MIDNIGHT OIL 1984 – Worthy Docco of some Aussie Legends

I was late to the party of the mob of fans. I loved some of their songs but was a little scared of them. In 1984 I was only twelve and the fans of were quite rough at the time while I was leaning more towards Madonna. By 1986 my skin-head friends from school were regularly going to their concerts but I was still a pass. In 1987 their Diesel and Dust album became one of my all time favourite albums and I was on board and I went to a couple of gigs.

At the time I was living in a National Park with my mum and the ranger. It was The Basin on Pittwater and on one Autumn day while I was blasting the album arrived with a group of Native Australians and an acoustic guitar to have a picnic. I lost my collective shit and my mum and I walked over. We ended up joining them and in the afternoon we caught the ferry back to Palm Beach with them to devour meat pies. It was at this time I realised Garrett wasn’t a drug partying rock star. He was an extremely well educated lawyer who sung rock music and danced really funny. While I was fanboying he talked to me about my education and encouraged me to study really hard. If only I had listened! 

 

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984
Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Midnight Oil 1984 – Image from

 

Enough of my reminiscing – the man and the band are legendary and while I wasn’t the biggest fan in 1984 semi-retired Kernel Andrew is a music aficionado and he was more than happy to pull out the notepad and pen and head to the screening of MIDNIGHT OIL 1984.

MIDNIGHT OIL 1984 is out now on a limited screening schedule from Madman Films. Check your local directories for times. Enjoy Andrew’s review……..Salty.

REVIEW BY

I would like to say openly that Peter Garrett taking on the role of a Canberra politician was perhaps one of the most heartbreaking things I have seen a man subject himself too. No doubt the man’s full of integrity and talent but to be swallowed into that world where none are really valued was hard to watch. So it was with great pleasure to go back in time to see Peter fronting one of the best live bands this country, perhaps the world, has ever known. Even if only for an hour and half.

 

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984
Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984 – Image from Madman Films

 

MIDNIGHT OIL 1984 SYNOPSIS:

Directed by Ray Argall, who is no stranger to the director’s chair, nor to a , having worked with Midnight Oil during those years as well as later directing some of their most famous video clips.

The movie concentrates on a specific moment in time, a specific year. That year is 1984. The year that saw Midnight Oil not only release their awe inspiring “Red Sails In The Sunset” and start an wide tour but the year Garrett made his first moves into politics standing for the newly formed Nuclear Disarmament Party as their NSW candidate.

“Red Sails In the Sunset” had been recorded in Tokyo where one of the most pivotal moments in the bands career took place. A meeting with Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This experience profoundly affected their creative output (not that the band had not been political before) but also was the catalyst I would think for Garrett to try to change things by standing for election.

 

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984
Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984 – Image from Madman Films

 

A band whose appeal has always lain in its ability to combine raw, pounding rhythms with an air of passionate, and often angry, conviction.

Argall cleverly intermixes scenes of Garrett on the campaign trail with some truly incredible live moments. We are treated to an avalanche of Oils’ hits played in the way a band at the peak of their formidable powers can. It is awe inspiring. As good as the live visuals are the sound mix is exceptional. Argall dwells not just on Garrett but on each band member. They are more than the sum of their parts and each is an integral vital crucial member. The Oil’s hive mind is seen to full effect. They are not just individuals but a unit. A band whose appeal has always lain in its ability to combine raw, pounding rhythms with an air of passionate, and often angry, conviction.

There is not a lot of exposition in the film. Argall in the Q&A afterwards pointed out to the fact that he let the music dictate the pace of the narrative and I think he made the right call. There is a real sense of urgency here.

What Argall has achieved personally as he later recounted is worthy of a film in itself. Filiming for over a year shooting more than 28,000 feet (about 8,500 metres) of film to capture the band in all their glory. But it’s not just a live music film. Argall balances it well with a look at a fascinating moment in Australian politics. The Labor Party with a charismatic Hawke feeling the pressure of the NDP and Garrett as he dare confront him on issues of social policy. Garrett in interviews is no “emotional, naive and a rock star” he is whip smart and well read. A shock to most back then I would imagine.

 

Midnight Oil performing from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984
Midnight Oil performing from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984 – Image from Madman Films

 

The viewer is left to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions.

You can feel the pressure on the front man during the filming. The band mentions many times how worried they are about the amount of work he is subjecting himself too and his relentless schedule or politics during the day and incendiary performances at night. Would the man simply pop??

But this is not the main focus. There’s no narration, the only movement forward coming from interviews, Argall interviewing the band or the band themselves on stage night after night. I think this works a treat. The viewer is left to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions.

The star as I have said before is the live footage. It is incendiary and sounds better.

 

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984
Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil from Documentary Midnight Oil 1984 – Image from Madman Films

 

IN CONCLUSION:

The line of the film comes from Michael Lippold, the band’s stage manager when he says “They didn’t do drugs, they didn’t drink and they didn’t whore around,” he says bluntly with a quizzical look on his face. It’s not what you would expect. Rather after a gig in a delightful moment you see Garrett and Hirst drinking tea.

This sums up the conundrum. A band of gifted men both musically and politically who captured the imaginations of Australia. God bless the Oils there is no one like them nor ever will be.

 

 

 

YOUR REVIEWER:

When asked what is good in life? Kernel Andrew will tell you film, music and beer is all you need. Equal parts Star Wars fanboy, sci-fi nerd, horror head, comic book tragic and Playstation fanatic. You can find him ranting on these things and others on his twitter feed @abrusentsev