Meaning of “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine
In the song “Bulls on Parade”, the Grammy Award winning American rock band Rage Against the Machine rage against the military industrial complexes of the world. Their specific gripe is against tactics used by this industry to achieve the primary goal of all businesses, which is to stay profitable. They also highlight some of the realities of the United States being such an influential war machine.
You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Rage Against the Machine's Bulls on Parade at Lyrics.org.
However, the beginning of the first verse doesn’t seem to have anything to do with these topics at all. Rather it starts more like a rap song, with Zack de la Rocha basically boasting about his lyrical skill. But soon afterwards, he cleverly references the Pentagon and starts the aforementioned tirade. One of the primary causes of this outburst is his assertion that wars are being fought for money, and the resources invested in them can be better used elsewhere. He also alludes to the fact that there’s a lot more behind military conflicts than what appears on the surface, as in the rationales used to fight them.
The hook of the song sounds as if Zack is telling families to arm themselves. It is unclear what he means, as the statements are ambiguous and have been interpreted in a number of ways. However, in general, it plays into the theme of the song, which is the pervasiveness of war.
The same goes for the term “bulls”. Who he is referring to is a matter of minor debate. However, the main parallel to be drawn is between the aggressive nature of these animals and that of the powerbrokers who manage the powerful militaries we see today.
Facts about “Bulls on Parade”
- Writer(s): This song was written by members of Rage Against the Machine.
- Producer(s): In addition to composing this tune, the band also produced it. However, they handled the production with assistance from music producer Brendan O’Brien.
- Album/EP: This is the second track from Rage Against the Machine’s 1996 album Evil Empire, a term made famous by former US President Ronald Reagan.
- Release Date: “Bulls on Parade” was released officially on 16 April, 1996.
- Record Label: The label “Bulls on Parade” was released under is Epic Records.
- 1st Interesting Stuff: This track is famous for featuring a sound affect that sounds like the “scratching” commonly found in old school hip-hop yet was actually produced Rage’s guitarist Tom Morello without the use of vinyl.
- 2nd Interesting Stuff: Rage Against the Machine had a 1996 gig on sketch-comedy show “Saturday Night Live” abruptly cut in half due to political protests that erupted in relation to this song.
- 3rd Interesting Stuff: “Bulls on Parade” was ranked number 15 by VH1 on their 40 Greatest Metal Songs Ever list.
What musical genre is “Bulls on Parade”?
Since it uses elements of heavy metal music, alternative rock and slight traces of hip hop, it fits perfectly into the nu metal and hard rock genres.
Did “Bulls on Parade” win a Grammy?
No. It was however, nominated for a Grammy at the Grammy Awards of 1997 in the Best Hard Rock Performance category. It lost the award to The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”.