Darlington in the year 2000 wasn't exactly what you'd call a hotbed of radical political
change, but it was a time when things changed for me.
Shutty was the local digital pirate at the time, downloading songs and albums from
Napster, Limewire and Bearshare and dishing out dodgy copies left right and centre.
As it happened, it was a CD from the Left which landed on my desk during one year
10 maths lesson.
At that moment simultaneous equations went out of the window; in my hands sat a
copy of Rage Against The Machine's eponymous debut album. Although it was 8
years old at that point this album and this band were as fresh as a daisy to me. Once
Mr Rhodes had released us for the day at 3.15 this new, exciting and slightly illegal
copy was put into the orange Sony Discman I had recently proliferated from my
That short walk home will always stay with me.
Track 1, Bombtrack, erupted from the starting blocks with its slow, loping rhythm.
Zack de la Rocha who was spewing lyrics about some political injustice that was so
far removed from my 15 year old self that it was almost irrelevant. But that didn't
This Los Angeles quartet were singing me a different song altogether. One of
freedom of expression, of taking the rules and bending them so far that somebody
had to notice and of activism.
The songs that followed told tales of land being stripped from impoverished Mexican
farmers and of victims of apparent miscarriages of justice such as the imprisonment
of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal. It inspired me to take a more active
interest in world affairs and of issues closer to home such as equality, racism and
This is summed up brilliantly in a line at the end of Settle For Nothing; "if ignorance is
bliss, then knock the smile off my face".
By the time I got home, I was left reeling. Why were four mid-twenties Californians so
angry about issues that are so far removed from privileged western folk? Because if
they don't speak up who is going to? Rage Against The Machine made me realise
that people can, and should, try to affect a change. People should think about what
is important to them and other people and do something, however small or large, to
speak out for people who would otherwise have no voice.