It‚Äôs been said many times in the past 12 months or so (in reference to the Gil Scott Heron track) that this revolution will be televised. And Facebooked and Tweeted.
I had been given a two-hour ‚Äėearly minute‚Äô from work and as I was walking to the tube station to make my way home, browsing Twitter on my phone, I saw this post from Tom Morello: ‚ÄúRunning well behind but WILL get to St. Pauls to occupy rock occupy rock occupy rock‚ÄĚ.
Reasoning that if he was running late, I probably had enough time to make the 40-minute journey myself and get there in time to see him, that‚Äôs what I did.
There was a tense atmosphere in the city that evening. Not only was the Occupy LSX crew (much to the chagrin of the ‚Äėestablishment‚Äô) still camped out opposite the stock exchange at St Paul‚Äôs after more than three weeks, another protest group ‚Äď students against tuition fee rises and benefit cuts ‚Äď had marched that day, culminating at the cathedral.
On the streets there was police everywhere – cordons set up manned by four or five men a-piece, van loads of constabulary parked up and down the roads, and horses clip-clopping through one of the world‚Äôs leading financial districts.
It was a strange sight indeed.
Tom Morello, the politically-active Rage Against the Machine guitarist and ‚Äėone-man revolutionary‚Äô behind The Nightwatchman, has been an ever-present fixture at protests and union struggles for years in the US. Providing a soundtrack for such events was part of the raison d’etre for creating his alter-ego The Nightwatchman in the first place.
Since the Occupy movement – a worldwide protest against social and financial inequality – rose to public prominence on Wall Street in New York in mid-September, Morello has visited eight of its camps across America (New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco), Canada (Vancouver) and the UK (Birmingham, Newcastle and now London).
Given that he had a gig at London‚Äôs Brixton Academy that evening, and with the additional objectors on the streets for the student march, it was not entirely unexpected that Morello might come down to tent city and play a few songs for those who had come out to stand up for what they believed in.
And around 5.30pm that‚Äôs what he did. And thankfully I had made it in time to see it.
Outside the Occupy LSX kitchen tent, Morello declared: ‚ÄúIt is an honour to be at Occupy London with you today.‚ÄĚ
Starting each sentence with ‚Äúmic check‚ÄĚ, the crowd responded by shouting back everything that he said, passing on Morello‚Äôs messages to those not close enough to hear firsthand, and helping alleviate the sporadically overpowering sound of the police helicopters flying overhead.
‚ÄúThe people that own and control this world don’t deserve to,‚ÄĚ Morello said.
‚ÄúI have a message for them: the beginning is here.‚ÄĚ
Quoting from ‚ÄėBlack Spartacus Heart Attack Machine‚Äô, the opening track of his fourth solo album, ‚ÄėWorld Wide Rebel Songs‚Äô, he continued:
‚ÄúBecause history’s not made by presidents or popes, or kings or queens or generals, or CIA kingpins running dope. History’s not made by nine robed men, or billionaires or bankers; it’s not made by them. They might throw a little money around, wondering who can be bought. Some might find they’re cheaper, some might find they’re stronger than they thought.¬†But we’ll stand right here, in our country, in our home. I used to think that I was alone; I ain’t alone no more.‚ÄĚ
He played three songs – ‘Flesh Shapes The Day’, Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Guerrilla Radio’ (which you can see below), and ‘World Wide Rebel Song’.
Interviewed after the impromptu gig, Morello said: “The lesson that the Arab Spring taught the world was that in order to change the world all you have to do is walk out your front door and just do it.
“People are realising… young people that’ve never been to a protest or demonstration ever, are coming out in their tens of thousands and they realise that they have their hand on the wheel of history and they are trying to turn it in a better direction.”
He continued: “I’m here playing because I believe in this. In my country, there’s never been a successful, progressive struggle for social justice that hasn’t had a good soundtrack, so I do my best to provide what I can.
“What (music) does is it puts wind in the sails of a struggle, and there’s something that speaks truth to the reptilian brain in people about the combination of melody and rhythm and rhyme.”
Picture and video by Amy Freeborn