Sunday, 10 February 2008

Lyrics & their meaning Part 6- Power and the passion

“ Rock songs will not change the world, for starters no one can understand a word they’re saying…literally! ” …My Dad




PART 6
The Power & the Passion- Midnight Oil (1980)


(and Midnight Oil in general)


Midnight Oil long regarded as Australian Rock Music's Environmental and Social conscience.
Me , I consider them a good band with at best questionable lyrics. Midnight Oil for some reason have managed to get away with the reputation of being hard hitting word smiths with poignant and relevant messages. But a closer look at most of their lyrics reveal vague mentions of subjects and cryptic leanings towards others. For example: in the chosen subject song Power & the passion The song has reference to many iconic symbols but can anyone truthfully say they understand what these lines mean or represent?
Sunburnt faces around, with skin so brownSmiling zinc cream and crowds, Sundays the beach never a cloudBreathing eucalypt, pushing panel vansStuff and munch junk foodLaughing at the truth, cos Gough was tough til he hit the roughUncle Sam and John were quite enough
It is alright to go to form some intellectual theory that you think it may be about but keep in mind the core of Midnight Oils supporter base were the Suck more piss crowd that also followed The Angels & Cold Chisel. You would think plain English would have been more appropriate. Indeed how about for example instead of:
US Forces give the nod,
It's a set back for your country


Try

US Bases are no good
Don't let them in the Country

But if you go deep into the whole Midnight Oil lyric thing the album that the totally incomprehensible Power and; the passion is part of, you soon realise that most of the album struggles to make sense. Not only are the lyrics hard to understand, especially if you aren't aware of the subject matter they also make them very hard to read on the album by using distorted fonts and having them cut on edges of pages, so that one half of a songs lyric is diagonally split onto opposing pages making it even more difficult to understand.
I have researched many articles on Midnight Oil and discovered the lack of attention to their actual song meaning, the topic often moves towards individual protests or polular issues. This could explain Peter Garrets eventual entry in politics, he had great training in talking around a subject in writing song lyrics.



As for Power and; the Passion what's it about?
Don't know and I can't find out anywhere either. There is a short reference in Beds are Burning The biography by Mark Dodshon but it only goes on how Garret used to change Rob Hirst's lyrics if he didn't like them and wouldn't tell anyone. Power and the Passion was one of these songs. All other references only comment on how powerful the songs sentiment is, but refuses to say what that sentiment is.
You one thing that annoys me about this song personally, was for years I’d make excuses for it by saying the lyrics “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” was a killer line. Only to discover it was stolen from Emiliano Zapata Salazar a Mexican revolutionary.
I have compiled a sample list of Midnight Oil songs and I challenge anyone to explain what they are saying without going into metaphors or long winded explanations.





If Ned Kelly was King-Place without a Postcard 1981

Hollow threats and a great adventure



So much business, towns in the dirt



Company cars and efficient Americans



Three black boys sit in the corner



White woman waiting to talk



Lots of intention but no understanding



If Ned Kelly was king



He’d make those robbers swing



He’d send them down



Out in the dead heart, tourists and cameras



Four wheel drives wreck, snapshots and slides



Follow the brochures but nothings inside



Heavy machinery loud in the outback



Dreamtime developers they make all the sound



Where will we be when they leave us a quarry?



If Ned Kelly was king



He’d make those robbers swing



He’d send them down there



He’d make them stay



And we can hope



If Ned Kelly...



If the quinella comes in today

King of the Mountain-Blue Sky Mining 1990




Walking through the high dry grass, pushing my way through slow



Yellow belly black snake, sleeping on a red rock



Waiting for the stranger to go



Sugar train stops at the crossing, cane cockies cursing below



Bad storm coming, better run to the top of the mountain



Mountain in the shadow of light, rain in the valley below



Well you can say you’re peter, say you’re paul



Don’t put me up on your bedroom wall, call me the king of the mountain







Blacksmith fires up the bellows, cane cutters burning the load



Workers of the world, run to the top of the mountain



Mountain in the...



I cant take my hands from my face, there are some things we cant replace



Mountain in the...



Over liquid tarmac wastelands of cactus and heat



Down cobblestone alleyways of washing day sheets



Up ghost prairie mountains of sunset and space



Down the road at a familiar place, across the wilderness



Out further than the bush I will follow you








Outside World-10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1- 1981




There’s a wind on the eastern side



Ghost gums dance in the moonlit night



Mopoke mourns the racketeers



The bosses they can sense your mood



All in place to a hand that rules



They all want to deal you out



I can see the outside world



Everything’s inviting in the outside world



Leaving all my problems in the outside world



Its the summer of another year



A little world weary a little more to fear



Hold those cards tight to your chest



Maybe someday you could be a man



Living quietly in a caravan



Not the Lismore road tonight

Short Memory-10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1- 1981




Conquistador of Mexico, the Zulu and the Navaho



The Belgians in the Congo short memory



Plantation in Virginia, the raj in British India



The deadline in south Africa short memory



The story of el Salvador, the silence of Hiroshima



Destruction of Cambodia short memory



Short memory, must have a, short memory



The sight of hotels by the Nile, the designated Hilton style



With running water specially bought short memory



A smallish man Afghanistan, a watch dog in a nervous land



They’re only there to lend a hand short memory



Wake up in sweat at dead of night



And in the tents new rifles hey short memory



If you read the history books you’ll see the same things happen again and again



short memory they’ve all got it



When are we going to play it again



Got a short, got a short, got a short, got a short



They’ve got a short must have a short theyve got a short aah



Short memory, they’ve got a.








