posted on May 07, 2008 01:09
It was the summer of 1987. I'd just turned 13 and I was working for my father as a labourer, mixing cement and carrying blocks on a building site on an orchard farm in County Armagh. I was earning 10 quid a week. I was working with grown men for the first time, trying to appear worldly and mature. That didn't last long once my uncle found out that I fancied the orchard owner's daughter and that I was too scared to do anything about it. (I found out that she fancied me too. That scared me even more.) I remember being glued to the Wimbledon tennis championships as a I was a rabid Stefan Edberg fan (so was the orchard owner's daughter...). But mostly I remember attending my piano lessons on a Thursday evening when Victor, my piano teacher, would spend most of the lesson playing records - The Alex Harvey Band, Led Zep, The Pet Shop Boys (!)... The summer of 87 was great, I was growing up and I was growing to love music.
That summer was also all about the Michaels - Jackson's Bad and George's Faith. Surely two classic of the finest pop albums of the 80s, I agree... but, for me, Midnight Oil's Diesel and Dust was the album of the year, if not my childhood. It was sensational. Beds are Burning was an incendiary single (pardon the pun). A song that evoked the outback and heat and was as uncompromising as Peter Garrett's haircut. I bought the tape from Gene Stuart's Record Shop on Irish St and, quite literally, played it until it died. I'm sure I had at least three copies of that album in a short period of time (do you remember when your tape player used to chew up only your favourite cassettes?).
Colombia are re-releasing the album complete with a DVD documentary of their outback Blackfella/Whitefella Tour, an experience which inspired the album and its focus on Aboriginal rights. Alongside Beds Are Burning, Dead Heart is the emotional hart of the album and the classic Sometimes ("Sometimes you're beaten to the core/Sometimes you're taken to the wall/But you don't give in") was a clarion call to the original inhabitants of Australia - don't give up. Just a few months ago, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, apologised to all Aboriginal people for past wrongs. No doubt Peter Garrett, his Minister of the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, was a proud bystander.
For me, Diesel and Dust is the classic Australian album. This re-release is a great excuse to get acquainted with one of the best rock bands of the past three decades. Unfortunately I never got the experience an Oil live show - did any of you?