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2020 Album Draft- Round 9 Pick 8- Dave A Sound Day selects Midnight Oil- Diesel And Dust.

It’s getting to the “interesting” part of this 100 album draft arranged by Hanspostcard. Interesting because many of us have picked some obscure albums in the last couple of rounds, exposing us to some new records and in a few cases, even artists who are new to us, and interesting as in “frustrating.” Frustrating to me at least, because as we go into Round 9, well, there are just too many great albums to narrow it down so much! I have had my tenth and final pick tentatively picked for a few weeks so Round 9 means I had to opt for a final album out of …many. So many. I had a list of at least half a dozen I wanted to do, and even had this round’s half-written about another album before changing my mind yet again. **Spoiler Alert** – there are rumblings of an extra bonus round or two for specific categories, stay tuned to find out more from Hans if that happens, so a little strategy played into it as well. If I leave “this artist” out now, I might be able to bring them back in an extra round and go for a different album this time sort of thing.

CD] Midnight Oil

Anyway, there are many, many albums I’d like to recommend and rave about still, but for this round I’m going with the great rock and roll album of the 1980s, Midnight Oil ‘s Diesel and Dust. Forget Motley Crue and Ratt, this was the tour de force hardcore rock album of the era.

It was the Aussie’s sixth album, and one much-awaited Down Under., I’m sure. By 1987, they were already immensely popular there, their previous album being a #1 hit in their homeland. But over here, not so much. Perhaps they caught a break with the timing. As The Simpsons once spoofed, in the ’80s North America had a brief infatuation with all things Australian – Crocodile Dundee, Men At Work, Yahoo Serious, Fosters beer, vegemite sandwiches. All good fun but a little lightweight. “They’re Australian too,like Men At Work. And Elle McPherson,” one can imagine Columbia Records execs telling American radio people in the day. Yes they were, but they were anything but lightweight!

Strict Rules: The iconic story of the tour that shaped Midnight Oil | Loud  Mouth - The Music Trust Ezine

Midnight Oil had always been a rock band, and a political one to boot. But things really ramped up for them when they toured much of the Outback with a number of Black Aboroginal artists in the mid-’80s, seeing the conditions in the small towns and reservation-like land holdings and hearing the story. The result was Diesel and Dust, an album Rolling Stone declared was “the last word in rock and roll road songs”, a package that “roars and throbs like the giant double-trailer trucks that chew up the asphalt ribbons” that straddle the endless desert miles of the island continent. They also picked it as the best album of the year.I figured I’d need at least one upbeat, high- energy record to get me up. out of the hammock and moving on that island, and this is a good one. Nay, a great one.

The ten songs all bubble with energy, even the relatively slowish few like “Arctic World” and “Whoah”, a song kicked off with an acoustic guitar intro that moves from lulling you to sleep to kicking you await and seethes with pent-up energy and anger one feels is about to break loose any moment. Even the chorus with its harmonic lullaby-like “Whoah”s is challenged by singer Peter Garrett’s sneering “don’t want to see you around” .

The best tracks though are full-tilt rockers like “Bullroarer”, “The Dead Heart” and of course, the international hit single, “Beds Are Burning.” A “Bullroarer” is actually an ancient tribal instrument, played by swinging it around over one’s head (shows how much I knew about Australia… I used to assume it was another name for a Bulldozer!) that can be heard at the start of the song telling people “don’t take the law into your own hands, don’t go looking for a fight” before kicking into a chorus that dares you not to join in. The song ends with some nice jangly guitars, reminding me of how Pop Matters rated the album 9 out of 10 and compared it to “punk-informed fire by way of a little REM jangle.” Not a bad description for the song, or the album in general. Two of the finest musical movements of the previous decade rolled into one booming sonic kaleidoscope.

“ Beds Are Burning,” as Jim Harrington, a California journalist noted, is “an all-time modern rock anthem” which let “the rest of the world get the picture” of what Australians knew, that Midnight Oil was their most political, and best, rock band. It roared onto the North American airwaves and TV screens in the desert-like summer of ’88 (the line “the western desert lives and breathes at 45 degrees” seemed very fitting to me, and many on our side of the ocean that year, as it was an abnormally hot summer. 45 degrees, by the way, would be about 113 over here…Australia use Metric.) The song, and the album as a whole captured that Australian heat and burning energy emphatically. In fact, emphatic seems to be a good phrase to sum up the album. And catchy, hook-laden too.

