Diesel and Dust

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Diesel and Dust
MidnightOil DieselAndDust.jpg
Studio album by Midnight Oil
Released August 1987
Recorded 1987 Albert Studios, Sydney, Australia
Genre Alternative rock, Australian rock
Length 46:37
Label Sprint / Columbia
Producer Warne Livesey, Midnight Oil
Midnight Oil chronology
Species Deceases (EP)
(1985)String Module Error: Match not found1985
Diesel and Dust
Blue Sky Mining
(1990)Blue Sky Mining1990

Diesel and Dust is the sixth studio album by Australian rock band Midnight Oil, released in August 1987 by Spirit Music label under Columbia Records. Diesel and Dust was produced by Warne Livesey and the band. It is a concept album about the struggles of Indigenous Australians and environmental causes, issues important to the band. It drew inspiration from the Blackfella/Whitefella Tour of remote Indigenous communities with the Warumpi Band and Gondwanaland in 1986. The album peaked at No. 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart for six weeks.

In 1989, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 13 on their list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. In October 2010 it was listed at No. 1 in the book 100 Best Australian Albums.


Midnight Oil spent several months in mid-1986 on the Blackfella/Whitefella Tour of outback Australia with indigenous music groups Warumpi Band and Gondwanaland, playing to remote Aboriginal communities and seeing first hand the seriousness of the issues in health and living standards.[1] The tour was criticised by some journalists for being a one-off event instead of a long-term attempt to build bridges between communities.[2] The band was galvanised by the experiences and made them the basis of their next album, Diesel and Dust, which was released in August 1987 and produced by Warne Livesey and the band.[3] The album focused on the need for recognition by white Australia of past injustices involving the Aboriginal nation and the need for reconciliation. Peter Gifford left the band before the album's release due to extensive touring schedules,[4] and was replaced on bass guitar by Bones Hillman, formerly of The Swingers.[3] The track "Gunbarrel Highway" was not included on the United States version of the album, reportedly, because the line "shit falls like rain on a world that is brown" was deemed too offensive for US audiences.[5]

Diesel and Dust peaked at No. 1 on the Australian albums charts for six weeks,[6] No. 21 on the US Billboard 200 in 1988,[7] and No. 19 on the UK Albums Chart.[8] "Beds Are Burning" was their biggest international hit single, peaking at No. 6 in Australia,[6] No. 17 on the US Billboard Hot 100[9] and No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart.[8] "The Dead Heart" peaked at No. 6 in Australia,[6] and charted on the Hot 100[9] and in the UK.[8] "Put Down that Weapon" also charted in Australia,[6] while "Dreamworld" charted on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks and at No. 16 on its Modern Rock Tracks.[9]

At the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) 1988 Awards ceremony, Midnight Oil won "Best Cover Artist" for Diesel and Dust and both "Best Single" and "Best Song" for "Beds Are Burning".[10][11] A fracas developed between Gary Morris, their manager who was accepting awards for Midnight Oil, and former Countdown compere Ian Meldrum who was presenting: Meldrum objected to Morris making political commentary from the podium.[11]

There were concerns about Diesel and Dust and Midnight Oil's attempts to express indigenous issues to white urban audiences - namely, the question "who holds the power to tell whose history?"[2] The lyrics of "The Dead Heart" tell the story of colonisation from an indigenous point of view but some critics felt they reinforced the "primitive" stereotype.[2] Use of the bullroarer was criticised as belonging to sacred rituals, and therefore not appropriate for rock songs.[2] "The Dead Heart" had been written in response to a request by organisers of the 1985 ceremony to return control of Uluru to its indigenous caretakers; Midnight Oil originally resisted being added to a concert bill that they believed should contain indigenous groups, but the organisers insisted, arguing that the band would reach a wider audience within the predominantly Caucasian urban centres.[12] Midnight Oil requested that all royalties from the song go to indigenous communities.[13] In addition, two indigenous groups, Warumpi Band and Gondwanaland, toured with them.

Following the 1988 American tour in support of Diesel and Dust with Australian band Yothu Yindi, Midnight Oil launched the Burning Bridges album with various artists contributing, including Paul Kelly, Scrap Metal, Coloured Stone, Hunters & Collectors, James Reyne, The Saints, Crowded House, and INXS.[1] All sales proceeds were donated to the National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations.[1]

During 1989 to 1993 and 1998 to 2002, Peter Garrett, the band's lead singer, was the President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, whilst during 1993 to 1998 he was on the International Board of Greenpeace.[14] In 1990 Midnight Oil played an impromptu lunchtime set in front of Exxon headquarters in New York with a banner reading, "Midnight Oil Makes You Dance, Exxon Oil Makes Us Sick," protesting the Exxon Valdez oil spill the previous year.[4]

"Arctic World" was written by Jim Moginie and Peter Garrett and runs for 4 minutes, 21 seconds. The song is about mining and oil drilling in Greenland and Alaska,[15] and was meant to bring attention to the harmful effects these activities have on the environment.[15][16]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[17]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[18]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[19]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[21]
The Village Voice B+[22]

