A Deep Dive Into Rage Against The Machine’s Video For Sleep Now In The Fire
It’s been almost 19 years since Rage Against The Machine teamed up with documentarian and political activist Michael Moore for this video.
Sleep Now In The Fire – taken from their 1999 album The Battle Of Los Angeles – was shot in front of the New York Stock Exchange and caused a near riot on Wall Street, while Michael was led away by police while the cameras were rolling.
Here’s how the video unfolded…
There’s the 107th Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. His grinning face is accompanied by a statement saying that the day before the shoot, New York City decreed – fancy language – Rage Against The Machine “shall not play on Wall Street” on Tuesday, January 26, 2000.
Taking absolutely no notice of the powers that be, the shoot for the Sleep Now In The Fire video takes place the following day.
The band – Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk – all climb the steps of Federal Hall National Memorial and begin to play.
They’re barely into the first verse before some moustachioed copper is pointing at them and telling them to get down. In the most polite way, obviously.
The guerrilla performance footage is mixed with scenes from a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? parody show, named Who Wants to Be Filthy F#&%ing Rich? Rage Against The Machine are the house band, suited and booted. A strong look.
We cut back to Wall Street and that police officer is not a happy bunny. Body language experts could say his irritation is fuelling Zack de la Rocha’s performance. Could be wrong.
There’s a man walking around with a ‘Donald Trump For President 2000’ placard (see main image). Who, in their right mind, would elect him into office? Oh right.
There’s that police officer again. Not happy, is he? Somewhere in Manhattan, a donut and coffee are collecting dust.
Some of the Stock Exchange workers and passersby are having an absolutely lovely time.
Back to the show. ‘How many Americans have no health care?’ asks the host. 45 million people, is the depressing answer.
The police are seen digging out Michael Moore for filming the video. Things might grind to a halt at any moment. Michael had permission to film on the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial, not on the pavements outside, or a loud noise permit. Ah.
Time for another question. How many people in the world live on less than one dollar a day? Would you say 1 billion? Then you’d be right.
There’s silver-haired businessman lighting a cigar with some money, like a bloody maniac.
Lots of police arrive on the scene. Perhaps they’re fans of the band?
That police officer is really studying Tim Commerford’s bass technique. He’s obviously never heard of personal space.
Despite a quiet word with NY’s finest, Michael is led away by police. Before the shoot, the band were told to not stop playing, no matter what happened.
Zack sings in front of puppets featuring the faces of Al Gore, George W. Bush and John McCain. What is he possibly suggesting?
There he goes, climbing up the statue of George Washington located on the steps of Federal Hall National Memorial. An inscription reads: ‘On this site in Federal Hall April 30 1789, George Washington took oath as the first President of the United States of America.’
Tom Morello cranks out some riffs in front of stock footage of police spraying protestors at the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.
Tom solos in front of a backdrop of the New York Stock Exchange, using his toggle switch and hail of feedback. Look out, Dow Jones or whatever your name is.
A homeless man rejects the game show jackpot and a riot breaks out in the television studio. You don’t get that on The Chase.
It’s getting a bit tasty at the Federal Hall National Memorial, too.
The band attempt to enter the New York Stock Exchange and later find themselves ushered back onto the street. “About two hundred of us got through the first set of doors, but our charge was stopped when the Stock Exchange’s titanium riot doors came crashing down,” Tom later told Socialist Worker.
Listen out for a voiceover by then Republican politician Gary Bauer stating that, “a band called The Machine Rages On… er… Rage Against The Machine, that band is anti-family and is pro-terrorist”. It sounds like he’s just making shit up.
The video shoot had serious repercussions for people with a few dollars in the bank. “At 2:52pm, in the middle of the trading day, the Stock Exchange was forced to close its doors. No money was harmed.”
Six months later, the band were nominated for Best Rock Video at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, but lost out to Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff. Seriously.
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