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Music / Midnight Oil

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How can we dance when our earth is turning? L-R: Martin, Bones, Jim, Peter, Rob
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
"Beds Are Burning"

Midnight Oil are an Australian Hard Rock/Alternative Rock band. They were formed in the early 1970s as Farm, releasing their first album (after becoming Midnight Oil) in 1978. They soon went on to become one of the most popular bands in Australia, with one album staying on the Australian charts for nearly two years. Outside Australia and New Zealand, they are known for one or two songs at most (usually "Beds Are Burning", at most "Blue Sky Mine" too). They parted ways in 2002, but reunited in 2005 and 2009 for benefit concerts. The band regrouped in 2017 for a world tour.

Most of their songs focus heavily on social criticism/commentary, with a leftist point of view — they support environmentalism and worker's rights, are opposed to colonialism, and have taken stands against Australian mistreatment of their Aboriginal population. The band's lead singer, Peter Garrett, served as Australia's Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts from 2007 to 2010; and as Minster for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth from 2010 to 2013. He'd run for office before, though, during his tenure with the band.

Their 1987 album Diesel and Dust is considered the best Australian album.


Current Lineup:

  • Peter Garrett: Lead vocals, harmonica, and sometimes synthesizer during the band's days as Farm (19762002, 2016)
  • Rob Hirst: Drums, percussion, backing vocalsnote  (19762002, 2016)
  • Jim Moginie: Guitar, keyboards (19762002, 2016)
  • Martin Rotsey: Guitarnote  (19772002, 2016)

Former members (pre-1987):

  • Andrew "Bear" James: Bass (197680); quit due to health issues.
  • Peter Gifford: Bass, backing vocals (198087); quit after the recording of Diesel And Dust due to the touring schedule being too stressful.
  • Bones Hillman: Bass, backing vocals (19872002, 20162020, died 2020)


  • 1978 — Midnight Oil
  • 1979 — Head Injuries
  • 1980 — Bird Noises (EP)
  • 1981 — Place Without a Postcard
  • 1982 — 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  • 1984 — Red Sails in the Sunset
  • 1985 — Species Deceases (EP)
  • 1987 — Diesel and Dust
  • 1990 — Blue Sky Mining
  • 1993 — Earth and Sun and Moon
  • 1996 — Breathe
  • 1997 — 20,000 Watt RSL - A Greatest Hits Album with two songs from the then-upcoming Redneck Wonderland ("What Goes On" and "White Skin Black Heart")
  • 1998 — Redneck Wonderland
  • 2000 — The Real Thing - A stop gap release consisting of ten live tracks from two different shows and four previously unreleased studio tracks
  • 2002 — Capricornia
  • 2006 — Flat Chat - Another "Greatest Hits"
  • 2012 — Essential Oils - Yet another "Greatest Hits"
  • 2018 — Armistice Day: Live at the Domain, Sydney - A live album from their 2017 reunion tour
  • 2020 — The Makarrata Project - The band's first studio album in 18 years and a collaboration with various Aboriginal musicians
  • 2022 — Resist - announced as the band's final album

Midnight Oil's music has examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: The cover of Red Sails In The Sunset is Sydney Harbour if it was hit by a nuclear bomb.
  • Album Title Drop: Seven total across their career.
    • Place Without A Postcard: "Brave Faces"
    • Species Deceases EP: "Pictures"
    • Diesel And Dust: "Warakurna"
    • Blue Sky Mining: "Blue Sky Mine" (appropriately)
    • Earth And Sun And Moon, Redneck Wonderland and Capricornia all have a Title Track.
    • Flat Chat : Comes from a word in the song "Power and the Passion" which is on this collection. "flat chat, Pine Gap, in every home a big mac and no one goes out back, that's that"
  • Angrish: Some parts of a few songs on Redneck Wonderland are pretty much incomprehensible, and the lyrics aren't found in the booklet, nor are they deciphered by most fan sites.
  • Church of Happyology: "U.S. Forces" took a shot at L. Ron Hubbard.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: With race rather than gender — Indigenous Australian group Southeast Desert Metal's cover version of "Beds Are Burning" some lines to shift the song to an Indigenous perspective:
    • Original:
    The time has come, to say "Fair's fair",
    To pay the rent, to pay our share
    The time has come, a fact's a fact,
    It belongs to them, let's give it back!
    • Cover:
    The time has come, to say "Fair's fair",
    To pay the rent, to pay your share
    The time has come, a fact's a fact,
    It belongs to us, now give it back!
  • Creator Provincialism: The band took longer to break through internationally compared to their contemporaries because the Australian political references went over a lot of listeners' heads who were not from down under.
  • Determinator: A common theme in several songs is not giving up in the face of greatest adversity.
  • Epic Rocking: "Nothing Lost Nothing Gained", "Jimmy Sharman's Boxers"
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Read About it". It doesn't fade as such, but appears to end. Then, after quite a long pause, comes back with a reprise of the first verse.
    • Also completely inverted with "Somebody's Trying to Tell Me Something" at the end of the same album. The original vinyl record ended with a run-out groove so that the final note and lyric ("down") was held indefinitely until the listener pulled the needle off the record. On the CD version, it runs for about 40 seconds and makes the listener simply think that something's wrong with their player, up until the Letting the Air out of the Band moment occurs.
  • Gratuitous Panning: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 had this in many places.
  • Green Aesop: Many of their songs deal with environmental issues.
  • Horrible History Metal: "Forgotten Years" is about World War I.
  • Incredibly Long Note: "Somebody's Trying to Tell Me Something" has this at the end of the song, cut into the run-out groove on vinyl pressings so it will go on forever until you lift the tonearm if your turntable doesn't have an auto-return.
  • Large and in Charge: Peter Garrett is the lead singer and stands 6'4.
  • Last Note Hilarity: "Don't Wanna Be the One" ends with a comical grunt from Garrett.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Once Peter Gifford left, the band never changed, even with the break-up in-between. The only real change was his replacement dying in 2020.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "A Crocodile Cries" from Capricornia.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: "My Country", not surprisingly, takes shots at people who think this way. And prominently features the name of this trope in the chorus.
  • New Sound Album: Many. Redneck Wonderland in particular has electronica-like tracks that are quite jarring compared to their previous work.
  • Precision F-Strike: The first line of the first song on the first album:
    • "Brave Faces":
  • Protest Song: Most of Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining, among others.
  • Renaissance Man: Well, they have a song called this, anyway.
  • Scenery Gorn: Red Sails on the Sunset has a cover with Sydney destroyed by a nuclear strike a la Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Drummer Rob Hirst sings lead vocals on "When the Generals Talk" and "Kosciusko" from Red Sails in the Sunset.
  • Subdued Section: "US Forces" has very few instruments while Garrett spews the lyrics.
  • Take That!: A lot (almost all?) of their songs are criticizing someone or something.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Played straight and averted, sometimes within the span of a few tracks on one album.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Especially to non-Australians, a lot of references in their songs come off as pretty obscure or highbrow.
    "Above we dream in Andropovosphere" ("Whoah")
    "Phar Lap floating in a jar" ("Minutes to Midnight")
    "Set up those gunsights in H.G. Wells' backyard" (also "Minutes to Midnight")
    "L. Ron Hubbard can't save your life, Superboy takes a plutonium wife" ("U.S. Forces")
    "There's no one on the Reeperbahn" ("Mountains of Burma")
    "The triumphalist and narcissist are joined ear and hip and phone, they're worshipping their chrome" ("Blot")
  • We Have Become Complacent: "Power and the Passion" is a protest regarding the perceived apathy among Australians, even featuring a call to arms quoted from Zapata ("It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees").