Beds Are Burning
Although 80’s pop and metal is what many most readily recall when reliving the period through its music, throughout the tumultuous years that bookmarked Ronald Reagan’s reign, whose history was largely rewritten by conservatives and the complicit corporate media he created, there were voices of dissent, even in popular music. One of them, one I consider most interesting of 80’s rockers, heralded from “down under” and was fronted by a singer who seemed to have an identity crisis.
Midnight Oil was politically outspoken throughout its career. Its singer, Peter Garrett, ran for office under the Nuclear Disarmament Ticket, even as he recorded and performed with the band. They were innovative, thought-provoking and could lay down bass grooves that supported memorable “hooks,” transforming choruses into chants audiences found hard to resist.
Garrett growled, straining and twisting lyrics. He frequently experimented with different emphasis. As a result, his vocals could sound somewhat tortured, which truly fit many of the band’s lyrical references. “The Oil” played music that made you think– But you could dance to it. Garrett’s gangly, contorted, no-holds-barred moves and bald before the look was common dome made the band stand far from ubiquitous hair and corporate bands of their day.
Their bio’s worth a read. And their live music still sounds current. Garrett quit the band in 2002 to pursue a political career. His has been a strange and interesting journey indeed.
This clip is probably their biggest hit (of several), performed on MTV’s old “Unplugged” series. The original music video released with the record, while dated, hearkens back to a time when music videos were actually produced to enhance a narrative or help visualize a concept other than, “Hey, we got a record contract.”