Rage Against The Machine’s 20 greatest guitar moments, ranked
Throwing aside guitar convention, Tom Morello’s inventive use of the instrument as a sonically enthralling, genre-mashing tool is a key element of Rage’s crossover appeal.
Image: Gie Knaeps / Getty Images
Across three blistering studio albums (and vibrant covers collection, Renegades), Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford’s matchless musical dynamism allied with the boiling couplets of rapper Zach de la Rocha. Pitting themselves quite pointedly at odds with the capitalist machinery of 90s America, Rage Against The Machine weren’t just an essential band for rock aficionados. Forging a union between the warring tribes of hip-hop and hard rock entranced many across the listening spectrum, while their revolutionary political manifesto had an intellectual depth and urgency rarely heard in the charts.
Critically though, Rage’s appeal has outlived idiosyncratic genre-smudging, or their righteous convictions – what still resonates is the pulse-quickening brilliance of their greatest songs. Tom Morello’s extraordinary ability to re-think his approach to the guitar entirely is a major factor in their longevity; morphing his strings into a tool for mimicking the kinds of synthetic, electronic sounds that are usually generated via samplers, synths and turntables. Considered applications of effects and effortless transitions across both lead and rhythmic approaches are fundamental to Rage’s aural universe. Not to mention Morello’s talent for, at the drop of a hat, unleashing his might as one of rock’s most renowned one-man riff machines. Tom’s capabilities were further demonstrated by his work in Audioslave, Prophets of Rage and in his acoustic persona The Nightwatchman, but here we’re specifically exploring that pivotal work in Rage Against The Machine.
In compiling the following list, we’ve cranked up Rage Against The Machine’s concise back catalogue, and underlined the critical examples of just why Tom still stands as one of the world’s most admired guitar wielders.
20. Mic Check (The Battle of Los Angeles, 1999)
Morello’s self-imposed philosophy of ‘no samples, keyboards or synthesisers’ frequently pushed him to take the guitar down often wildly unconventional routes. On 1999’s explosive, The Battle of Los Angeles, his mastery of extorting a perfect emulation of samplers, live scratching and frothing synth textures from his instrument was on point. For the record’s fourth track, Morello provides a repetitive, haunting arpeggio in F♯m on the 14th fret. Repeated throughout the track in a stiff manner – as if it were a sample – this clean-toned, four-note sequence is routed through a Line 6 modelling amplifier, layered with Boss digital delay to give the impression of movement. The mysterious mood conjured provides De la Rocha an unsettled framework to deliver an angst-ridden rhyme on the nature of power. At the 1:49 mark enters a shuddering staccato helicopter sound, made by very selective palm muting at the bridge. This prefigures a sublime example of Morello’s showcase turntable simulation; Scratching with his fret hand, Morello’s other hand frantically adjusts the toggle switch. More on that, later.
Did you Know?
Despite their anti-capitalist ideals, by the time The Battle of Los Angeles was released, the band had significant commercial clout. Selling 420,000 copies in its first week, the album nudged aside Mariah Carey and claimed the peak position in the Billboard chart
19. Snakecharmer (Evil Empire, 1996)
An energised workout, Snakercharmer sits near the mid-point of 1996’s under-appreciated Evil Empire and is absolutely stacked with towering riffs, propelled along by Wilk and Commerford’s characteristically rock-solid rhythm section. Each movement of the song is shaped by some sledgehammer Morello work, dynamically swerving in tandem with the beat. The panicked riff that drives the verse funkily flexes around a chunky open D tonic (and clearly had an influence on Muse’s Hyper-Music six years later) before long, Morello pounds a sludgy D5 power chord as we death-dive, full throttle towards the chorus. A breath is taken as De la Rocha decries hollow friendships, shortly before a monstrous riff bursts through the arrangement and steals what convention dictates should be the chorus. Following this onslaught, comes some high-register whammy wails via Morello’s DigiTech Whammy. We’ve just been schooled in rigorous riff-craft.
Did you Know?
Evil Empire’s 11 songs had a more targeted aim than the broader scope of the debut, with a tighter focus on the cultural and political tensions between (and within) the North and South of America.
18. Renegades of Funk (Renegades, 2000)
On 2000’s studio finale, Renegades, Rage cast their eyes back on those artists that had significant impact on their psyche – whether it be musically or politically. The four folded this canon into their own well-defined style. Afrika Bambaataa’s Renegades of Funk was a central text, defining as it did, the importance of the renegade in the context of human history, put to an innovative electronic arrangement. Rage’s re-modelling of the song didn’t disappoint. Kicking off with a mocking two-note riff routed through Morello’s Cry Baby Wah and Whammy (pitched up 2 octaves), the song’s atypical percussion builds a carnival atmosphere, before a thunderous 1-2-3 open-D riff cuts through to galvanise the charge of the verse. It’s a riff that knowingly nods to Cheap Trick’s Gonna Raise Hell, but adds that suitably ‘Rage’ stamp to the sonic brew. As the record’s lead single, Renegades of Funk was a vivid example of the ingenious ways that Morello and co had absorbed a range of diverse material on their fourth studio album. It also served as a fitting swansong for the band, before their unexpected reformation seven years later.
Did you Know?
Rage split up two months prior to the release of Renegades, meaning that this song wasn’t performed live until their reunion set at Coachella 2007.
17. Year of tha Boomerang (Evil Empire, 1996)
Evil Empire’s strident finale is heralded by an odd Middle Eastern sound, built by Morello via some inventive multi-tracking of his DigiTech Whammy (once again, pitched up 2 octaves) Year of tha Boomerang launches forward into a powerful strut, giving De la Rocha a confident template to deliver a rapid-fire summation of the deep seated prejudices at root in capitalist society. As Morello’s supercharged riff carves the path forward, a sudden break allows him to quickly unfurl some clean, dream-like arpeggios which spiral around the ears, before once again, we lumber on with the mechanical heft of that central riff. As the arrangement continues, the odd introductory sound rears its quirky head once again, frenetically dancing around the arrangement, before breaking down and skirting somewhere between harmonious and broken white-noise. The pace quickens and Morello unleashes a riff that is pure headbanger-bait. …Boomerang an unyielding end to an intense record, with contrasting guitar approaches wrenching out sounds that no other axe-slinger would dream of exploring.
Did you Know?
Year of tha Boomerang was originally written for 1995 film Higher Learning, directed by John Singleton. This soundtrack version was a little different to the more guitar-focused album version a year later.
16. The Ghost of Tom Joad (Renegades, 2000)
Sporting one of Rage’s most monolithic riffs, Morello rips apart and reconstructs Spingsteen’s reflective country ballad into a seismic juggernaut, whilst thoughtfully allowing emphasis to be held on the song’s powerful, socially conscious lyrics in the verse. A live favourite well before the band included it on Renegades, Morello typically performed the song with his Cherry Red Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck. That huge central riff clambers its way out of a stirring nest of the palm-muted tremolo picking, before switching to a subdued, head-bobbing riff as De la Rocha dramatically conveys Spingsteen’s words. As the verse’s blues-scale riff orients itself around the key of G major, Tom introduces more stuttering, howling bends and a distant funky wah-wah part to the mix, all of which helps keep build the momentum back towards that killer keystone guitar hook. It’s a fan favourite, and arguably Rage’s strongest cover.
Did you Know?
Morello and Springsteen would perform the track live together on Springsteen’s Magic Tour in 2008, with a completely fresh arrangement. The pair would reprise their collaboration many more times over the years, leading to Morello joining the E Street Band as a touring guitarist in 2013.
15. Born of a Broken Man (The Battle of Los Angeles, 1999)
The lush sounding introductory chords of Zach de la Rocha’s ode to his estranged father are among the most unexpected tonal switches of the Rage listening experience. After a cavalcade of intensity, The Battle of Los Angeles’s sixth track allows temporary respite in a tranquil haven. The chords themselves are almost mirage-like in their construction, with Morello’s American Standard Telecaster tuned to open D, he lets the low D, A and D ring open, while the G string slides around a hazy melody on the 14th, 13th and 17th fret, before settling on some placid chords, and rounding out with lower notes on the 4th and 2nd fret. It’s a lovely intro, but just as we settle into its serene vibe, Morello slaps the listener awake with another cacophonous riff that – rollercoaster-like – smashes us against the walls of the soundstage. This extreme shift is replicated throughout the song, with the introductory chords framing Rocha’s reverb-soaked poetry in the verse, ahead of the enraged mania of the chorus.
Did you Know?
Though the recording approach for The Battle of Los Angeles was to record each song’s entire basic rhythm track live, Born of a Broken Man required the band to approach the verses and chorus parts as two separate songs, due to their wildly contrasting tones.
