Pop mogul Simon Cowell said he was “gutted” at losing the battle for Christmas number one today as Rage Against The Machine beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry in the fight for the top spot.
The rap metal act saw their expletive-ridden 1992 hit Killing in the Name sell 500,000 copies in one week and become the first ever Christmas number one that was available only through downloads.
McElderry’s The Climb chalked up sales of 450,000, meaning a bonanza week for record company Sony and retailers.
The 18-year-old took his defeat graciously, saying: “Fair play to the guys who have organised the Facebook campaign – it’s been exciting to be part of a much-hyped battle and they definitely deserve congratulations.”
Thanking all the fans who bought his single, he went on: “This time last year I never thought for one minute that I’d win The X Factor, never mind about having a debut single out, so I’m just delighted to be in the charts.
“It’s been such an incredible couple of months and I got the best Christmas gift I could ever have asked for in winning The X Factor.”
Pop mogul Cowell offered his congratulations to the couple behind the campaign, Jon and Tracy Morter.
He said: “I am gutted for Joe because a number one single meant a lot to him but I have to congratulate Jon and Tracy, who started the Facebook campaign.
“I called Jon on Saturday to congratulate the two of them that, win or lose, they turned this into a very exciting race for the Christmas number one. I am proud of Joe – he worked really hard this week, but he has a great year ahead of him.”
In a phone interview for BBC Radio One’s Chart Show, Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine said the band were “very ecstatic”.
He went on: “It says more about the spontaneous action taken by young people throughout the UK to topple this very sterile pop monopoly and less about the song and the band. We are very proud to have had the song chosen as the vehicle by which to do this.”
A “large portion” of the proceeds from the single will go to homeless charity Shelter, de la Rocha said.
He added: “We would like to congratulate Joe and Simon for having the number two single in the Christmas charts.”
The band plan to stage a free gig in the UK next year to celebrate.
Mr Morter said his victory was “pretty amazing”.
He said: “It’s yet to sink in. we just got our heads down and gave it a try and we’ve pulled it off and it’s fantastic, brilliant.”
On Friday Rage Against The Machine’s lead was just 9,000 copies, but sales then soared by 200,000 to secure victory.
Official Charts Company managing director Martin Talbot said: “Congratulations to Rage Against The Machine on their number one – as we have seen in recent years, overhauling any X Factor winner in the race for the Christmas number one is no mean achievement. The popular support we have seen for the record this week has been truly amazing – and handed them two all-time records.
“But congratulations too should also go to Joe McElderry. In taking the number two spot, he has still achieved one of the highest weekly sales of any single this year – in almost any other year, 450,000 copies would have given him the Christmas number one.
“Through this week, these two tracks have accounted for more than 950,000 single sales, a fact which is truly remarkable.”
Gennaro Castaldo, from high street retailer HMV, said the bad weather could have prevented McElderry fans getting to the shops to buy his CD.
He went on: “This is a truly remarkable outcome – possibly the greatest chart upset ever. Everyone thought the momentum was with Joe going into the weekend, but, clearly, off the radar a whole load of people were downloading the Rage track right up to the last minute as they sensed they might pull off a shock.
“Rage Against The Machine may not be the ideal expression of the Christmas spirit – and many people will have preferred a more appropriate song to top the festive charts, but their anti-corporate message proved a perfect vehicle through which to register such a powerful protest.”