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He doesn't want to be the one.
Barack Obama is going down under. He's to sign a new treaty with the Aussies' prime minister Julia Gillard for an expanded US military presence in the Lucky Country. As befits a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Gillard and her friend McClelland have also been persecuting Julian Assange from Day One. Julian's mother Christine has been protesting against their extrajudicial treatment. But to no avail.
There's one person who could help. But he won't. He's too busy opening schools. He's @PGarrettMP aka Peter Garrett, former singer and frontman and political voice of Australia's legendary rock band Midnight Oil.
Midnight Oil were once but Jim Moginie on guitar and keyboards together with Rob Hirst on drums. They held auditions for a singer and Garrett turned up. They were not overly impressed with Garrett's vocal abilities, but his appearance gave them something they wanted: at 7 foot tall, Garrett was imposing on stage. The group, formerly known as Farm, changed their name based on Garrett's one condition for joining: he wanted to complete his pre-law degree. Combining studies with band rehearsals meant burning a lot of the midnight oil. They had a name and a band were born. They added Andrew 'Bear' James on bass and Martin Rotsey on second guitar and they quickly became a legend in New South Wales.
Midnight Oil were sticklers for artistic integrity from the start. No record company wanted to give them the terms they demanded, so they financed, produced, and distributed their first album all by themselves. The first track began with the ominous words sung by Garrett:
'There's a shit storm coming.'
The two-guitar attack of Midnight Oil became a thing of fable. They weren't just two guitarists - they played off each other meticulously, the one always a bit in front of the beat, the other slightly behind. The sound was magnificent. And in the back on drums: the one voted Australia's best drummer over twenty years running.
And Garrett's antics on stage became legend as well. Described by some as 'chinese dancing', it was something to watch and even more so live. A Billboard publication once wrote facetiously that in terms of stage presence, Garrett was second only to Jerry Falwell.
The first album went gold all by itself. Midnight Oil refused to do the ordinary 'pop shows' and were effectively blacklisted by the media down under. They set out on a 'Death to Disco Tour' and sold out everywhere.
Their second album, Head Injuries, stands even today in some encyclopaedias of rock as the single available proof that a record can sell well, go gold and beyond, with not a single effort at promotion. Head Injuries, with its legendary Stand In Line, sold by word of mouth only. Later the radio station today called 2JJJ would get in the act, but this was still a bit further down the road.
The Oils wanted Australian music for Australian people. They wrote topical songs. Their arrangements and orchestrations were more complex than the likes of Toto and other western gurus would ever handle. There are so many unmentioned subtleties in their music it's not funny. And the Oils would simply not compromise.
Emissaries of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss (A&M Records) approached them in the early 1980s with an offer to make them the big international rock stars of the coming ten years. All the Oils had to do was go through the A&M songbook and pick out a couple of good covers. The Oils refused and sent A&M packing. The Oils didn't compromise.
This strongly anti-authoritarian attitude made enemies even in Australia. They'd somehow become the 'bad boys', much as Julian Assange is for some today. Then came the UK entrance into the European Union. Old favourite nations trade agreements got torn up and unemployment raged over the continent.
What did Garrett and the Oils do? They organised a huge pan-Pacific telecast of one of their concerts and sent all the proceeds to the Australian labour unions. They went from outcasts to national heroes overnight.
Famous Beatles, Stones, and Eagles producer Glyn Johns was called in to help Midnight Oil with an album. They recorded in Townhouse in London, also used by the Eurythmics, they recorded in Tokyo - suddenly they'd become a mainstream name to reckon with. Sales records outdid each other. 2JJJ got involved and unforgettable live concerts were filmed, available to this day twenty years later.
And always it was the message. Midnight Oil were the Clash without the waywardness and five times the virtuosity, the Sex Pistols but without sticking out their tongues - they pointed their fingers instead. They were fiercely rebellious but intelligently so. They never talked about their private lives, they would have loved to talk about their music except no reporter understands things like that, and they always got to talk about their politics.
