I could never really get into Midnight Oil. I have tended to find their many lefty protest songs rather whiny and annoying, although I suppose they had their place (right up until Peter Garrett tried to be a politician and showed he wasn’t much good at practising what he preached).
I always rhetorically would wonder out loud as to whether they ever did an actual love song?
That is not really Midnight Oil’s purpose though, and I am not going to go back through their back catalogue of albums to see if they did anything like that.
They did, however, do a cover version of The Real Thing at one point (their best ever song, really). And they were good enough musicians to do a decent job of it, even though The Real Thing did not ever need to be covered by anyone.
Not that The Real Thing is explicitly a love song, given that it is a simple but highly catchy tune in the first person about being the Real Thing (whatever that is) and inviting people to come and see it.
I was listening to The Real Thing the other night, and despite it being late and being most of the way through a bottle of shiraz, I paid close attention to it and then looked up the story of its creation, which is full of surprises.
The song was the 1969 debut by Australian singer Russell Morris. He’s mostly before my time, although I was vaguely aware of him in the early 1980s.
But the song itself was written by Johnny Young of all people (yes, the Johnny Young who hosted Young Talent Time for most of the 70s and 80s and who gifted Tina Arena and Dannii Minogue to the world).
Young’s vision for the song (I know that if you are familiar with him from your childhood, having the vision right now of Johnny Young as a really cool song writer rather than Uber-daggy family TV host is a struggle) was rather different from the final product.
Which is where Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum came in. We know Molly Meldrum mostly as the host of Countdown in the 70s and 80s, and from his rock journo celebrity status after that.
BUT, Meldrum was the producer of The Real Thing. He transformed it from a slow ballad into the high energy psychedelic rock anthem that we know it as.
This leaves me wondering. Our parents were cool once, and we don’t like to think of that. In the same vein, Johnny Young was a great song writer, and Molly Meldrum was a record producer of genius. In an alternative reality, perhaps there would be no Young Talent Time and no Countdown, and instead, Young and Meldrum could have continued to write and produce amazing music together.
Just think of it. A lost opportunity for Australian music.