work before knowing if Joe sang his song live and in full too....nor do I know if this was planned prior to RATM's appearance.
    In terms of the actual swearing....yes, I was shocked that the producers were allowing it to happen...mostly because if was at 9am on a weekday morning news programme....if it had been a Saturday late night music show on 1 or 6 then fair enough.


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