Midnight Oil have been described as the ultimate 'adrenalin band', and the epithet fits. There's a vacuum of silence after a Midnight Oil concert that can't at all be appreciated unless one's on location and personally victimised by it. And the way they point fingers:
√ Read About It - attack on Rupert Murdoch and the demise of the once famous Australian media scene
√ Only The Strong - about the nightmare of child abuse
√ Used And Abused - about what happens to good people who go out demonstrating
√ Hercules - about the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior
√ Progress - about the junk culture of the modern era
√ Blossom And Blood - about the bombing of Hiroshima
√ Pictures - about exploitation of natural resources
√ Armistice Day - about the truth about war
√ Don't Wanna Be The One - about not giving into the Man
√ Short Memory - about how media give people a short attention span
√ US Forces - about how the US can undermine the best intentions of any country
√ Power And The Passion - about how trivial modern life has become
√ When The Generals Talk - self-explanatory
√ Best Of Both Worlds - about middle class complacency
√ Harrisburg - self-explanatory
√ Beds Are Burning - about aboriginal rights
√ Put Down That Weapon - about 'boys with toys'
√ Dreamworld - about real estate development destroying the environment
√ Warakurna - about the plight of the aboriginals
√ The Dead Heart - about the land rights movement
√ Sell My Soul - about migrant workers
√ Sometimes - the ultimate fighting song
√ Blue Sky Mine - about corporate exploitation of workers
√ Forgotten Years - about the casualties of war
√ River Runs Red - about ruining the environment in the name of profits
√ One Country - suggested by many as the next Australian national anthem
√ My Country - about the imbecility of blind patriotism
√ Earth And Sun And Moon - about the bond between the human race and the planet
√ Truganini - about the way aboriginals are treated
√ Redneck Wonderland - about the deterioration of Australian politics
And so forth. Midnight Oil never recorded a ballad, much less a love ballad. Drummer Rob Hirst once quipped that people can get what they want of that by watching MTV. They have had the occasional slow or jazzy song (their roots are somewhat in jazz but not to an extent that's noticeable to the untrained ear) but they never got down into the mushy or even easy song. In terms of construction, they're a bit like Genesis but without the sugar coating.
Australia's Nuclear Disarmament Party approached @PGarrettMP in the mid-1980s: they wanted him to run for office for them. They truly didn't have a hope he or they could win, but they reckoned he could get them enough publicity so they'd qualify for state subsidies.
Garrett did better than that. He turned the campaign into a circus. He held a fantastic 'Grand Closing' event for Pine Gap, the secret CIA installation in the outback. He had the press and fans and supporters milling about, he had the big pair of scissors to cut the requisite ribbon, and at the right moment he cut it - and a big sign flapped down onto Pine Gap's own: 'This base is officially closed'. Major lulz. He then called for a press event in Sydney harbour - he was going to show something spectacular to the media. When they arrived, he simply pointed out to the water. 'It's there', he told them.
'What's there?' they asked.
'The US nuclear submarine presence', he replied, and then gave them the dirty details on exactly how many US nuclear subs could be found submerged in Australian territorial waters.
Garrett got the plurality of the votes - a shocker if ever. But as Australians use a system comparable to the US electoral college, victory was still beyond his grasp - one needs an absolute majority to win, and barring anyone having a majority, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and the voting begins again. Canberra votes, not popular votes. Aussie PM Bob Hawke worked overtime to buy up all the votes he could - no rock singer was going to enter politics on his watch.
Garrett was ultimately defeated by a compromise candidate, but he capitalised on the misadventure with his book Political Blues, the NDP got their funding, and Hawke watched Rupert Murdoch's back and got that career off to an awesome start.
People behind the land rights movement put together a documentary. They'd succeeded in 'returning' Uluru - Ayers Rock - to the aboriginals and they needed a good song to start the film off. They contacted Midnight Oil who came up with The Dead Heart.
CBS were distributing Midnight Oil by now (on Midnight Oil's terms) and were dumbfounded when on the back of the new national hit the group decided not to go on a profitable tour but to 'rough it' in the outback with aboriginal rockers Warumpi Band instead. The ABS followed along and it became a widely broadcast documentary, but CBS weren't happy. Yet out the back of it all came the huge hit Beds Are Burning, and all was soon forgiven: CBS milked that one - and the Australian bicentennial - for all they could.
Sydney had the 2000 Olympics and Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst was the musical organiser of the closing ceremonies. Australians had long been angered by their PM's refusal to issue any reconciliation to the aboriginals, so Midnight Oil went ahead and 'ambushed' the PM at the closing concert, coming on stage in jumpsuits with the word 'SORRY' plastered all over them. Never miss a beat, them Oils.
And then Peter Garrett quit. He said he'd had enough. He wanted to go into politics. He'd been made an offer by Kevin Rudd to get a seat and take the fast lane into Labor's cabinet. He took it. And all at once the @PGarrettMP of old was gone.
Gone were the attacks on US forces. Gone was the attack on the CIA base at Pine Gap - suddenly Pine Gap was a Good Thing™.
Gone were the sentiments of a world at peace and without weapons industries and military industrial complexes. Gone were concerns for the environment. It was all gone.
@PGarrettMP had had a stint in politics of a sort before that - and after the run for office for the NDP. He'd been head of the Australian Conservation Foundation and had a nice office in downtown Sydney. He did win some awards in the process but his track record was not all stellar.
As a result of new immigration policies in Australia and the west, financiers from Shanghai were suddenly on Australian soil, trying to transform the natural habitat of the Koala into lucrative real estate. Local homeowners were in an uproar, formed an action group, and sent their representative to Sydney to speak with Garrett.
