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Friday, January 6, 2012

"Beds Are Burning"

Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning (1987)

Ironically, this song reached number one in South Africa in 1988

Part pop song, part protest song. OK, mostly protest song; this track by Australian activist band Midnight Oil became their biggest hit in their own country, and around the world. Explicitly about the Pintupi Aboriginal people of Western Australia and how the government stole their land and they deserve to have it back. The song, and album that it is on are regularly proclaimed best of the decade, best of Australia, and best protest music by recording industry publications.

Musically the song is bookended by a brass section hitting three rising notes. You hear those three notes again through the song. According to the liner notes there was a French horn player, and a trombone player on the album. This sounds like more than that to me, but with mixing, and throw a keyboard in there, they made a good sound. The plucked electric bass sound that drives the song is said to be inspired by the sound of the traveling vehicles the band used on a tour of the far reaches of Australia. The band makes use of harmony, it's not tight like a doo-wop or girl group, it's a little rough around the edges. I think that works for the style of music, it's an almost shouted protest song, not a song about love and moonlight. The final 30 seconds of the song includes a trombone solo and then the final three notes falling into a glissando.

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