According to Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, Diesel and Dust showed "Midnight Oil [had] reached the peak of its powers with the release of the groundbreaking ... album. ... [it] is arguably one of the greatest Australian albums of all time. Powerful, dynamic and passionate songs like 'Beds are Burning', 'Put Down that Weapon', 'Dreamworld', 'The Dead Heart' and 'Sell My Soul' were statements of intent and a call to action backed by the strength of their convictions".[1]

In 1989, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 13 on their list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s.[23][24] In October 2010 it was listed at No. 1 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.[25]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Beds Are Burning" Garrett, Hirst, Moginie 4:14
2. "Put Down That Weapon" Garrett, Hirst, Moginie 4:38
3. "Dreamworld" Garrett, Hirst, Moginie 3:36
4. "Arctic World" Garrett, Moginie 4:21
5. "Warakurna" Moginie 4:38
6. "The Dead Heart" Garrett, Hirst, Moginie 5:10
7. "Whoah" Garrett, Moginie 3:50
8. "Bullroarer" Garrett, Hirst, Moginie 4:59
9. "Sell My Soul" Garrett, Moginie 3:35
10. "Sometimes" Garrett, Hirst, Moginie 3:53
11. "Gunbarrel Highway" Garrett, Gifford, Hirst, Moginie, Rotsey 3:38

Track 11 was included on some CD releases only, not on the vinyl and cassette releases or the original US CD release.



  • "Holden wrecks" ("Beds Are Burning") refers to the GMH Holden, the Australian make of car.
  • Warakurna is a small town in Western Australia, close to the Northern Territory border, which the band visited on their Black Fella White Fella tour.
  • "In Redfern as there is in Alice" ("Warakurna") refers to Redfern, an area in Sydney, and to Alice Springs, principal town in the centre of Australia.
  • "Lasseter" ("Warakurna") was a gold-seeking con man (died 1931) after whom the Northern Territory highway to Ayers Rock is named.
  • The "dead heart" is a traditional way of referring to the underpopulated desert centre of Australia, a continent which is largely desert with most of the people distributed along the coasts.
  • "There is enough, the law is carved in granite". This line of "Warakurna" is a metaphor. The reason why this is a metaphor is "carved in granite" means that the "law", which means tradition, has been around for a long time.
  • A bullroarer is a traditional Aboriginal musical instrument which produces a whirring sound.

Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Position
1987 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[6] 1


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[26] 7× Platinum 490,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b c d McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Midnight Oil'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d Vellutini, Laetitia (2004). Richard Nile, ed. "Rezoning Australia: Journal of Australian Studies". The Australian Public Intellectual Network. Retrieved 24 April 2012.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  3. ^ a b Holmgren, Magnus; Stenerlöv, Carl-Johan. "Midnight Oil". Australian Rock Database. Passagen.se (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Ed Nimmervoll (ed.). "Midnight Oil". Howlspace. Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  5. ^ The Dead Heart Midnight Oil FAQ, retrieved 11 March 2007.
  6. ^ a b c d e Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.  Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  7. ^ "Midnight Oil – Charts & Awards – Billboard Albums". allmusic. Retrieved 21 October 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c "Chart Stats Midnight Oil". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  9. ^ a b c "Midnight Oil – Charts & Awards – Billboard Albums". allmusic. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "ARIA Awards 2008: History: Winners by Artist search result for Midnight Oil". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 25 August 2008. [dead link]
  11. ^ a b "ARIA Awards 2008: History: Winners by Year search result for 1988". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2008. 
  12. ^ "Midnight Oil: a band with a conscience". BBC. 11 February 2005. Retrieved 23 October 2008. 
  13. ^ "Memorable TV – L to M". Memorable TV. Archived from the original on 17 October 2008. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  14. ^ "Peter Garrett Entry". Long Way to the Top. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 2001. Retrieved 24 October 2008. 
  15. ^ a b http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/133973/
  16. ^ Midnight Oil#International success and activism: 1985–2002
  17. ^ Deming, Mark. "Diesel and Dust – Midnight Oil". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  19. ^ Willman, Chris (6 March 1988). "Burning Midnight Oil". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  20. ^ Fricke, David (7 April 1988). "Midnight Oil: Diesel And Dust". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  21. ^ Fricke, David (2004). "Midnight Oil". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 541–42. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  22. ^ Christgau, Robert (14 March 1989). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  23. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Eighties: Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  24. ^ McCarthy, Sean (6 May 2013). "'Power and the Passion': An Interview with Midnight Oil". PopMatters. Sarah Zupko. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  25. ^ O'Donnell, John; Creswell, Toby; Mathieson, Craig (October 2010). 100 Best Australian Albums. Prahran, Vic: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74066-955-9. 
  26. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2014 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
24 August - 4 October 1987
Succeeded by
Man of Colours by Icehouse