Rage Against the Machine Fans Speak!


Rage Encounter at Tower Records Boston, 11/4/99
("The Battle of Tower Records")
By David

I woke up at about 6:30 am that morning to eat breakfast and shower to get ready for the long day ahead. I0 had left all my clothes out the night before... My shoes, jeans, maroon Rage t-shirt with the Molotov Cocktail design on the back, and matching undershirt. I had packed my bag with plenty of food and water to last the day, as well as some of my class books, including my copy of Marx's "Das Kapital". (Ironically, one of the classes I skipped that day to meet Rage was my Marxism class) My old piece of crap Fender Squier was in its case. I had jammed on it extensively the night before as a kind of farewell. It was my first guitar and I would never play it again after today, when Rage would sign it and make it my favorite piece of memorabilia ever, which will be permanently hung up on my wall as soon as I can get a case for it. The live Rage poster I bought a few days earlier was in a long tube to keep it good condition for the day. One of my cousins is a Rage fanatic but he lives in El Salvador and nobody ever comes down there, least of all Rage. I called another cousin of mine, and he agreed to meet me in line about 30 minutes before the doors opened for the signing at 7 pm so he could take the poster in and get it signed for our cousin.

I was out of my apartment at 7:15 and rode the T (the Boston subway system) over to Newbury Street and ran to Tower as quick as I could. I had called Tower a few days earlier to ask about their policy for lines, etc. for the signing. They said that no overnight campers would be allowed (Thank God!) because a few years ago, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince was scheduled for a signing at a Tower somewhere and people camped out overnight and slept on the sidewalk. One sleeping fan was hit by a car and killed instantly, and campers outside Tower have been banned ever since. The line was allowed to start at 6 am. I got to Tower thinking there would be 100 people in line already but much to my pleasant surprise, there were only four people. There were 3 girls who drove 4 hours overnight from New Hampshire to get their crap signed. They got to Tower at 6 am and were the first ones there! The other person was some kid from Quincy, a suburb of Boston who was ditching school for the day. We were ecstatic that we were in the frontlines before everybody else. Then a bunch of skater kids from the Boston area also skipping school came along a while later. By 9 a.m. there were only about 10 people in line.

The day was going to be long and tiring, but we decided that since we were going to be there all day, we might as well get to know each other and help each other out. We all talked a lot of shit about Rage and swapped stories of live shows, etc. We listened to "The Battle of Los Angeles" and all the other Rage albums and soundtracks with Rage and talked about music and politics. Surprisingly enough, like half the guys in the front of the line with me were guitar players, but I was the only one to bring my instrument to get it signed. When I told them, they were all like "HOLY SHIT! Why didn't I think of that?" During the course of the day, some of us would take off to eat, go to the bathroom, check out the stores and malls on nearby Newbury Street and the Prudential Center, and the others would watch the stuff and save spots in line, so it wasn't' like we were literally standing there all day. The day flew by surprisingly quick. I went to a nearby art store to buy a gold marker (like the kind taggers use) for Rage to sign my guitar, which is black with a small white pickup guard. I didn't want them to crouch over and barely have enough signing space on the pickup guard. All the people in the front of the line had plenty to talk about, I got quite a bit of reading done, and I even played a few Rage covers on my guitar in the Au Bon Pain next to where the line started when we went inside to eat lunch. By noon, the line was about 20-30 people and only went to the end of the block, which was less than 100 feet from where the line started. After that, the line turned left and would continue down Boylston Street. The line stayed about that long till about 3 pm, after which kids started getting out of school and getting in line. After that it seemed as though every 5-10 minutes we would turn around and there would be another 20 people in line. And we were loving every minute of it... We were all like "Ha! You guys suck! We've been out here since 8 in the morning! We're the real fans!" and stuff like that.

Then we noticed that there was an empty box lying around. Somebody had the bright idea of taking the box apart and making signs with it. We made one sign that said "RATM - We've been out here since 8 AM!" and we all signed it. We also wrote lyrics and relevant slogans (i.e. "Anger is a gift", "FREE MUMIA!" etc.) on it and proceeded to show it to everybody that passed us. After a while, I had the idea of making a sign with a crudely drawn replica of the inverted flag that Rage torched at Woodstock. I drew the stars and stripes, then we proceeded to deface it with Rage's trademark graffiti ("Failed Failed Failed", "You've Been Tricked", the anarchy symbol, etc.) and write some other political slogans and stuff. I then figured, "Fuck it, I'll give it to them when we go in." I had no idea what their reaction would be but we just wanted them to remember us, even if they'd have a few laughs at our expense later.

By about 5 pm, the line was a good three blocks long and kept growing exponentially as Rage fans started coming out of the woodwork. Some people asked us where the line started and we were like "Around the corner and three blocks down." We were high as a kite (i.e. ecstatic, not shitfaced) that we were the first in line. I walked down Boylston to check out the line and took a few pictures with my crappy disposable camera. After a while, people who asked us about the line, some of the guys in the front of the line were like "Don't worry, we'll tell them you said hello." I thought it was the most tasteless thing we could possibly say but I didn't care.

