It’s the spring of 1983, and I’m finishing up my sophomore year at Hamilton College. The running joke at Hamilton was that if you wanted to find Chuck Miller anywhere on campus, look first at the campus radio station, then at the college computer center, and then after that if you haven’t found him, he might be in class.
Well, I was at the college radio station, WHCL, when I received a “care package” from my mobile DJ friend in Australia, Jim McCaslin. In that package was an LP by a group that was completely unfamiliar to me, a surf-punk band named Midnight Oil. McCaslin told me that this group would completely blow me away.
So I dropped a needle on the record.
And he was right.
In the late 70’s / early 80’s, you had a ton of protest rock out there – the Clash and Black Flag both come to mind. Midnight Oil had its own angry songs, and on their album 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, many of those songs were about subjects that weren’t normally subjects for pop songs – rampant consumerism (“Power and the Passion”), the wealth and caste system (“Short Memory”, “Read About It”), and United States imperialism (“U.S. Forces”, “Only the Strong”).
Hard-driving beats; angry guitars; lead singer Peter Garrett’s impassioned voice on every song. Just stellar. And when you realize that this was the album that helped spur Midnight Oil toward the international stage, you can hear the starting point behind the Oils’ biggest songs in their careers – you know, “Beds are Burning” and “Blue Sky Mine” and “The Dead Heart.”
And Peter Garrett, the leader of this angry surf-punk band? He later ran for – and was elected to – the Australian Parliament. How about that.
This is the entire Midnight Oil album from first track to last. Definitely worth enjoying, and if I have to place in the coffin an angry rock record that decries American military bases in sovereign waters, followed by a dance track about rampant waste and consumerism and the loss of native culture…
… then I’ll certainly take this LP and find a space in the casket for it.