si_fuller (si_fuller) wrote,

Hottest 100 - Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil

Ranked # 97 Hottest Song of All Time, released in 1987. Here’s another Singstar song, one I can’t do to save my life. There’s something about Peter Garrett’s lyrics that defy tone repetition. Ah, remember Peter Garrett? He used to be an activist, standing up for the rights of Aboriginal people and the environment. Which is what this song was about. A lot of his songs were about that sort of thing. This music poll came out after he had become the Honourable Member for Kingsford Smith under the Labor party, but before it became blindingly obvious that he’d sold out all of his principles and that he wasn’t actually a very good politician. I mean, joining the Labor party was a big hint of course, but the full extent of his descent into the abyss hadn’t yet been revealed. I wonder if this song would have made it onto the list if the poll were run today? And had the poll been run before he joined Labor, would it have ended up higher?

That said, this song isn’t about the environment, or uranium, or electrified ceilings. It’s about the Pintupi Aboriginal people, who have not been disserviced by the Honourable Member so far. The Pintupi are pretty interesting. They lived a more-or-less traditional lifestyle out in the desert right up until the 1960s, when the remainder that hadn’t left of their own free will were forced oh-so-lovingly by the Menzies government to settle at Papunya, an Aboriginal reserve filled with all sorts of disparate Aboriginal groups who had likewise been booted off their land. There they were to be re-educated prior to assimilation into white Australia. It’s not so easy to live next door to people who have traditionally been at war with you for ten thousand years or so. Being forced to what is essentially a foreign country and being told to forget everything you know and love is bad enough, but one in six residents ended up dying of preventable and treatable diseases in the first half decade alone. So in 1981 a large number of Pintupi said bugger this, and moved a good distance west to what they saw as their home country, and founded the settlement of Kintore, known to them as Walungurru. And that’s what the song is about.

Midnight Oil is one of the great Australian bands of course. And this is one of their best songs. Such a band couldn’t exist today, which is sad. Maybe when the oligarchy of the music industry giants is finally crushed, meaningful and passionate music will blossom again. In the meantime, dwell on this: the name Midnight Oil was one of several the band was considering. They wrote all the names on scraps of paper and drew one out of a hat. Just think, they might have ended up being called Akubra Size 7.

Tags: hottest 100, music, review, triple j
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