14. Vietnow (Evil Empire, 1996)
“When you wanna rock hard children, lean on F♯” educates Morello, in a mid-2000s video lesson for Guitar World. 1996’s Evil Empire has two pivotal tracks in quick succession that do just that. Hot on the heels of the steamroller that is Bulls on Parade, Vietnow’s rhythmic momentum is set by a tinny-sounding, F♯ strum that exigently slides itself down to A5. The ground is prepared for a full-on aerial assault by a tight rhythm which slavishly follows the template Morello has established. The urgency of the drilling riff underscore’s De la Rocha’s furious treatise on reactionary news media. Though Morello keeps rooted in the F♯, variations in his strumming pattern upturn the momentum of the song, which maintains our interest until the towering chorus riff grasps forward out of the mix, as De la Rocha demands we ‘shut down the devil sound’. Around the 2:45 mark comes an alarm-sounding two-note interlude which halts proceedings, before we snap back into that funky lead riff, now joined by a pained bend on the 4th fret of the G, howling like a ghost in the machine.
Did you Know?
The second variation of Vietnow’s rhythmic riff is clearly indebted to Led Zeppelin’s The Wanton Song. A favourite band of Morello’s, the influence of Jimmy Page’s imposing riff-construction is evident across his body of work.
13. Bullet in the Head (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)
A killer track which defined the early days of Rage, Bullet in the Head sits at the heart of the band’s indomitable debut. The track balances a brick wall-solid rhythm section, De la Rocha’s swooning diatribe against media propaganda and some of Tom’s most memorable guitar flavours on the entire album. Using his personally customised ‘Arm The Homeless’ guitar, Morello conjures a television static effect that billows through the verses. Craftily turning down the volume on the neck pickup, and leaving full volume on the bridge pickup, then setting his Digitech Whammy up 2 octaves, Morello rings the open standard tuned strings while oscillating his pickup selector switch between the muted and full-volume pickups, the resulting panicked sound leaves a hip-hoppy smear across the arrangement which peters out in a firework-like piffle. Next comes the definition of the triple-note E,G,A punch that presents the chorus. The quizzical solo finds Morello weaving a hued path with a combination of both his Jim Dunlop Cry Baby wah and whammy. A final powerchord-driven signature riff turns up late to the party, gathers pace and conducts a hostile takeover of the entire arrangement. Bullet in the Head may be among the band’s earliest songs, but remains one of their most riveting listens.
Did you Know?
The version of Bullet in the Head found on that classic debut was in fact a slightly tweaked version of their original demo, which the band felt couldn’t be topped. Originally recorded at Sunburst Studios. The demo was laid down before the band ever played it live.
12. Freedom (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)
Ordering us to take heed of the closing statements of Rage’s spotless debut, Freedom’s contorting riff in drop D is another Morello masterpiece that dances between the 3rd and 5th frets on the E (D) and A strings. Part of a growing number of multi-sectioned pyramids, the individual guitar parts here are all complementary. After that laddering main riff, the verse part keeps things relatively restrained, with a repetitious orbit of a funk-tinged D7sus4 chord. As the first verse breaks – a silence is brokered, whilst De la Rocha whispers ‘Your anger is a gift’. A flurrying tornado of guitar energy is then unleashed, hurtling us into a totally new environment – and priming the ears to wallow in Morello’s unanticipated bluesy lead centrepiece solo. The smoky sustain of each key note creates a moody musical counterpoint to the ferocity of those beastly main riffs. Speaking of which, the gradual threat of the song’s final ascending riff is almost the musical equivalent of a predator preparing to lunge, taking a gradual prowl before relentlessly attacking with a manic fury as the track, and first album, reaches its endpoint. Freedom is a titanic closer.
Did you Know?
Though his ‘Arm The Homeless’ guitar is Morello’s most famed tool, the size of Rage’s many Drop D-toned monoliths was provided by an unmodified American Fender Telecaster which he purchased in 1992. Tom told Musician’s Friend in 2012 that “This is on all of the songs that are in drop D tuning like Killing In The Name, Freedom and Testify”
11. Sleep Now in the Fire (The Battle of Los Angeles, 1999)
One of Morello’s personal favourites from the whole Rage songbook, Sleep Now in the Fire is driven by one of his bounciest – and most upbeat – riffs. Based around the A minor pentatonic scale, Morello hammers a child-like, goading melody between the 7th and 5th fret on the D string, while leaving an open A string that provides an ongoing pedal as the back-and-forth riff bids for attention. Inspired by the in-your-face punk edge of bands like MC5 and The Stooges, that dominant main riff is a hugely effective ear worm. In contrast to this, during the verse sections Morello provides a strange hum-type sound, concocted by fretting the C note on the 15th fret of the A string, and setting his Digitech Whammy to harmonise a major third below. As Morello told Guitar World in 2000 “I created this wash of sound that just sits there like a big, fat cloud. I like this kind of unexpected rhythm guitar part. Rather than rhythmically supporting the funk, it hovers like an unwelcome dinner guest”
Did you Know?
