Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Songoftheday 1/20/16 - Out where the river broke the bloodwood and the desert oak...


"Beds Are Burning" - Midnight Oil
from the album Diesel And Dust (1987)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #17 (one week)
Weeks in the Top-40: 9

Today's song of the day comes from the Australian rock band Midnight Oil, who came together in Sydney in the mid 70s, changing their name from The Farm after adding lead singer Peter Garrett. Releasing their self-titled debut album in 1978, they snuck on to their national singles chart at #100 with "Run By Night". Heralded for their live act, their albums sold well, and they finally cracked the top-40 in 1980 with their EP Bird Noises. With a rawer sound and more incendiary lyrics than their more popular peers INXS and Icehouse, nevertheless their audience kept growing, and in 1982, they broke bigin their homeland, with album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and lead single "Power and the Passion" both reaching the top ten. A following EP Species Diseases was their first release to top the singles chart (In Australia, "extended play" mini-albums of a few songs were counted as "singles"). Along with their politically charged music and videos, Garrett also started to become heavily involved in Australian politics, running for office as early as 1984.

The band reached their crest with the release of their sixth studio album Diesel And Dust in 1987. While in Australia, their first single "The Dead Heart" nabbed them their highest-charting hit in their country at #4, it was second track "Beds Are Burning" that broke them worldwide. Also delving into the national issue of the treatment of aboriginal peoples of the country, the song name-checked a lot of locally news-worthy things that would have never been exposed worldwide. And the song, which rides on an infectious bed of bass guitar and low rhythms, with its lyrics of shame over the plight of the native population, is something American rock rarely touched itself...


"Beds Are Burning" became Midnight Oil's sole top-40 pop hit, reaching the top 20 in July of 1988. The record also climbed to #6 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock radio chart, while the extended version made it to #20 on their Dance Club Play list. Internationally, besides peaking at #6 in Australia, it topped out at the same rank in the UK, went to #3 in the Netherlands, #5 in France, and went all the way to #1 in Canada, South Africa, and their neighboring New Zealand.

After "The Dead Heart" was released as a follow-up and rose to #53 on the American pop and #11 on the American rock charts, the band toured worldwide, taking up with social and political causes like Greenpeace. In 1990, Midnight Oil released Blue Sky Mining, which also tackles heavy subjects, and the title track topped both the Mainstream and the newly-created Modern Rock charts in Billboard, while just missing the pop top-40 at #47 (it did hit #8 in Australia). Another track from the album, "Forgotten Years", also hit #1 on the Modern Rock list (#11 Mainstream as well). It took three more years before their next set, Earth And Sun and Moon, with controversial single "Truganini" reaching the top 10 on both the American rock charts and #10 in Australia (so far their most recent one). Two other tracks from the album, "Drums Of Heaven" and "Outbreak Of Love", made it to the Modern Rock top ten in the U.S. The band landed their latest top-40 hit in their home country in 1996 with "Underwater" (#22). After a one-off single in 2003, "No Man's Land", a minor hit in Australia, Midnight Oil called it quits for a while, reuniting in 2009 for live performances. Garrett has since become much more known as a politician, winning a seat in parliament, and since serving as a minister of various artistic and educational arms of the government.

(Click below to see the rest of the post)


Here's the band performing the song live in 1994...


and their MTV Unplugged session in 1993...


In 2004, German Eurodance act Novaspace went to #7 in that country and #2 in Austria with a club cover of the song...


Five years later, an array of musicians and politicians got together to release a charity single version of "Beds Are Burning" to raise awareness on Global Warming, that's better than I'd thought it'd be...


...and finally, back to the Midnight Oil on their reunion in 2009 for Sound Relief...


Up tomorrow: Metal kings with a sweet viscosity.

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