Beds Are Burning

Album: Diesel And Dust (1988)
Charted: 6 17


  • This is a political song about giving native Australian lands back to the Pintupi, who were among the very last people to come in from the desert. These "last contact" people began moving from the Gibson Desert to settlements and missions in the 1930s. More were forcibly moved during the 1950s and 1960s to the Papunya settlement. In 1981 they left to return to their own country and established the Kintore community which is nestled in the picturesque Kintore Ranges, surrounded by Mulga and Spinifex country. It is now a thriving little community with a population of about 400.
  • Regarding the line, "From Kintore East to Yuendemu," Yuendemu is an aboriginal community in Central Australia, 250 Kilometers northwest of Alice Springs. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Dave Malkoff - San Francisco, CA, for above 2
  • Midnight Oil performed this in front of a worldwide audience of billions, (including Prime Minister John Howard, who has claimed it as his favorite Midnight Oil song) at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The whole band were dressed in black, with the words "sorry" printed conspicuously on their clothes. This was a reference to the Prime Minister's refusal to apologize, on behalf of Australia, to the Aboriginal Australians for the way they have been treated over the last 200 years.
  • Diesel and Dust is ranked the #1 Australian album of all time in Toby Creswell, Craig Mathieson and John O'Donnell's book, The 100 Best Australian Albums, which was published in 2010. The runner-up is AC/DC's 1980 classic record Back in Black.
  • In 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association placed this at #3 (behind the Easybeats' "Friday On My Mind" and Daddy Cool's "Eagle Rock") on their list of the Top 30 Australian Songs of the past 75 years. Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett spoke of the tune's enduring power.

    "In retrospect it was the song we were born to record. It's got all the bits to make it work, strong rhythms, good melody and the lyrics had some punch, while being very Aussie," he explained. "It took a while to stick. It's incredible how much it still gets played around the place... Who would have thought an Aboriginal land rights song would travel that far?"
  • This won Best Single and Best Song at the 1988 ARIA Awards (the album also won Best Cover Art). Gary Morris, the band's manager, accepted the prizes on behalf of the group and got into a tiff with Australian music journalist Molly Meldrum when he declared he didn't like the evening's choice of presenters, particularly Bryan Ferry. Morris made a snide remark about Ferry's stylishly wrinkled suit, causing Meldrum to leap to the Roxy Music leader's defense. Morris later explained the problem was that Ferry was a Brit presenting an Australian award: "I had an attitude about bringing over offshore artists to present at a local awards."
  • This was featured in the 2007 drama The Kite Runner, starring Khalid Abdalla and Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada. It was also used in the 1988 TV movie Ladykillers, starring Marilu Henner, and the animated comedy American Dad! in the 2013 episode "The Full Cognitive Redaction of Avery Bullock by the Coward Stan Smith."

Comments: 43

  • David Vd from New YorkWhat ever happened to the Aborigines in the video Beds are burning 1987 where are they now? There was a girl that kissed a child she was wearing a jean shirt !
  • Wc from Anna, TxMy interpretation of saying "pay the rent, pay our share" ," fair is fair" "it belongs to them" the land that was taken from them still belongs to them. The band wants to pay them fair rent for use of the land they want to give back.
  • Kathy Alexander from Pueblo, Colorado United StatesI never new the actual meaning behind this song. To me I always felt like it was a song for all generations. To realize that the Earth is something that we're handing down to our children and it ought to be better taken care of. Thank you for the song. It's awesome.
  • Debbie Nsw South Coast from Australia A few little changes and this could be re recorded about the apocolyptic bushfires now
    2019/2020. Would love them to record it with re wording to raise money for Australian devastation!
  • Jim from UsaIn 2019/2020 this brings to mind the staggering Australian wildfires, and global warming denial in the face of it all.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaNathen, if you want to see other songs by Midnight Oil, type "Midnight Oil" in the search box, top-left of this page, to see the ones that Songfacts has details for. Alternatively, go to Youtube & search "Midnight Oil full album playlist" whch will get you sets of songs, by album, played one song at a time, so you can note the title. I prefer to find them on here, as I like reasding the details & finding out new tidbits about a song. . .
  • Pearlheartgtr from NyThis song not only resonates with the Australian Aboriginals, but with the Native Americans as well. I had originally thought this song was about the NA. During that time, there were a lot of Southwest NA deaths associated with cheap kerosene heaters because they couldn't afford better heating/housing. Their houses were catching on fire or they would die from smoke inhalation/carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Basically, everything in the song also pertains to our Native Americans, just change the location.
  • Bryce from Indiana, United StatesCan someone help me understand the meaning of this song?
  • Phil from YeppoonThe Holden is a make of car made in Australia (company has been owned by GM for a long time).
  • Nathen from Melbourne , AustraliaWhat other songs are there from midnight oil?
  • Nathen from Melbourne , AustraliaAwesome!
  • Mark from Jefferson City, MoSounds like Katherine Hepburn at the beginning of the song.
  • Ricardo from Distrito Federal, Mexicocan you tell me what it means "holden wrecks" that said the letter
  • Leo from Westminster 1, MdBed Are Burning is a shocker! This timeless rocker by Midnight Oil is about land rights-namely, the plight of the aborigines. In Australia, they have been exploited by the British for over 200b years and it has got to stop! In this angry down under artwork, Peter Garrett writes "The time has come/To say Fair's Fair!...It belongs to them/Let's Give it Back!" Which leads me to ask "What side are you on?Can't we all just get along? For Once? We all need to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect if humanity is to Survive! i say that something's gotta give! I will listen to beds Are Burning for the rest of my rock & roll life and existence! Fair's Fair! Australia Forever!
  • John from Brisbane, United StatesThis song was always too overpowering for sleepyheads who want santa claus.A fact is a fact and fair is always must be a fair thing.
  • Rick from Indianapolis, InMidnight Oil is one of the most underated bands of all time. Their words force you to think about what is happening to Mother Earth and all of the people that inhabit her. It's powerful stuff and quite thought provoking. But,you know what? These guys can really play. I know it's difficult to listen to an Oil song without being engaged by the lyrics...but they bring it musically, as well. They completely mesmerize me. I had the total pleasure of seeing them live during the Diesel & Dust tour back in the 80's and they brought the house down. An incredibly gifted and talented band that never got...or ever will get...their just due. As wonderful as Beds Are Burning is, and I love this song, it is just a small taste of the feast that is Midnight Oil.
  • Joel from Melbourne, AustraliaThis song is about the ill-treatment of Australia's native people at the hands of the white establishment. Moving Stuff. The wounds still haven't fully been healed here, theres still a long road ahead of us.
  • Sam Calvin from Brissy, Australia2000: Peter Garrett performs at the olympics wearing a tshirt with sorry on it as a protest against the government.
    2008: Peter Garrett the Federal Minister for the Environment stands in parliament while the Prime Minister says sorry to the aboriginal people.
    Now there's a man who knows how to get what he wants!
  • Billy from Toronto, Ontotal respect to Midnight Oil. i use to listen to this song when i was young, but did't know what it was refering to. Now i know and i love it even more for what he did.
  • Peter from Birmingham, United KingdomTruly electrifying song!
  • Fiona from Cairns, Australiathis is a very inspirering song about aboriginals and how they've been treated over the years. im proud to say im australian.