At the end of Sleep Now in the Fire, the odd radio noise is no sample, but was actually picked up live in the studio by Morello’s vintage Tone Bender pedal. The channel was received if the pedal was active but nothing was being played. As the radio sound was technically coming through Morello’s amp, it was decided that it would be allowed through the band’s ‘guitar, bass and drums only’ policy
10. Wake Up (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)
AKA the one from The Matrix, AKA the one that sounds like Kashmir. Wake Up’s intro is a thunderous tank advance of ominous guitar. The threatening D5 power chord is haunted by tremolo picked single note at its heart, bending precariously in warning. This mammoth intro slowly breaks down into the song’s second lead riff, littered with spiky jabs of aggression. For the verse, the riff becomes more funk-based and exuberant. This riff-metamorphosis is a crucial ingredient of why Wake Up is one of the most widely loved Rage songs. By the solo, Morello routes his Telecaster through his Cry Baby wah, gradually rocking back and forward as plays a double note melody which slides up and down the neck, before a final thunderous race back into the inevitability of that intro chord. It’s a heck of a listen, with Morello’s guitar muscle arguably the pivotal element in the crafting of a track that picks a fight with the CIA.
Did you Know?
The cover artwork of Rage’s first record is a real photograph of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức, who intentionally set himself alight in protest of the government’s hostility toward the religion in 1963.
9. Testify (The Battle of Los Angeles, 1999)
Launching Rage’s third album with a howling vortex of sound was a considerable statement of how far Morello’s journey with the guitar had come from electric-blues orthodox. With his DigiTech Whammy harmonising a full 7th above an open D string, and his DD-3 delay set to a short slap-back effect that keeps the sound tight. Morello rocks his Cry Baby through the frequency range, opening up a soaring chasm of noise. As Wilk and Commerford build up to a crescendo, De la Rocha’s ‘Ugh!’ sets Morello into one of his beefiest-ever riffs . Launched out of a bluesy D7♯9 chord, the D minor pentatonic riff has a tightness of construction that gives it an undeniably ‘dancy’ quality’ in the band’s set. This sublime intro aside, Testify is also notable for its odd jack-on-scratchplate solo. Morello pulls out his jack and prods at his scratchplate, sweeping his Cry Baby over the resulting 60Hz hum. The resulting effect is both enthrallingly original, and makes for a standout performance moment when played live – particularly when he uses the lead on his hand instead of his scratchplate.
Did you Know?
Due to the use of the D7♯9 chord as a crucial part of the central riff, Testify’s working title was ‘Hendrix Jam’. A nod to Jimi’s affection for the chord.
8. Calm Like a Bomb (The Battle of Los Angeles, 1999)
Beginning with a slightly confused-sounding bass wander, Calm Like a Bomb leaps to life when Morello lassos the roaming low end with an ever-tightening, octave-rising squall, which repeats relentlessly as Commerford’s (now firm) wah bass part keeps a nodding, rhythmic cycle. A standout example of Morello’s whammy finesse, Tom refers to this as the ‘pterodactyl sound’. The second standout moment of the song comes with a gargantuan B minor central riff in Drop A tuning. The extremes of low and high frequency guitar parts in this strong underscore Morello’s prowess across every frequency. The sludgy tone of the meaty riff is emphasised further with his typical amp setup – a 50-watt Marshall JCM 800 head and a Peavy 4×12 cab –cranked up for extra distortion. This is full-metal Morello.
The solo part builds on the verse’s high octave skipping sound, with added Boss DD-3 delay to colour some frenetic hammer ons and pull offs. This snaky solo, like the verse part, is all performed via Morello’s now customary toggle switch joggle.
Did you Know?
