Midnight Oil, also known as The Oils, but soon to be renamed Midnight Renewables, are an iconic Australian rock band and interpretive dance troupe. Since 1972, the group has managed to simultaneously advocate activist hard-left values and amass substantial personal wealth.
Originally known as Farm, the band chose the name Midnight Oil with a draw from a hat, a difficult undertaking, as it was being used at the time to cover Peter Garrett’s head. Although Garrett’s vocals and dancing style are most politely described as unique, and his frequent departures to pursue other endeavours have placed the band on hold at various points, the other members of Midnight Oil will always be grateful for his arrival, as his singing technique made it impossible to continue as a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band,* forcing them to write originals instead.
Midnight Oil are famous for their passionate live performances, and fans say that the intensity is only heightened by the real risk of those in the front few rows getting concussion from Garrett’s flailing arms.
The Oils were formerly known for their combative attitude to the media, refusing to play the ABC’s influential music program Countdown because of its requirement that artists mime to a recording—a policy that, hypocritically, was never extended to the program’s mumbling host.
Lead singer Peter Garrett has taken time out from the band on several occasions to pursue a political career. He unsuccessfully ran for the Senate with the Nuclear Disarmament Party in 1984, but his least successful involvement in politics followed his election as the Labor member for Kingsford Smith in 2004.
In 2007, new PM Kevin Rudd made him Minister for the Environment, which would have allowed him to pursue positive reforms in keeping with his lifelong green activism, had he not been part of the Rudd government.
Instead, he was lumped with administering a scheme to subsidise pink batt installations around the country. Introduced with great fanfare as part of Rudd’s effort to overcome the global financial crisis, the haste and poor organisation of the campaign—which Garrett was later shown to have warned Rudd about on four occasions—had regrettable outcomes for to both his political career and a number of batt installers.
Garrett displayed the integrity and lack of killer instinct that made him so unsuitable to be a major-party politician by supporting Julia Gillard during the final, successful challenge from Kevin Rudd—he left politics at the 2013 election; arguably the best decision of his political career.
Midnight Oil have reformed and have embarked on their ‘Great Circle World Tour’, named after the movements of Peter Garrett’s arms. Though Garrett’s career in Canberra was disappointing in most respects, it was hugely successful in increasing the demand for Midnight Oil concerts.
* This is not a joke, but the idea of the Oils covering Creedence is pretty funny.