How many Rock songs are there about "aboriginal rights?" Midnight Oil not only
managed to do one but have a hit with it.
Guitarists Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey along with drummer Rob Hirst were the Farm. They advertised for a lead singer in a local newspaper and got a single response. That would be a fairly disappointing if the one respondent weren't law student Peter Garrett. Add Dwayne "Bones" Hillman on bass and Midnight Oil was in business. A keyboard player who didn't make the cut suggested the name.
Spending the late '70s performing regularly (five nights a week) Midnight Oil was rejected by all the major Australian record labels. Not deterred they started their own Powderworks label. They released three highly successfully Australia-only albums before signing a worldwide recording contract with CBS/Columbia. The group also became associated with several political causes including Greenpeace and the Tibet Council.
In '83 Midnight Oil toured the U.S. to support their highly acclaimed "Red Sails In The Sunset" album and later their breakthrough "10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1."
By '86, Midnight Oil was huge in their native land. "Their Diesel and Dust" CD was the fastest selling record in Australian history. From the album, "Beds Are Burning," a powerful aboriginal rights song, featured Garrett's stark vocals and a hard-charging rhythm section. The aborigines were and are the poorest Australian ethnic minority. They were run off their land by settlers and suffered constant mistreatment. And like the American Indian they were the only "true" natives. "Diesel & Dust" didn't appear on the U.S. album charts until the beginning of '88.
Midnight Oil left the road in the late '80s to concentrate on their next CD "Blue Sky Mining" which contained the title track, another socially conscious song, referring to blue asbestos cancer suffered by Western Australian miners.
The group's other '90s recordings "Earth & Sun" and "Redneck Wonderland" continued in the political vein but were less effective.
1978: Midnight Oil
1979: Head Injuries
1981: Place without a Postcard
1982: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
1984: Red Sails in the Sunset
1987: Diesel and Dust
1990: Blue Sky Mining
1993: Earth and Sun and Moon
1998: Redneck Wonderland
"10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1" is Midnight Oil's best album. Great songs and a lot of passion. "Diesel and Dust" and "Blue Sky Mining" are a close behind. Avoid the group's '90s output. "Scream In Blue" is a hard-hitting live album. "20,000 Watts R.S.L." culls outstanding tracks and is a decent place to start.