Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Re: Antarctica

Duane Heath duaneinsweden@hotmail.com
Thu, 06 Jun 2002 23:02:37 +0200

I agree with the views about Antarctica. I have lucid memories of listening
to the crescendo ("I'm a landslide humming, I'm a downhill running) on my
walkman sitting in a window seat of a muggy 767 circling Johannesburg in
1998, and looking out to heat haze, dry skies and red earth, tin townships
rusting under an iron sun, and having tears in my eyes as I returned 'home'
after two years away. The contrast to the world I saw outside, and the world
I imagined in my ears, was profound indeed. An experience I always recall
when listening to the song.
BSM remains probably my favourite album; memories of working for nothing in
a dusty surf shop in the summer of 1989, spending our salaries on surf wax
and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and one day popping across to Heather's little
record shop and purchasing the record, hearing its static scratch ingrain
itself into my memory in a December of north-easters, sandy shorebreaks and
endless days spent with Simon and the Scottburgh crew listening to tapes of
tapes of tapes of early Oils swopped with travelling Aussie surfers,
screaming off to Bruce's in my grandfather's yellow beach buggy where Ben
was getting hysterical about a 'new' Oils tape he'd got on the weekend. 'You
gotta hear these new songs,' he'd say, 'Catch the Bus to Bondi, sit on the
beach and wonder'. For months we'd thought there was an Oils record called
'The Very Best Of Midnight Oil', cos that was what was scribbled on the
cassette and there was no internet to check.
October days in 1994 sitting at Shaun Stretch's, smoking and looking out at
onshore slop, trying to figure out how we'd get from Durban to Joburg to see
the Oils for the first time after all these years, somehow convincing
Jocelyn to load us into her car and her dropping us off at the YMCA in the
middle of a strange city; us walking through notorious Hillbrow without even
realising it, innocent fans in a dangerous place; almost fainting in the
spring sun of Ellis Park as we sat through Sting and, it seemed, an endless
array of artists hell bent on keeping Peter, Rob and the crew off stage. And
then the moment we'd waited, it felt like, all our lives to see: the Oils on
stage. Two days later, the Monday, back in Durban somehow and crazily
walking into their one and only press conference in SA, chatting, with my
mate Mike, with Peter, who was interested in the Shaka, the Zulu king, and
our south coast of point breaks and green palms. And getting a candid black
and white photo of me and Rob which Mel took with her old Pentax, one I'll
treasure forever and which I still carry wherever I go. (In my state I went
out and bought a set of drums, and enrolled at music college for the
following year...me and Bruce playing increasingly good covers in my crowded
room and thinking all the while how my life took such a detour that morning)
And then more of the same two days later, 5000 people under a dark and warm
summer sky heavy with rain at Westridge, Rob a blur of sticks and cymbals
during Read About It, and the drops frozen as in the flash of a camera as I
looked around and watched, almost beside myself, the crew all around me:
Simon (his paper poster long since soaked), Ben (who managed to catch a
drumstick at the end), Stretch, Jeff, Bruce.
Nearly eight years ago now, and many of those faces faded with time, our
different roads diverging as life cycles go their separate ways. And yet the
Oils remain as my constant, wherever I am in this world. From Durban to
Joburg to Cape Town to London, back to SA and now near the Arctic Circle. I
sat at home last Sunday and Todd in London kindly kept his phone on while
Peter sang Truganini somewhere in England; me, two thousand kilometres away,
listening to memories and ghosts across a sketchy line and a North Sea of
missed opportunities and new horizons. A big phone bill coming for that one
but never did a song resonate so between the good old days and the even
better ones that are right around the corner.
I hear the band is returning to Europe in the autumn; if that is so, nothing
shall keep me away.
Thanks for listening.
in Stockholm