Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Minister For Rock

By Darryl Mason

Peter Garrett did not have a good year. He spent far too much time looking weak and fear-grinning his way through interviews and rare press conferences, snapping haughtily at journalists when they reminded him that what he was doing is the just about the complete opposite of the belief system he lived and breathed and seethed when he was frontman for Midnight Oil. You know, when he was popular.

In 2008, Garrett seemed to only appear long enough to back down on yet another issue that once won him such a rabid and sometimes messiah-like rock political following amongst usually disinterested suburban youth, or to loom up in Question Time and shamelessly change his mind on something he said only a few months, weeks, or days, before.

Few in the media had much good to say about him, or whatever departments he is supposed to be in charge of. Does anybody really know Peter Garrett's full portfolio, or what the fuck he is supposed to be doing, without going a goog?

Garrett got frequently hammered in the media, on climate change and solar panels, and they were mere entrees. In short, the reviews were fucking abysmal. Maybe one star out of five.

But Garrett sees himself as a seasoned public performer, used to copping attack and flack. He's had full bottles of beer thrown at him onstage by people who loved him, back when Midnight Oil were regularly shredded by the music press, in their early days. He can take it. The media doesn't like something he's done? Right, whatever. Seriously, who really gives a shit what the media has to say? To Fight Club philosophise, Peter Garrett lets what does not truly matter, slide.

But a source tells The Orstrahyun that one chunk of anti-Garrett news really hit him, and hurt him.

This news, from October :

Rock band AC/DC has been named the most trusted Australian music brand, while former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett is "a sell-out".

As AC/DC released its first album in eight years yesterday, a report by brand expert Simon Hammond found that the hard rockers still had the trust of the nation.

But the report found Mr Garrett, who for years sang about Aboriginal rights, land ownership and the environment before joining the Labor Party and entering Federal Parliament, was damaged goods.

"Peter Garrett himself is damaging the memory of Midnight Oil," Mr Hammond said.

"A lot of people think he has sold out. When you go from where he was, as an independent voice in a political environment outside of the inner sanctum, to all of a sudden join it, you have to sell out. He's had to shut up and do things the right way.

"I am sure he has got his reasons but, from a point of view of popular culture, people see him as a sell-out."

"People grew up with Midnight Oil and believed in their beliefs," he said.

"Those beliefs were very clearly articulated. Now he talks like a politician, so he is definitely a damaged brand now."

The source claims that this report troubled Garrett deeply. It's bad enough the public clearly despises him in ever greater numbers, but AC/DC more trusted than Midnight Oil? How the fuck did that happen?

Garrett knows he will never become prime minister, if that was ever his intention, but he is concerned about his life after politics. Who'll buy his book(s)? How might he one day be obituarised?

Garrett will not let himself be remembered as a "damaged brand", a "sell out" who is polluting "the memory of Midnight Oil".

For fuck's sake, AC/DC are 'more trusted' than his old band?

AC/DC made album after (usually excellent) album compromised almost entirely of songs about fucking. Midnight Oil changed the nation, and maybe a little bit of the world, too, through song. So that's gotta hurt. Real bad.

But it's far worse than just that. What Peter Garrett is doing, or not doing, is making millions of Australians question the legacy, the integrity, of Midnight Oil.

Look around you, there are still Midnight Oil t-shirts to be seen, but how many are there with Garrett's huge, great stretched dome leering out at you? None.

Peter Garrett is successfully garroting his musical legacy, let alone his political legacy. And he knows it.

There was once the option for Garrett to think, 'Well, if the political thing doesn't work out, I will always be remembered as the lead singer for Midnight Oil'. What will that be worth once he's finished 'poisoning its memory'?

The question is how he will go about shaking off such a "damaged" public image?

Think : Music.

One possibility may be music education available to all, or most, children which will be focused on rock, including rap and R & B, but mostly rock. Peter Garrett is apparently very aware of how popular video games that are now teaching hundreds of thousands of Australian kids how to play toy guitars and drums along to music actually are. And he can capitalise on it, and recast himself, as the politician who was responsible for getting the actual instruments of rock into the hands of all the kids that want them.

What if Garrett becomes the Australian politician who spearheads a public schools drive to teach a generation of kids how to rock for real? How to play a real guitar instead just a video game one? How to hammer away on an actual eight piece drumkit, real rims and skins and pedals, real noise, instead of noodling away on bleepy plastic pads? You want to get the aggression out of kids in school? Give them access to a drum kit.

The film industry is developing a ripe old stink, after the debacle of 'Australia'. Are you happy that ex-Australian Rupert Murdoch got back tens of millions of dollars of his investment in that movie before it even hit the cinemas, and died a non-blockbuster death?

Anyway, the real entrepreneurs have always known there is money to be made in Australian rock. It's far more fun, and the track record is superb. We've turned out many of the greatest bands in world rock history. More people will see live music in Australia this summer than will watch Australian movies, in the cinema or at home on DVD. There is, for Garrett, hope and redemption in the music, now, as there has been before.

In 2009, Peter Garrett will become the Minister for Rock...

...or he will continue to fart around and make hundreds of thousands of middle-aged people wonder why in all fuck they ever believed what he had to say, what they truly came to believe in too, back in the days when he was blasting pure energy and righteousness from the stage of a thundering Midnight Oil gig.