Midnight Oil - Journey Backstage


By Amelia Joshy

Midnights oil was a legendary Australian alternative rock band, originally from Sydney. The members of the band include Peter Garrett, Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie, Martin Rotsey, Peter Gifford, Bones Hillman and Andrew James. With 14 albums and 2 EP’s released, the midnight oils have a strong fanbase and had an extremely successful 3 years from 1997 till 2000 when the band broke up.

Midnight oils may just be Australia’s most environmentally and socially aware band in the history of music. It was the bands aim to ensure that Australia represented through their music worldwide and hopefully give insight into Australia from simply vegemite and kangaroos. Surprisingly midnight oils had rather simple beginnings, it all began in 1970 when Jim Moginie (keyboard/guitarist) and Andrew 'Bear' James (bass) both fifteen at the time jammed at the local hall in Turramurra, northern Sydney. A year later Rob Hirst (drums/vocalist) joined and by 1972 they had changed their name to Farm and decided they needed a singer. Rob placed an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald and Peter Garrett turned up at the audition. Peter was at the time a law student was impressed with the raucous and aggressive styles of both Hirst and Moginie. However Garrett expressed his interest in more of an interest in British punk rock. Hirst and Moginie realising Peters potential agreed to an immediate change in musical direction. Their band expanded when Martin Rotsey (guitarist) joined and they changed their name to Midnight Oils after it was randomly picked out of a hat.

The band toured frequently and developed a big reputation rapidly. Garrett shaved his head because his blond hair to help boost the band’s image and soon his intense stage presence and shaven head were key elements that fans remembered. However for all their mounting success a record deal was slow in coming. According to Garrett every record company executive insisted that they should change their style, singer, image or alter the band in some way. Their refusal to do so became a big theme in their future career, finally after being turned down at least twice by record labels they decided to make their own record.

Finances were a problem which meant the band had to couldn’t take time off to record. In the end they managed to do both by going for gig to studio. Each record they released showed drastic improvements, their second album ‘Head injuries’ showed immense improvement in terms of sound and lyrics and yet the band were struggling to capture the full intensity displayed at live performances.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and Red Sails In The Sunset proved as the big break for the band it showed that the band did indeed have something unique. In the 1984 election Garrett who was deeply moved by what he saw in Hiroshima felt like he needed to make a change and joined the election on behalf of the Nuclear Disarmament Party. While Garrett still tried to enter politics, the band still continued to release records and perform frequently. Their popularity rose significantly during this time and released many albums that ranked on Australian and worldwide charts. Diesel and Dust (1987) a particular album released during this time was the was the biggest selling album of their career along with the single Beds are Burning.

In the year 2002 the ‘oils’, as the members of the band Midnight oil were name lovingly, disbanded. Garrett then secured a seat as an Australian Labour Party MP. It seems that the band still come together in times of need, with the oils performing at WaveAid, a Sydney tsunami relief concert in 2005. Rumours of a full time reunion persist with Peter Garrett resigning as MP. The former band manager Gary Morris has revealed that American entertainment agents have been keen to see Midnight oil reunited and jamming since late June announcements that Peter Garrett was retiring from politics. Morris also stated that if a reunion does happen it will be extremely special and will not be for the money.