One Hit Wonders: Midnight Oil

Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil

I am including this song despite it reaching only #17 on the AT40. Despite being monsters in their native Australia, this is their only song to make any sort of dent on the American charts. The lead singer, Peter Garrett, quickly, albeit temporarily, became the most recognizable part of this band short lived 1988 success. His large frame, bald head, and jerky dance moves helped this song remain in high rotation on MTV. The band shines lyrically. The have used their talents and this musical medium to make people aware of political and social issues in Australia. This song won several Australian music awards in 1988 and discusses the touchy subject of the Australian indigenous population. In a nutshell, Australia was colonized by British who moved (or were sent) to the continent, lived on the land using the resources, and displaced those that were there first – sounds somewhat similar to what happened in the United States with the Native American population. Midnight Oil makes their stance on this issue very clear, pulling no punches:

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 belong to them
Let’s give it back

In case this is not clear enough, listen to the chorus, “How can we dance when our world is turning? / How do we sleep when out beds are burning?” While I like this song, it has never been one of my favorites. I bought the album with one of my penny purchase from Columbia house. I did not like the album much, but at least I did not pay the full price. I do admire the way Midnight Oil uses the their music to do more than just set a beat. They understand the power the medium has to influence people and change minds.

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