Saturday, April 17, 2021

"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil

Song#:  3466
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  17
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band from Australia first formed in 1972 as a part-time covers band named Farm. Over the next few years, their popularity grew as did their sound and experience. They began to write their own songs and soon decided to pursue the band full-time. In '76, the band chose to change their name to Midnight Oil, form their own record label, and record a self-titled debut album. It was issued out in '78 and it made the Aussie chart at #43. A second LP, Head Injuries, came out the following year and got to #36. Their growing popularity prompted CBS Records to pick up the band. With a bit more promo power behind them, their third album, Place Without a Postcard, spawned a pair of Top 40 singles and got to #12, but it would be their fourth effort, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 that made them stars in Australia. It got to #3 thanks to their first Top 10 hit, the #8 "Power and the Passion." Its success spurred a US release and it charted at #178. In '84, Red Sails in the Sunset would be their first Aussie #1 (#177 US). They finally broke through in a more international way with their sixth album Diesel and Dust. At home the LP would hit #1 and spawn two Top 10 hits including this single, which was the first one released in the US. It would easily get to #6 at Rock. While it was climbing that chart, the tune crossed over to Pop and made its way up the chart nearly cracking the Top 10. The hit helped the album get to #21. It would eventually become a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I'm fairly certain that many folks in the US had no idea what this song was really about when it came out. I admit that I didn't. Australian history wasn't a top priority in my little farm school. Still, the hard charging track struck a chord with people even if they didn't understand lines like "from Kintore east to Yuendmu." In addition to the hooky chorus, the unmistakable voice of lead singer Peter Garrett certainly made this track stand out. Although I didn't know what the lyrics were truly about, I knew the song was important. There was a powerful feel to the track that commanded attention. It was like a rallying cry. The fact that this political Aussie-centric tune became a hit in America was pretty remarkable, but then again, we could/should relate. We have our own ugly past here in the US and I'm sure many folks recognized our own history in the lyrics. The album was just as powerful and it still resonates today.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Midnight Oil were known for incorporating political and environmental issues in their songs, but it was Diesel and Dust that became their most powerful statement. The idea for the conceptual album came about when the band did a tour of the Australian Outback and performed for Aboriginal communities. Seeing the condition of the places and people that had been forcibly removed from their lands to these remote places spurred the band to write about the treatment of native Australians. The LP contained themes about recognizing the awful mistakes of the past, the ongoing poor treatment of native Australians, and for joining together. "Beds Are Burning" was a call to give land back to the Pintupi, a Western Australia Aboriginal group forced to move in the 60s with the intent to try and assimilate the traditional living people into white society. Most of the Pintupi people ended up in the Papunya government settlement where other Aboriginal groups were also forced to go. Poor living conditions and disease was common and young children were removed from their parent's care and transferred to institutions and orphanages. In recent decades, there has been more of a focus on Ingeniousness rights, but problems and prejudices still exist.


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