About then, we noticed that people from radio stations started showing up. There were radio station trucks with antennas and stuff parked outside of Tower all day but at about 5:30-6 they started walking around and checking out the line. We had our signs ready like good fans and they took notice. This guy from WBCN (104.1 FM Boston rock station) was like "You guys have been out here that long?" and we were like "Fuck yeah!" And he's like "Hold on, I'll be back in a second." He came back a few minutes later with a shitload of T-shirts and he gave each of us a shirt saying "Well, in my book you guys deserve this for your patience." We were so damn happy! But the best part was still to come...

Another station FNX (a Boston alternative radio station) noticed us and it was one of their DJ's who noticed us. He brought one of their techs along and asked us if we wanted to do a quick live interview. We couldn't believe it. We were like "HELL YES!"

So he starts by turning on the gear and speaking into the microphone. "I'm here outside of Tower Records on Newbury Street with some die hard Rage Against the Machine fans who claim they have been out here since 8 o'clock this morning. Tell us about yourselves and what have you guys been up to all day?"

Then the guy stuck the mike in my face, and I totally wasn't expecting it. I answered something like "My name is David, I'm from Tufts University. We've been out here bearing the elements and listening to the new Rage album 'The Battle of Los Angeles' constantly. The album is sick and it's their best yet and we can't wait to meet them. We all just wanted to be the first ones to meet them and get our stuff signed."

Then he asked another question about the line and the fans and the album, and stuck the mike in my face again but I was like "Nah, talk to these guys too. They been out here with me all day, it ain't fair." So one of the other kids answers the question, and then this cop happens to walk by and notices our sign of the inverted flag and gives us this dirty look. They all noticed and ON THE AIR in perfect sync, they start chanting "DOWN WITH THE PIGS! DOWN WITH THE PIGS!" and the DJ was cracking up. Then he wrapped up the interview and gave us free FNX t-shirts. I don't think there's a word to describe how happy we were. Later on I found out that one of my friends actually heard our interview on the radio, so I have at least one witness.

A while later, the funniest thing happened. This girl who must have been about 15 or so walked up to us and asked "What's going on?" and one of the guys yelled "The Backstreet Boys are signing records, we love the Backstreet Boys, whoooooooo!!!" and EVERYBODY in the front of the line picked up on it. We started yelling and girls were screaming about how hot they were and a bunch of people started singing one of their songs. Basically, just imagine the scene on Total Request Live when those assholes show up to visit. So the girl was all like, "Really?! Oh my God! I have to go to my car and get my CDs! Where does the line start?" And we told her something like "Around the corner and four blocks down. But you may not get to meet them!" and she took off full speed and we didn't see her again the rest of the night. After she left, we were all dying... I haven't laughed that hard since the first time I saw "There's Something About Mary..."

T-minus 30 minutes and counting... I'm starting to look out for my cousin and he hasn't shown up yet. 20 minutes later when he still wasn't there, I was freaking. If he didn't make it on time, what would I get signed, my cousin's poster or my guitar? What a dilemma! But lucky for me it didn't come down to that. He showed up about 5 minutes before they opened the doors because he had been driving around looking for a place to park for 15 minutes and had to walk 6 blocks from the parking garage he finally settled on. While driving around he said he saw Rage getting out of a hummer and dashing into the store before anybody noticed. I gave him the poster and the wristband that was the price of admission (which you got from Tower after buying a copy of "TBOLA" from them) and told him to keep his mouth shut. If somebody asks, I told him to say he's been here on and off all day and the people in the front of the line agreed to cover for him.

Finally, they told us to get moving, and we slowly proceeded to get our stuff ready. I got my guitar out, and a lady before the door kept reminding us of the rules: One item per person, and no photography. She then took our wristbands and right before we went in, somebody from another radio station WAAF (the same guys who boycotted Rage on Veterans' Day) gave each of us a free t-shirt commemorating the occasion, with the date, place and the art from the "Guerrilla Radio" single which had the station's name emblazoned on top of the design as "Boston's Guerrilla Radio station". So finally, we're scuffled through this side door and get taken into a little room. I was scared I was going to have a heart attack! Then I saw them, calmly sitting on a table signing stuff and talking shit with the fans.

All this happened in less than 2 minutes, but believe me, IT HAPPENED! I had the gold marker and guitar ready. Then it was my turn. Brad was first, and he was the most talkative/social member of the group that day. He stuck his hand out and he was like "What's up man?"

I was totally in awe. I said something like "What's up Brad? Congratulations on the new album, it's your best yet, and your drumming is fucking sick!"

"Thank you, thank you." He politely responded. "Got anything for us to sign." I was so caught up in the moment I almost forgot. I handed over my guitar and the gold marker which I wanted them to sign it with. As Brad was signing, he asked "How long have you guys been out there?"

I got a huge smile on my face. "8 o'clock this morning." I told him proudly.

Then Brad was like "HOLY SHIT! Are you serious?"

And I answered "Yeah man. We wanted to be the first ones in here cause we're the real fans."

