Midnight Oil are a legendary rock band from Australia with a career spanning three decades. They have a devoted fan base who refer to the band as 'The Oils'. Renowned for their unequalled live performances, the band released 14 albums and 2 EPs of exceptional quality.
The genesis of Midnight Oil started in 1970 when Jim Moginie (guitar/keyboard) and Andrew 'Bear' James (bass), both fifteen, jammed at the local hall in Turramurra, northern Sydney. Rob Hirst (drums/vocals) joined in 1971 and they played as Schwampy Moose, a cover band performing songs by The Beatles. By 1976 they had changed their name to Farm and decided they needed a singer. Rob placed an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald and Peter Garrett turned up for the audition. In 1976 they first met their long-time manager Gary Morris, who is treated as the sixth member of the band. Also in 1976 Farm expanded with the arrival of Martin Rotsey (guitar). They changed their name to Midnight Oil after it was drawn randomly out of a hat.
In 1978 the Oils released their self-titled debut album (sometimes called the 'Blue Meanie', a reference to the dark blue cover). The album was recorded in 10 days in post gig recording sessions. The album went gold in Australia and spawned the single Run By Night, which was played on radio 2JJ, the start of a long association between the band and the radio station.
1979 saw Midnight Oil release their second album, Head Injuries, produced by Les Karski. Two singles were released, Cold Cold Change and Back on the Borderline.
Andrew 'Bear' James left the band in April 1979. The rigorous touring schedule got to him. He was replaced by Peter Gifford.
In 1980 the band recorded Bird Noises, a four track EP, at The Music Farm in Byron Bay. One night during the recording sessions fellow Aussie rock band Cold Chisel dropped in and a legendary night of partying took place. Bird Noises contains the instrumental track Wedding Cake Island, named after an island of the coast of Sydney.
Place Without A Postcard
In 1981 the band recorded Place Without A Postcard with producer Glyn Johns at his studio in England. Two singles were released, Don't Wanna Be The One and Armistice Day.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
In 1982 with producer Nick Launay, the band recorded their breakthrough album, the classic 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, often called simply 10 to 1. The album stayed in the Australian charts for over two years, but never made it the number one position. Three singles were released: Power and the Passion, Read About It and US Forces.
Peter Garrett stands for Senate
In 1984 Peter Garrett stood for the Australian Senate on behalf of the NDP (Nuclear Disarmament Party). Although he received the most primary votes, the other parties shared preferences between them resulting in him missing out on a seat.
Red Sails in the Sunset
Even with Peter Garrett attempting to enter politics, the band still managed to find time to record Red Sails in the Sunset in Tokyo in 1984. This epic, highly produced album saw the release of no singles, however a music video was made for Best of both Worlds.
1985 saw the release of the Species Deceases, the bands second four track EP. It is a raw and powerful recording, put to tape virtually live in the studio with no overdubs or fancy production. All profits from the sale of Species are donated to a trust fund for promoting peace and disarmament.
Blackfella Whitefella Tour
In 1986, Midnight Oil were commissioned to write a song for the traditional owners of Uluru, a sacred monolith in the central desert of Australia. They submitted three songs, Beds Are Burning, Warakurna and The Dead Heart, the latter being chosen. During July, the Oils announced the Blackfella Whitefella tour with the Warumpi Band, a tour of remote Aboriginal communities in the outback. The tour was documented by Andrew McMillan in his book Strict Rules, which is out of print and very rare.
Diesel and Dust
The Blackfella Whitefella tour inspired the songs that became the Diesel and Dust album of 1987. The album became a hit worldwide, as was the single Beds Are Burning. It is the biggest selling album of their career, selling over two million copies.
Peter Gifford's health was deteriorating due to the rigours of touring and he resigned in 1987. He was replaced by Wayne 'Bones' Hillman on bass, after a recommendation from Neil Finn.
Blue Sky Mining
In 1990, the band followed up the success of Diesel with Blue Sky Mining. The lead single, Blue Sky Mine, dealt with the subject of asbestos not getting compensation from the mining companies.
The Exxon Protest Gig
As a protest about the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound in Alaska, the Oils played a concert outside the Exxon headquarters building in Manhattan, New York. The concert was spontaneously conducted on the back of a flat-back truck. The concert was successful in making a point to the world, and a video documentary on the concert was sold with all profits going to Greenpeace. 1991 was officially a year off for the band. Many benefit gigs were undertaken, and Peter Garrett did a stint as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
To be continued soon...
While you're waiting, check out these great Midnight Oil biographies on other websites:
- Official Midnight Oil website
- Powderworks Group
- Powderworks Archive
- 2001 - 2004