Though Morello had a healthy arsenal of axes by this point, Calm Like a Bomb was recorded with, what he described as, a “little Canadian pawn shop guitar”
7. People of the Sun (Evil Empire, 1996)
An insistent cricket-like buzz is the first sound we hear on the long-anticipated sequel to Rage’s sublime debut. Sounding quite unlike anything we’ve heard before. Morello scratches the A string between the pickups with an Allen Key, creating pitches that oscillate between B and C. This simmering sound is soon joined by a humongous sounding rhythm section, and one of De la Rocha’s most rousing calls to arms yet heard, as he proclaims their alignment with Mexico’s militant Zapatista movement. Morello repeats his incessant Allen-on-the-A scratch repetitively until the eventual tension release of the chorus. Tom scrapes the key across a G5 power chord with increased intensity, while the rhythm section erupts in relentless pursuit. The impression is comparable to a thunderous cavalcade of horses stampeding down a hill. It’s a sensational opening cut, and an indicator of the more varied approaches that Morello would employ to swerve the sound of Evil Empire down more bizarre-sounding routes when required.
Did you Know?
People of the Sun was an old staple of Rage’s set, written as far back as 1992. The final studio version was cut in 1995 by Brendan O’Brien to kickstart their second album, and serve as its second single.
6. Bombtrack (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)
The first sound we hear on Rage’s first record is a frenetic palm-muted, spider-web of tension-raising guitar work from Morello, as the rhythm section gradually elevates our anticipation to their first explosive moment of fury. The bomb detonates with a push/pull riff in F♯ (actually constructed by Tim Commerford), which flicks to a funkier variant for the verse. With this first seamless transition between metal-tinged lead riffs and more vibey verse parts, Bombtrack establishes an enduring Rage blueprint. Zach de la Rocha’s incensed attack on the divine ideals of American conquest is ably backed by the rhythmic arrangement, and a presentation of band’s dynamic competency. For the song’s quick-fire solo, Morello hits barred notes on the 14th and 16th fret, before slinking off into some high bends, and accentuating the wallop of those ear-battering riffs. It’s an opening salvo that gripped many listeners from their very first listen.
Did you Know?
Though a music video was cut for Bombtrack, Rage decided to not include it on their first home video release, as it contained advocacy of Peru’s controversial Sendero Luminoso organisation, whom the band later renounced support for.
5. No Shelter (Godzilla: The Album, 1998)
If you’re trying to make your multi-million dollar blockbuster have youth appeal, then commissioning a soundtrack of alternative rock songs seems a sure fire way to pique the interest of those difficult to impress slackers. Duly obliging, Rage offered up an oven-fresh, outright banger. But the swaggering clout of No Shelter wasn’t just a nice addition to their considerable song stable. Its lyric challenged the very movie they were contributing to, denouncing Godzilla as “pure motherfucking filler”. Matching this postmodern swipe at consumerism, Morello’s robotic riff firmly drives the track’s momentum, with a ‘whacka-whacka’ palm-muted scratch over the chorus’s ‘No shelter here’ refrain. The verse’s weedy Cry Baby wah-wah wave oscillates in simpatico with De la Rocha’s subversive rhyme. The best moment, though, comes with the song’s crescendo, following a vicious whammy workout, Zach bellows “Just stare!” atop a momentus drop D riff, every bit as imposing as the film’s titular giant lizard. Though the film was a critical flop, Rage’s smuggling of a powerful anti-capitalist diatribe into its soundtrack was a notable career highlight. It helps that every second of guitar work is superb, too.
Did you Know?
No Shelter served as the subject to a 2003 academic study by Jeffery A Hall, who said “The presence of Burkean irony and refraction in No Shelter demonstrates that the band acknowledges its role the circular relationship between the text and its commercial context: the song is set forth as a promotion of the film and its soundtrack, and yet it returns as an assault on that very context.” Clever stuff.
4. Guerilla Radio
Armed with his specially customised Ibanez Arstar hollowbody (which contained a multitude of onboard effects) Morello propels us into The Battle of Los Angeles’s lead single with an unrelenting Apache helicopter of a riff. This simple-but-sweet staccato part is coloured by an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser and Ibanez 80s Green Flanger, and then mushrooms into an immense-sounding rock groove, once Wilk and Commerford join the party. Though it’s a beast of an intro, but it’s really the solo we’re here to talk about. After keeping a flowing Cry Baby wah part through the verse, Morello prepares for an unconventional sounding interlude. Often referred to as Tom’s ‘harmonica’ effect, Morello uses his killswitch technique (muting the neck pickup but keeping the bridge on full) and toggling the pickup selector back-and-forth. While he does this, his WH1 is depressed an octave higher, as he effectively performs the resulting staccato squall with his Cry Baby. The result sounds like an insane post-rampage party, on the eve of the final “All hell can’t stop us now!” pronouncement from De la Rocha as a final riff ploughs through all in its path like a runaway freight train.