And he smiled and said "Well, you made it bro." Boy did we ever! I quickly mentioned that my cousin was a drummer, and could have kept talking shit with him but I wanted to talk to the other guys and moved on. Brad passed my guitar and marker along and I got it back at the other end of the table.

Tom was next, and I was paralyzed with awe. This is the guy that inspired me to pick up the guitar and is my primary influence. I have studied tape and tabs of Tom for months and finally he was right ACROSS THE DAMN TABLE FROM ME! The shock wore off, and I put my hand out and said something like "Tom you are the mack! You're the sickest guitar player ever. The solo for 'Darkness of Greed' inspired me to pick up the guitar and I'm still trying to figure it out and your cover of 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' was the first song I ever learned in its entirety on guitar."

He was signing crap and talking to me at the same time, but he was very polite and down to earth, saying "Thank you, thank you..." I think he was kind of surprised when I told him that "Darkness" was my favorite solo. I gave him a little present so he would hopefully remember me by and moved on. I walked past Tim, but forgot to talk to him. Then I saw Zack and I did a U-turn and talked a little shit with him.

"Zack, I was at the Mumia Rally in Philly last April. I took some nice pictures and your speech was awesome!"

He smiled, and said "Thanks, glad you could make it."

Then I pulled out the sign and said "Here, we got a little present for you guys to make up for the flag you torched at Woodstock," and gave it to him.

He looked it over, started cracking up and he stuck out his hand and we shook hands and he said thank you, and told me he would put it on this table behind him where they were putting all the crap they were getting from their fans so everybody could see it.

I walked on, but then I realized I forgot to give him a copy of my review of the new album and ask him if he had seen my pictures which I had mailed to them at the fan club address.

Then the BIGGEST security guy I have EVER seen got up in my face and told me "I'm sorry sir, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave." Think of Suge Knight or Uncle Phil from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" if you want to visualize the guy. He probably could have snapped me in half with his pinky if he wanted to. He showed up on the Rage MTV special from Mexico City, you see him walking around the Aztec ruins with Tom. I asked him if I could just give Zack the article, and he said no, but I could give it to him and he would get it to them. Somehow I didn't believe him, but gave him the article anyways. I think he probably just threw it away, but I sent a copy to the Rage fan club address later anyways. He gave me my guitar and I walked out thinking "No way that just happened!" I was kinda pissed off at the guy at first, but then I thought about it and understood that it was his job and that Rage were trying to accommodate as many fans as possible in the 2 hours they were going to be signing.

I met up with my cousin and the other guys outside of the room and we were looking at each other's shit and in total awe of what had just happened. The four gold ink signatures stuck out like a sore thumb on the body of my guitar. One thing I did notice from all the stuff that was signed is that Tim (because he has so many different aliases) signed with like 4 different names. He signed my guitar "YTK200099" and he signed other stuff "Timmy C", "Tim Bob", "Tim K", etc. We were all in a perpetual state of ecstasy, and we couldn't believe that we had gotten to meet our favorite band and talk a little shit with them for the briefest of moments. We all headed our separate ways and were going to look for each other before or after the Worcester show on November 30 since we all had tickets. Then I went home with my cousin, in awe of the poster and guitar. We had been in the frontlines of the Battle of Tower Records for close to 11 hours and survived, proud of our battle scars.

EPILOGUE

I gave my cousin who came to the signing with me the copy of "TBOLA" that I had to buy to get him into the store. He had heard of the band but he wasn't sure he had heard any songs by them. I ran through the standards "Bulls On Parade," "Freedom," Killing in the Name," etc. and he said the names sounded familiar but he wasn't sure if he had heard them. Then I remembered he was a huge fan of "The Matrix" and I asked him if he had the soundtrack. He answered "Yeah, I love that album! I know every song on it."

Then I dropped the bomb on him, "You know the song ["Wake Up"] that's played at the end of the movie?" And he was like "Yeah?"

"That was Rage Against the Machine."

And then his eyes tripled in size. He was all like "HOLY SHIT! THAT WAS THEM?!" and he couldn't believe he had just met them and didn't know who they were. So he started listening to "TBOLA" and he's a fan now.

I went home for Thanksgiving and brought the signed poster with me. I went over to visit my cousin a few days ago. I had sent him a copy of "TBOLA" in the mail, and he literally was the first person in the country to have the album because it hadn't arrived in stores yet when he got it a week later. He called me and was ecstatic and raving about how I was always welcome in his house and how he would somehow pay me back. I was laughing my ass off over the phone because he had no idea what was about to hit him.

So finally I go over to his house. I left the poster and T-shirts I bought as proof in my car so we wouldn't be talking about that the whole time. In the conversation, he told me that his friend's brother had met Rage and gotten a signed CD booklet and that he was getting it for Christmas. My cousin was raving about saying how jealous he was and stuff. By this point, I couldn't take it anymore. I went back to the car, and got all the crap and dropped the bomb on him. I told him the entire story and he was happier than I was, if that's possible! Needless to say, that was our good deed for the millenium and we have been practically canonized in that household! Ironically enough, my cousin's friend who got the signed CD book called while I was over there and my cousin told him about the poster, and ended the conversation with him by simply saying "Talk now, little bitch!"

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