US Forces

Album: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (1982)
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Songfacts®:

  • The lead single from Midnight Oil's fourth album, this new wave/post-punk anthem condemns America's military presence in Australia. Lead singer Peter Garrett told The Washington Post in 1990: "Just like there was a Roman Empire imposing its views on the communities of its day, it was clear to us that there was a major imperial power imposing itself on the Australian community with spy bases, B-52s on the landing strips, Trident submarines coming in, American soldiers cutting a swath through the streets of our cities. It was quite a tangible thing to see, and many Australians, while not opposed to the people side, were opposed to the politics side."
  • The lyrics reference the threat of nuclear warfare in the Cold War era, warning, "Superboy takes a plutonium wife, In the shadow of Ban The Bomb we live." In 1983, Midnight Oil performed this at the anti-nukes Stop The Drop! concert in Melbourne. Before launching into the song, Garrett told the crowd:

    "Midnight Oil are here today because we're concerned about the issue of nuclear disarmament. And I think when we're in Europe, we realized how close people were to becoming to understand that, if the Russians or the Americans decided that they were actually going to set something off, they would be faced with the possibility that they may have nuclear warheads detonated in their backyard, or in their laundry. And so we became aware of the nuclear thing, and when we got back here we started to think about it, and get concerned about it. People in Australia are unaware that nuclear devices have been detonated here at Maralinga in the early fifties, and they're unaware of the facilities that the Americans have put here, which are used in their defense network and their attack network. And the Oils - we want to keep on making music, and we want people to keep on enjoying it, so, consequently, we think its very important to come and play and to dance and to learn and that's why we're here."
  • When asked about the tune in 2017, Garrett told Rolling Stone Australia: "It's construed as an anti-American song but it was an anti-Reagan, anti-Republican song about what they were doing and the impact it was having on our country at the time."
  • Most Americans hadn't heard of Midnight Oil when this was released. They didn't break through in the States until 1988, when "Beds Are Burning," their anthem on Aboriginal land rights, hit the Top 20.
  • This peaked at #20 on the Australian Singles chart.

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