Did you Know?
Acclaimed documentary maker Michael Moore persuaded Republican politician Alan Keyes to mosh in a truck with a group of teenagers to Guerrilla Radio, in exchange for Moore’s endorsement.
3. Know Your Enemy (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)
A paramount track on both Rage’s first album, and their live set. Know Your Enemy is notable for a range of astonishing guitar moments. Chiefly, there’s that galloping central power-chord riff which chugs along at a relentless pace, the synth-like stop-start intro – which no contemporary listener would guess was a guitar – is an early example of Morello’s soon to be ubiquitous toggle-switch technique (as explained earlier), he sets his whammy to pitch up a fifth, and wrangles a sampler-like, electronic tremolo hoot. The verse riff is a gradual ascending riff which scales the peaks and troughs of F♯ minor. For the bridge, Morello palm-mutes a gradual tunnel through to the other side of a rigid guest-starring interlude (Maynard James Keenan of Tool fame) before spilling out into one of the most dazzling solos of the record. Using the whammy’s harmoniser setting, Tom plays some squalling licks, machine gun sprays us with some rapid-fire scale runs, then returns to a more melodic variation of the switch-toggling intro. It’s all utterly marvellous, and still sounds totally futuristic.
Did you Know?
After leaving Harvard with a degree in social studies, and before forming Rage, Morello worked briefly as an exotic dancer, “You could make decent money doing that job – people do what they have to do!” He told NME.
2. Killing in the Name (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)
The big one, Rage’s most iconic and enduring song is a lumbering giant of peerlessly sculpted riffs, working in tandem with De la Rocha’s most universally beloved (and oft-quoted) lyrics, which boils down the whole Rage ethos into the universally relateable mantra, “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” That drop D central riff was famously stumbled upon by Morello when he was working as a guitar instructor, halting his in-progress lesson to record it. Excitedly presenting it to the band the next day, the crux of Rage’s biggest song was born. The riff itself is a masterclass of the band’s burgeoning groove-centric direction, though the notes themselves are fairly simple to play. A further variation leads us into a pronounced D chord swipe, as De la Rocha repeats ’Now you do what they told ya’. As the beat kicks in, Morello alters his rhythm, jigging around that central message with danceable palm-muted scratches, before lurching into a more assured version of the main riff. The track’s whammy solo pitches some tremolo picked descending D minor pentatonic notes up by 2 octaves using his Digitech WH1, making an agonising screaming effect that rips out of the mix. Far more than the sum of its parts, Killing in the Name is a timeless tour-de-force, and is all the more impressive once you consider that the song was written ahead of the band’s first gig.
Did you Know?
In 2009, Killing in the Name reached number one in the UK singles chart, after a social media campaign by English DJ Jon Morter and his wife Tracy to prevent The X-Factor’s dominance over the Christmas top spot. Morello donated his unexpected earnings to charity.
1. Bulls on Parade (Evil Empire, 1996)
Set off by an ear-demolishing two-note main riff within an F♯5 power chord, Bulls of Parade is the Rage song that has it all, and an ultimate demonstration of Morello’s wide-ranging abilities. With its wacka-wacka wah section bridging the immense opening, Morello leaves the wah pedal half-depressed to flavour the gangsta-rap menace of the verse riff. “It’s sort of like Geto Boys, that’s what we were going for with that one” Morello told Guitar World. For the song’s chorus section, Morello returns to the F♯5 which opened the song, but affects a more measured rhythm, throwing in the odd dissonant note, to ride the beat, while taking care to never hit the A string. The stellar centrepiece of the song finds Morello revealing his vinyl-scratching trick for the first time on record. Hammering on the distortion, Tom affects the tone by fully depressing the Cry Baby and uses his left hand to gradually slide up and down the guitar around the neck pickup, while his other hand wiggles the pickup selector. It’s as fascinating to watch as it is stunning to listen to. “We wanted a DJ in the band but didn’t have one,” Morello told Guitar.com, “So early-on I became the designated DJ. It made me think about guitar in different way, and change my style.” This decisive dispensing of stiff guitar orthodoxy has resulted in some of rock’s most astounding guitar sounds, and is why we’re still mesmerised by Tom Morello.
Did you Know?
The video for Bulls on Parade was directed by Throbbing Gristle’s Peter Christopherson, also a member of art collective Hipgnosis, Leeds-born Peter had also worked with Pink Floyd on their video for Us and Them.