*UPDATED 20/12/2009* Rage Against The Machine have landed the UK Christmas Number 1...

Gordon Ring Fiddling (yes, he's changed his photo, but he'll always be the ring fiddler to me) Smart received a phone call yesterday from Simon Cowell, who took a few moments out of his day, which currently entails holidaying in the Caribbean, to complain about/draw further attention to the Christmas Number 1 race between Joe McElderry and Rage Against The Machine ('cause God forbid the papers give Tiger Wood's more coverage)

"All these musical snobs have ganged up against Joe. If you take me out of the equation, you have a teenager with his first single being attacked by a huge hate mob on Facebook. It almost feels like a little kid being bullied. It feels like a spiteful campaign aimed at an 18-year-old who won a talent competition. It's David versus Goliath and it's not fair on Joe. It's getting out of hand (AND YOU LOOOOVE IT). One part of me says, 'good for you guys for bringing on some competition' (if you call label mates racing to number one through a publicity stunt to lure in the people who usually scoff at / actively ignore the usual short list for Christmas number 1 "competition"). The other part isn't sure about the point they are trying to make (um, that you're a machine that your common record company has asked them to "rage" against so they can, in turn, attain global domination). I think they've got a shot at making No1 (QUICK! Everyone freak out and buy loads of whoever you back). The retail numbers are very, very encouraging for us (the gap between RATM and Joe has narrowed from 65,000 to 37,000) but this Rage record now has a momentum of its own."

Cheryl, meanwhile, had some nationalistic messages to burble: "I would be devastated to see Joe lose out. He put his heart and soul into every single week of The X Factor. I cannot bear to see him lose to a mean campaign that has nothing to do with his efforts. If that song, or should I say campaign, by an American group (ah, careful now, don't forget you're attempting to crack America in the New Year) is our Christmas No1 I'll be gutted for him and our charts." Gutted for the charts? At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged crone - the charts haven't been consistently decent since the mid-90s thanks to the likes of Cowell.

Zack De La Rocha of RATM has, naturally, come across his own sentiments: "Simon is an interesting character. He seems to have profited greatly off humiliating people on live television and has a unique position of capturing the attention of people on television, but also the airwaves. We see this as a necessary break of that control." As well as a lively way of lining our pockets and that of our record company? And sure why not. It's Christmas. A time when we'll by any ole crap. And the machine rages on.

As for this year's wee pawn, he obviously didn't get the brief Simon sent to Cheryl about playing the bullying card: "I'm not seeing it as a personal attack, it's more against The X Factor than the actual winner. It is a chart battle at the end of the day - it's just more documented than normal. I can't do anything about it, I can't exactly go and buy so many singles to make it number one. It's out of my hands."