The song is widely known for its popular guitar solo containing a vinyl scratch effect used by Tom Morello, done by toggling between two pickups - one on and one off - while rubbing his hands on the strings over the pickups to create the effect that someone is scratching a vinyl disc. "Bulls on Parade" is also known for one of Tim Commerford's more famous bass solos, during the second wah-wah riff, and right before Morello's guitar solo. Morello has also stated that the sound he was going for was a "sort of 'Geto Boys' sound, menacing" with E♭ tuning and a wah-wah pedal to create a Los Angeles gangland-style riff.
"Bulls on Parade" made its live debut on January 25, 1996 at the Big Day Out festival in Sydney, Australia. The track then made its international debut on Saturday Night Live in April 1996. RATM was going to play two songs, but as they hung inverted American flags from their amplifiers, they were expelled from the building after finishing the first song.
At various shows, the band has dedicated the song to Tony Blair.
After breaking up in late 2000, the three instrumentalists formed the band Audioslave with vocalist Chris Cornell. During their 2005 Out of Exile tour, the band played an instrumental version of "Bulls on Parade", followed immediately by "Sleep Now in the Fire" with Chris Cornell.
The video contains footage from the SydneyBig Day Out (January 25, 1996) and their side show at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney (January 27, 1996). Throughout the video shots of young people protesting in the streets with political signs, military drills, flags, and other similar images are montaged together. An antique-style film is used which promotes scratches, dust and film grain. Several scenes show people wrapping Evil Empire banners on walls, telephone posts and posting up other propaganda posters designed by Barbara Kruger. There is a scene where a character wearing a black "Libertyville" jacket with a baseball cap is painted by the renowned Phantom Street Artist Joey Krebs who paints his iconoclastic figures on city walls. This is the actual portrait created by the street artist of Tom Morello himself. Various lyrics are flashed on top of these scenes in a scrawled sort of chicken-scratch throughout.
The song was voted number 15 on VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs. The song came in 46th place on the Triple J Hottest 100, 1996. The song came in at 89th place on the Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time in 2009. Its solo is also ranked 23° on Guitar World's 100 Greatest Solos list published in 2009.
It is the theme song for the defense of the NFL's Houston Texans, and is played in the stadium at home games to invigorate the crowd and players before games. The song has been officially endorsed by former Texans LB Connor Barwin.