The lyrics tend to be political, and often Australian-specific, but on a broader level apply the world over. Again referring to Pop Matters , they mention retrospectively how “’the Dead Heart’ conveys sentiments that feel all too relevant in today’s globalized economies : ‘mining companies, pastoral companies, uranium companies, collected companies, got more rights than people, got more say than people.” I have to agree with that, and while I’m not up on all the issues the Oil address in the songs, and might even find things to disagree with Garrett over, here and there if I were, it’s hard to dislike a message delivered so passionately. They kept the main thing about being a political band front and center on Diesel and Dust – that the music has to be the main thing above the message. When the lines became blurry for Garrett, to his great credit, he quit the band and decided to go into politics himself to work for changeoff-stage. He was elected three times to the Aussie government and was even Minister of Environment, as well as Minister in charge of Education for the country at times. If anyone can ignore or disrespect that, it’s beyond me how. Eventually he got tired of the politics of , well, politics, and restarted Midnight Oil not long ago.

Emphatic. Urgent. Rockin’. And Australian… what could be more appropriate for a record to take to a “desert island” than a fine example of music made on an island that is largely desert?

Diesel and Dust . Listen. Dance along. Shout along. I regret about six or seven albums I won’t name right now that aren’t here… but this album was very deserving of a top ten list.


  1. I’m definitely familiar with Beds are Burning, but their other songs no. I’m stunned they’ve been around so long and I know so little about them. I love their activism and passion for being heard, including Garrett’s service in government. I’ll be paying attention now when I hear their name.

    • They’ve not gotten much attention over here (in U.S., in Canada a little better known but not by much) so you’re probably the norm rather than a minority in only knowing the one song.
      I admire Garrett a lot for putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak and working for what he believed in for so long in government.

  2. Dave I can totally relate to how difficult it is to decide on the last one (since you already chose #10 this is your last one) as I’m still vacillating on it. No way around leaving some good’ns behind.

    That said, I *LOVE* your choice in Midnight Oil. I have this one, Blue Sky Mining, and Moon & Stars and love all 3 of them. You’re right on with political commentary being #1 with them, but running neck and neck is the pure delight of their musicianship. They mesh with each other so well but each voice is also heard. I had read about Garrett but hadn’t heard he’d left it and relit MO. Awesome! Wonderful write-up on a great addition to the desert island draft!

    • Thank you! I had/have ‘Blue Sky Mining’ too (I’ve bought it a couple of times, I lost almost all my CDs about 10 years back but I think I’ve re-bought but it’s in storage… put quite a few books and CDs into storage when we moved about two years back… I need to go to that storage area and see what all’s there!) , also had a CD single of “Trugiami” (sp?), and I have their greatest hits. All pretty solid albums.
      I bet we’re all in the same boat, having to jettison some albums we really like a lot… for me, the last few picks have come down to pick a great album (which I think I have) or go for a very good one from an artist with a better body of work but maybe no one standout album.

  3. I get that many don’t like politics or social justice issues mixed with their music, but I’m all for it. If I like the music, I’ll listen. And, the 80’s were pretty strong for that with Midnight Oil, U2, Sting, Bruce, etc. As an average kid from flyover America, this album was the first I’d heard of the issues of Aborigines people. Honestly, I didn’t even know who they were. 17-year-old me: “Wow, you mean the U.S. isn’t the only place where these injustices happen??” I’ve had this album on cassette and CD.

    Random personal story: I stayed with my brother here in Dallas in the summer of 1988, many years before I moved here. A local radio station sponsored a free outdoor concert series in a now mostly defunct shopping/restaurant district downtown called Dallas Alley, and Midnight Oil played one night. I went with my girlfriend at the time, and it was of course great. The only thing I could see of the stage was Peter Garrett’s shiny head bobbing back and forth. Also in attendance was the girl who I would marry 26 years later (not the girl I was with).

    • Wow, that would have been neat! Such a cool relic from the old days, so to speak… I saw REM in a free concert on the street in Toronto in 2001. I’m sure a few months later, after 9-11, we’d never have had that happen and probably won’t see the type of event again, unfortunately.
      I like artists who make their point and are political, but it certainly is a risk as it can alienate (thankfully I never did like Ted Nugent’s wango tango-ey stuff anyway, but it would be tough for me if I had…but we won’t go there right now!)

