Rage against the X Factor

NOT being Noddy Holder or Cliff Richard, all I register when I hear Christmas songs tinkling out over shopping streets is mild irritation.

Aidan Semmens

NOT being Noddy Holder or Cliff Richard, all I register when I hear Christmas songs tinkling out over shopping streets is mild irritation. Not the happy kerr-ching of ethereal cash registers.

And, frankly, the pop charts have been a matter of indifference to me since some years before Ipswich lifted the FA Cup.

Yet I can't help thinking it would be a pleasant and amusing change if the punk-funk thump of Rage Against The Machine were to be the soundtrack to this year's late Christmas trade rush.

The American band's trademark song Killing In The Name has been around since 1992. It's long since disappeared from the shelves as a single.

But of course it's available to download any time from a number of music websites. And there's a very appealing campaign under way to get you to do just that next week.

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The plan is that if enough people do it the track will defy the inevitable by beating the X-Factor winner to the Christmas Number One spot.

I have no idea who is about to become Simon Cowell's latest cash cow, but it's a dead cert their karaoke offering will be a feeble trill alongside the uplifting rebelliousness of Rage.

The campaign is not only Rage Against the X-Factor, though that's a reasonable reaction in itself. It's also social networking versus TV, which could be quite an interesting contest.

As far as I can see, ordinary fans are behind the Rage plan, not some Cowell-like suited executive. But of course their chief promotional tools are Facebook and Twitter.

Personally, I hope they pull it off. And not only because I like Rage's music (and their politics) rather better than anything ever likely to be aired at primetime on ITV.

I'd like to be a fly on the wall of those TV and radio boardrooms where it's discussed whether or not to play the Christmas chart-topper.

And if they do, whether to cover it in bleeps or fade it out early. Which would be a shame.

It's a pity Susan Boyle hasn't been persuaded to cover anything by The Sex Pistols or The Dead Kennedys. Her take on Let's Lynch The Landlord or Anarchy In The UK (which, incidentally, is a lot less anarchic than Killing In The Name) would surely have been pure Christmas gold.

In the absence of that, I'm rooting for Rage to hit the festive jackpot.

But isn't there just a shred of irony in being told to go out (or, rather, stay in) and buy a track whose most notable and repeated lyric is a forthright refusal to “do what you tell me”?

Or, indeed, as the (no) pressure group's neat slogan has it: “**** you, I won't buy what you sell me.”

The curious incident of the deer in the night-time:-

THE barking in the night was insistent, faintly mysterious, almost haunting.

It seemed to come from somewhere among the town streets, then in the wood behind the house, where it was answered by another bark. An almost identical sound, to human ears at least.

For a time the two voices seemed to echo each other, speaking to one another. And then together they moved away, leaving the night to the owls.

It was a very distinctive bark. One I'd heard before when lying awake, as now.

What creature was it? Not a dog - if it had been, mine would have been yelling his head off in affronted response. And not at all the same tone as a fox either.

From somewhere the words “barking deer” came into my half-asleep brain. And from there it became a quick and simple matter to identify the sound the next morning, thanks to the wonders of the internet.

To hear what I heard in the night, visit NickPenny.com, click on his Sound Diary 2008 and look for the muntjac.

Even as an audio file the barking deer makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. But what a wonderful illustration of the fact that even in town we share our world with the wild things.

The muntjac is only here because people brought it here from China. But since escaping from Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in about 1925, it has done very well all across southern England.

Numbers are increasing apace. I've caught occasional glimpses of the little deer among the trees in Rendlesham Forest.

On one memorable occasion I stood and watched one watching me for a good minute or two in the woods near Dunwich. Only as I raised my camera did it disappear like smoke, as if it had never been.

But I didn't realise until now how often I'd heard muntjacs calling. Or how close to my home they make theirs.

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