Garrett categorically refused to speak to the woman, leaving her sitting like a fool for a full week in his waiting room. When questioned about this behaviour, Garrett's press secretary stated that the woman was 'hopelessly politically naive'. @PGarrettMP, lest anyone have missed it, is today trying to capitalise on the Koala situation, widely declaring he will 'look into the matter' - something he refused to do years earlier. But as he himself sang once upon a time: 'short memory'.
Julian Assange's book - together with Suelette Dreyfus - isn't dedicated to Peter Garrett or Midnight Oil, but it might as well be. Each chapter begins with a quote from a Midnight Oil song, and the famous 'Wanker' worm includes words from the song about the bombing of Hiroshima.
W O R M S A G A I N S T N U C L E A R K I L L E R S
\__ ____________ _____ ________ ____ ____ __ _____/
\ \ \ /\ / / / /\ \ | \ \ | | | | / / /
\ \ \ / \ / / / /__\ \ | |\ \ | | | |/ / /
\ \ \/ /\ \/ / / ______ \ | | \ \| | | |\ \ /
\_\ /__\ /____/ /______\ \____| |__\ | |____| |_\ \_/
\ Your System Has Been Officically WANKed /
You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war.
Chapter 1 - 'somebody's out there, somebody's waiting' (Somebody's Trying to Tell Me Something)
Chapter 2 - 'you talk of times of peace for all and then prepare for war' (Blossom And Blood)
Chapter 3 - 'US forces give the nod, it's a setback for your country' (US Forces)
Chapter 4 - 'there's one gun, probably more, and the others are pointing at our backdoor' (Knife's Edge)
Chapter 5 - 'so we came and conquered and found riches of commons and kings' (River Runs Red)
Chapter 6 - 'read about it, just another incredible scene, there's no doubt about it' (Read About It)
Chapter 7 - 'your dream world is just about to end' (Dreamworld)
Chapter 8 - 'all around an eerie sound' (Maralinga)
Chapter 9 - 'the world is crashing down on me tonight' (Outbreak Of Love)
Chapter 10 - 'they had a gun at my head and a knife at my back, don't wind me up too tight' (Powderworks)
Chapter 11 - 'the plant is melting down' (Harrisburg)
Peter Garrett didn't write all the lyrics. Jim Moginie wrote some of them. So did Rob Hirst. Mostly they collaborated on the songs, at least lyrically.
But Peter Garrett sang the lyrics. And he espoused them in interview after interview, year after year, often turning to his 'boss' Rob Hirst to make sure he'd said it right.
@PGarrettMP won't answer any questions about his Midnight Oil politics today. Certainly not about his alleged hypocrisy. Or about how he could in a fraction of a second turn his back on all he and millions of supporters held sacred and go off in the other direction. His press people will entertain fan mail and respond to it up to a point - venture into dangerous territory and they'll cut the correspondence off. No explanation - no reply at all. No more press secretaries calling constituents 'hopelessly politically naive'.
Peter Garrett was a commanding presence on stage and off. Peter Garrett could perhaps not move mountains, but he and Midnight Oil could give them a good nudge. The 500 green parties of Australia - together with the media - once beseeched Garrett to try to unite the parties to help save the environment. Garrett couldn't be bothered.
Garrett could listen to and help Christine Assange today but he won't. He's too busy opening schools and rewriting his past. The ultimate rocker with integrity and heart has, after breaking so many millions of hearts with his lack of integrity, gone onto really important things, judging from his Twitter feed.
My conversation with parents is on today at 1pm - tweet questions to #parentsforum. Info: bit.ly/ttvyDT Looking forward to it!
Thanks to Shayne Neumann for a great visit to Bundamba State School yesterday - pics on FB: on.fb.me/tmmdm1
Botany Post Office on Cwlth Heritage List. Good to celebrate with occasion with local identity Nancy Hillier and P twitpic.com/7cxoye
Just a few days to go before my conversation with parents on Monday. Tweet questions to #parentsforum. Info: bit.ly/ttvyDT
Some cute pics from my visit to Top Kids in Boronia yesterday now on FB - thanks again to all for a fun event on.fb.me/rtKui3
Tweet questions to #parentsforum for my online conversation with parents Nov14. Info: bit.ly/ttvyDT
Inspiring visit to Top Kids at Boronia this morning, shining example of kinder universal access in practice. What a bright bunch of 4yo kids
Redneck Wonderland indeed.
I don't want to run, I don't want to stay
Cos everything that's near and dear is old and in the way
Emergency has gone, apathy rolling on
Time to take a stand, Redneck Wonderland
Got you in my sights, spotlit by the fence
If it's love you're faking it's just common sense
Brick and tile for miles, rolling in the aisles
Rifle in my hand, Redneck Wonderland
Well the streets are clean, nothing gets away
I can see the beauty treatment draining from your face
It is vision free, it's poor bugger me
Something less than grand, Redneck Wonderland
True to the visible and the invisible. A difficult combination.
- Julian Assange
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