  4. This band definitely stood for something whether people agreed with it or not. I’ve never heard the complete album but I have heard some cuts from it…really good.
    Like Introgroove said if I like the music…then I’ll listen…and I like what I’ve heard from them. Good write-up Dave as always.

    • Thank you! It’s a very good album, and yeah, I like that they have a message and shouted it. It worked well for Peter, with the music making him known and probably getting a number of people to become more aware and get involved, then, when he took it as far as he could musically, it was a platform to launch him into public service.

  5. Love Midnight Oil and this album. I saw them in concert in the 90’s- they were terrific. They toured a few years ago but didn’t come anywhere near me which disappointed me. Would love to see them again.

    • they seem like a band that would be very good, dynamic , in concert. They played Toronto a few times back in that era, but I never saw them, would have been a show I would have liked to see.

  6. Midnight oil were very big in the day along with The Angels, ACDC just to name a few. In the day, if you didn’t have midnight oil in your collection you weren’t cool. I can still remember my mates and I heading down town to see them play in the local in and others places. Peter Garret really put on a top level stag show along with the great music.
    I don’t feel it was so much the political message that people liked back then, just the great music.
    PS: Bull roarers also known as the bush telephone were manly used for communications. If a man wanted to hunt on another tribes territory, he would stand at the edge roaring to let the tribe know he was there and he would then get permission. If he didn’t there were consequences. Also used as a toy and to scare animals into flight and sometimes ambushes. They were a very intelligent people living a simplistic life. Sometimes I think they had life down pat, and we’ve got it all wrong.

    • wow, that’s some cool memories and thanks for the info on the bullroarers too! That’s rather interesting. I know some complained about Midnight Oil (aka, Whites) using them in the record, but I think if they look at the context, they’d see it was a tribute and way of informing not stealing another’s culture.
      You’re right that people will go to see a band or buy the disc because of the music. That’s got to be foremost, as it is with them. You can have a great political message but if you can’t play instruments or put together a melody, who wants to hear it?

  7. I love “Beds are Burning” too. I have done the whole trip through the outback thing. Took me weeks to get the red dust from my backpack. One of our worst experiences at the time (in the early nineties) was witnessing two indigenous youngsters, who seemed to have been fiercely ordered off the bus in the middle of nowhere. I awoke in the middle of the incident to find my friend crying at what she had witnessed. So I cannot speak to exactly what happened. I have to say two of my favourite Australians are both indigenous – Cathy Freeman and Yvonne Cawley, who had captured my heart the first time she had ever played at Wimbledon. I spent a while deep in the outback Every rock and every creature has great significance. Our coach party had provoked ire at one point, as despite being warned, one of the group had pulled out a camera. Australian indigenous people or at least some of our indigenous people believe, taking a photo is akin to stealing somebody’s soul. Being a family historian, part of me agrees with them.

    • Wow, that would’ve been an interesting trip- thank you for sharing it! Australia’s always looked fascinating to me, and I think the thing that strikes me from my high school studies (about the extent of it) is how there’s so much desert and such a thin little strip of lushly vegetated coastline, and of course, the resultant contrast in population densities. A film I saw dealing with Aborigines and their plight was ‘Rabbit Proof Fence”… it was quite good and showed me part of that country’s history I knew nothing of.

    • Through the current situation people here have really tried to protect our indigenous population. The northern territory shut their borders and did their best to protect the indigenous population there. Things are always different when you are there but from where I am, I was pleased to see that protecting our indigenous people appears to have been made a priority. Indigenous incarceration rates is a complex issue. I know it is extremely high. My youngsters had a talk given at school once given by an indigenous Australian. I have studied the rates as part of my legal studies. My son also lived and worked in an indigenous community for a few weeks on a school trip. Australia still has a way to go when it comes to understanding and supporting our indigenous population but one amazing event in my time here has been when the country as a whole apologised for the Stolen Generation. Peter Garrett was a government minister here for a while. From memory he was part of that.

  8. Nice pick Dave. I’ve always loved ‘Beds Are Burning’, and am familiar with a few of their songs like the wonderful ‘The Dead Heart’ and ‘Blue Sky Mine’, but have never heard this full album. I love their songwriting, colorful instrumentation and signature jangly guitars, not to mention Peter Garrett’s distinctive vocals, so will definitely give ‘Diesel and Dust’ and more of their albums a listen.

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