The English saying dating back to the 1600s “to burn the midnight oil” means to work incredibly hard, and no band worked harder in Australia in the early 1980s than the Sydney-born five-piece outfit that took its name from the idiom, “Midnight Oil” aka The Oils.
In 1981, Place without a Postcard saw The Oils travel to England and return with an album that was a sure sign of a band still trying to finds its message. However, just 12 months later, the Midnight Oil that became the unmistakable beacon for an angry and disfranchised Australian youth well and truly arrived, when they dropped arguably their greatest ever album10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
This album launched The Oils to a new stratosphere. Considered just another ‘hard edged pub band’ along with the likes of The Radiators, Australian Crawl, The Angels and The Choirboys, this release showed that these blokes had a serious story to tell and that the Australia they were seeing wasn't completely to their liking.
While many cruel types from the dark and anonymous corners of the interwebs will claim that front man Peter Garrett surrendered his fight against ‘The Man’ when he became ‘part of the problem’ after taking Federal office in 2004, even the most cynical among us could not doubt the passion and anger driving this classic Aussie album.
10-1 laid the foundations for ongoing album success in Australia for The Oils, though the reality and honesty of their lyrics didn’t help with sales in the United States, especially when you are criticising American foreign policy.
Still, it was the emotive spirit of the songs that led this album to last in the Aussie charts for two years, and earn its place in the Top Australian Albums of All Time.
The major hits all made their mark…..
Power And The Passion: the first single, highlighting the controversy of Gough’s dismissal and the Pine Gap spy facility.
Read About It: the follow up, with its dig at Rupert Murdoch and the Australian media in general.
Us Forces: the third release, and it’s attack on USA military intervention.
With its punchy anthems yet catchy and memorable choruses, 10-1 was certainly the band’s biggest artistic statement.
For now, one thing is certain - since the demise of Midnight Oil, generations of us have lost that musical political voice that pushed our barrow.
Who now is filling the void?