I'm The Cure - Bird Noises 1980




Tell all your friends I’m the cure



Tell them again and again



Watching the walls, spinning in doors



I can bring you peace of mindUse me whenever you please



Sweeter than sweet memories



Everything’s neat, avoiding the heat



I can give you peace of mind



All this pressure I cant handle



Everything else becomes dim



You’re so much better than them



Waiting around for something to happen



Bring you this instant reliefKilo pascals in my finger



God is hiding in this teacup

Run By Night - Midnight Oil 1978




I’m on the whiskey flying, and Ill run by night



I’m on the whiskey running, and Ill run by night



I’m on the winter cycle, shut my eyes to the bite



I’m on the winter cycle, shake my fist at the bite



I’m on the whiskey flying, and Ill run by night



I’m on the phone to summer, so Ill see you on the flight



My friends are at a party, playing games with the light



I hate to say I’m wrong, I just know I’m right



We all run by night



I’m on the whiskey flying, and Ill run by night



I’m on the glaze a burning, and it burns in the light



I’m on a turning circle, turn my face from the bite



I’m on a turning circle, hear me screaming at the bite



I’m on the edge of danger, and Ill run by night



I’m on the phone to summer, so I’ll see you on the flight



My friends are at a party, playing games with the light



I hate to say ‘Im wrong, I just know I’m right



We all run by night


Scream In Blue -10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1- 1981





Come to me now, be careful of what you say



Don’t make a sound, there’s noise enough in this



Come with me now, let night move into day



Let sheets keep secrets that no one else could know



I could kill for this one time and not be caught



She said to me this is the one and I know



Come to me now, this is the final hour



When I’m dreaming I dream in blue



When I’m dreaming I dream of you



When I’m screaming I scream in blue

Redneck Wonderland - Redneck Wonderland 1998




I don’t want to run I don’t want to stay



Cos everything that’s near and dear is old and in decay



Emergency has gone, apathy rolling on



Time to take a standRedneck wonderland



Got you in my sights, spotlit by the fence



If your small you’re faking, its just common sense



Brick and tile for miles, rolling in the aisles



Rifle in my handRedneck wonderland



Well the streets are clean, nothing gets away



I can see the beauty treatment draining from your face



It is vision free, its poor bugger meSomething less than grand




Kosciuszko - Red Sails In The Sunset 1984




Older than Kosciusko



Darwin down to Alice Springs



Dealers in the clearinghouse



The settlements explode



High up in the homelands



Miners drive across the land



Encounter no resistance



When the people block the road



Older than Kosciusko



Dry white seasons years ago



Darkness over Charleville



The fires begin to grow



No end to the hostility



Now they want to be somewhere else



No stranger to brutality



Now they’d like to be someone else



Older than Kosciusko



Driven back to Alice Springs



Endless storm and struggle



Marks the spirit of the age



High up in the homelands



Celebration cross the land



Builds up like a cyclone



Now the fires begin to rage



Call off the ultimatum



No don’t turn away



Call off the ultimatum until yesterday



Call off the ultimatum



No don’t turn away



Bind up the broken-hearted



No don’t turn away



Call off the ultimatum until yesterday




Mosquito March - Capricornia 2001

when they march



when they march over fields of green



when they march



when they march over fields of green



when they march



when they march over fields of green



walking in the wilderness



no future to the question



you might get a simple answer



get a simple answer



walking in the wilderness



you're naked now just skin and sand



you'll get a smile answer



get a smile answer



see the king see the king of happiness



see the kingsee the king of happiness in the light



in the light you can see him crawl



see the kingsee the king of happiness



walking in the wilderness



no future to the question



you might get a simple answer



get a simple answer



walking in the wilderness the endless distance



you don't need to get a smile answer



et a smile answer



past the point of no return



your like a dog without a bone



so get a simple answer



get a simple answer

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Short Memory clearly refers to humanity's inability to learn from the past and avoid bloodshed. It is utterly transparent especially given the history that has repeated itself in Afghanistan in the last 8 years. Just one example.

Anonymous said...

It's all about imagery. If you want literal meaning then ask them to write an essay. The imagery of a Sunday crowd at the beach in Power and the Passion for me is very evocative, as is the imagery in many of their songs. Each phrase is a postcard in my head and when you put them together add the music and a little understanding of political events you have a narrative. But because it isn't spelt out in black and white each person will respond to the imagery differently.

What do you want a series of facts?

As for the famous quote "“It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” you can't blame Midnight Oil for your ignorance - do you expect them to put an attribution in their song?

Anonymous said...

Yer, i'm currently doing part of my feature article (grade 11 english ass) based upon how poetry/lyrical works define Australia. Yum fun. And after having analysed the poem i think the sentiment wihtin the song that u were referring to is actually just about commenting upon modernised, Westernised Australian lifestyle and how greatly american influences us. It's basically challenging our way of life and telling us that we're all fat boguns. I mean, that's what i wrote for my assignment anyway.

Anonymous said...

You cant think like that when analysing poems, song lyrics or any other form of literature. This isnt maths where youre either wrong or right - its english where everyone interprets everything differently depending on their expiriences. Usually there is no literal meaning, you have to search deep into history and refer it to past events - even if it makes the whole poem a metaphor!

NO meaning is black or white in english for anyone - its all about the greys inbetween.

Burkey said...

Part of the charm of Midnight Oils' lyrics is that I don't understand what they mean through and through. I liked what another person said here about the lyrics as visual postcards, I also get clear visuals from the Sunday crowd at the beach in Power and the Passion.
The lyrics and the music can't be separated from each other imo....I see the lyrics written, hear the music in my head...it really is more poetry and images than factual storytelling. The fact that I don't understand it, or that it's ambiguous, makes it more melodic to me somehow. Can't explain it. But thank you for your post.