  • Bertrand from Paris, FranceThough not a monster hit by any means, this track about aboriginal settlers in Australia, of all things, made an unmistakable mark on 1988 at several distinct levels. For one, the shaved-head countenance of seven-foot-tall frontman Peter Garrett made quite an impression when the band hit MTV. But beyond the visual, his utterly captivating yelp of a singing voice lent anger and immediacy to the band's personal take on a narrowly specific social problem in its homeland. The song's sound seemed old and new at the same time, employing driving rock beats, a nifty horn intro and a soaring gem of a chorus.
  • Adriana Cardona from Honduras, OtherGREAT song has so much adrenaline and passion!!!!i´m not from australia but by listening to the lyrics of this song it makes me wanna go there visit the aboriginals , and learn of there culture and how they overcome racism..
  • Lalah from Wasilla, Akwe got the same problem with the four wheelers in Alaska.
  • Chelsea from Wichita, KsI love this song so much.I may not live in Australia or anything but you can totally feel the passion of what they're saying in it.
  • Darius Rust from Melbourne, Australiai really like this song. also, as a fact, the lyrics to the chorus of the song as sung by aborigines. This is to say that it is their land that is "turning" as they are "dancing" (their special dances that i dont know the name of). and "how can we sleep when our beds are burning" is to depict that the white anglo-saxons are burning their land and turning the country into Cities and other things. i find this amazing as midnight oil got the aborigines to sing this and changed alot of people's thoughts.
  • Harry from BrisbaneI just love this song because it sticks up for my people
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhThought this was a stupid song, until I saw the video and realized what it really meant. I like it a lot now.
  • James from Westchester, EnglandFor kicks, try to sing along with this song with a smile on your face. It can't be done.
  • Katina from Brisbane, Australiathis song is great. midnight oil were brave in recording this song because of all of the racism that was still circulating at this time. australia was a bit slow to fully accept its native inhabitants. its a very powerful song for most people and especially when youve seen first hand the battle. good on em for sticking up for my people!!
  • Dave from Brisbane, AustraliaMidnight oil perform with so much power and energy,If you get a chance have a look at the oils performing "Sometimes" on the back of a flatbed truck in New York city, do so, its a great vid.
    Beds are burning is one of the oils most commercial songs, thats not to say its thier best, I think "My Country and Sometimes are thier best"
  • Craig from Madison, WiOne of the greatest protest songs, worthy of Guthrie and Dylan. Sung with furious anger while still being poppy, with easy metaphors and blunt talking. Well done, scary bald Australian man.
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaThis is Midnight Oil's biggest song.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanThey did a kick-ass version on MTV unplugged.
  • Don from Dallas, TxThis song just struck a chord with me. Always loved it.
  • Vern Collins from Vancouver, WaPeter Garrett was the singer in Midnight Oil. He is no longer with the band. He served two terms as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. In his first term, from 1989 to 1993, significant results were achieved for many threatened areas of the Australian environment including Coronation Hill in Kakadu, Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, the Queensland Wet Tropics rainforest and Jervis Bay in NSW. In his second term, the ACF grew strongly, developed partnerships with non-government organisations, progressive business groups and companies, and expanded it's campaigning into marine conservation and northern Australia.

    He received the Australian Humanitarian Foundation Award ( environment category) in 2000, and in 2003 received the Order of Australia (Member General Division) for his contribution to environment and the music industry. Dude lives what he believes.

  • Frank from Western Australia, WaAn insightful and honest song about issues facing the indigenous Australians and said at a time before it became trendy to do so. Known more as a rocky party tune it has so much truth in it. Dispossed by country the first Australians struggle with european lifestyle and values. Has happened in so many places!!!
  • Evan from Chapel Hill, NcI saw the lead singer (I don't know his name) perform Franklin's Tower with Bob Weir (from The Grateful Dead) a couple years ago. Awesome.
  • Adam from London, EnglandThis song actually got to number 6 in the UK charts in March 1989. Check it out on

    Song is also very popular with South Africans as I always hear it when I go to their bars in London....
  • Callum from Bendigo, AustraliaVery good song and it symbolises what Midnight Oil was all about...the environment. Great band!!
  • Shana from Pembroke, CanadaGreat song...i really like the lyrics...the time has come to say fairs favorite part
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThis song only made UK No.48 when first released in 1988 - however, it was re-issued in 1990 and peaked at No.9
  • Emma from Nt, Australiai come from the state this song was about, and its pretty much about how people treat aboriganals.
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