midnight oil 1984 review


Thanks to Better Read Than Dead I won a double pass to see Midnight Oil 1984. Full disclosure here, I didn’t know much about Midnight Oil apart from the big singles covered by pub bands across Australia on a Friday night. I came to Australia in 2005 from England, so missed out completely on the Australian band scene from the 1980’s.

So, I settled in to watch what I thought was a standard rockumentary. The singer is the main act, egos clash over time but are billed as ‘creative differences’ and turmoil and acrimonious splits ensue. 1984 was not that. If anything, it was more about the beliefs and values of the band, over the music.

Documentary maker Ray Argall followed the band for the year of 1984 whilst they were promoting their fifth studio album Red Sails In The Sunset, taking thousands of feet of film which stayed in the can and did not see the light of day for 30 years. First of all, the fashion, questionable rats tails and mullets will bring the laughs as well as seeing the roadies getting around in teeny tiny denim shorts and news readers with Ron Burgundy hair. But, the shock and fun of seeing just how bad 80’s fashion was, brings some light relief between the intensity of the band on stage and their political passions.

Peter Garrett and the band were hands down the hardest working rock band in 1984. Not only was the band one of the biggest in Australia, they managed themselves lean. No flashy PR companies taking big cuts, these guys built their following alone, with a tight-knit merry band of socially conscious brothers. The footage you see shows each band member as equal. Yes, Garrett is the front man, but creatively there seemed to be a ‘one-ness’ and balance, there was no pecking order and each band member had a voice. This I believe is the secret to the band’s longevity and success.

Midnight Oil 1984 focuses on the band’s mission to bring nuclear disarmament to the front pages, into schools and into the consciousness of Australian voters which culminated in Peter Garrett running in a federal election for a spot in the Senate. This was a conflicting and difficult time for the band as a whole as they toured, not knowing if it would all end if Garrett succeeded and left for a life in politics. For the audience and fans who came out to the gigs, they felt connected to the band on a deeper level, Midnight Oil were far more than just good rock music.

The Midnight Oil sound was never something I was drawn too, but now I understand the passion and meaning behind their songwriting and will listen a little harder to the lyrics in future.

If you are a fan of Midnight Oil or you hit the Aussie pub rock scene in the 80’s you should seek out this documentary. In limited release and not for long, so be quick and get yourself out there!

In selected cinemas on limited release now!