Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Just read Willie's

Sharon Nearhoof May nearhoofmay@cox.net
Thu, 22 May 2003 22:23:49 -0700

Just finished "Willie's" and am feeling that sad, familiar pull of the 
ex-Oils universe.  I liked the book a lot.  Here are my two cents....

I loved the differences between Australian and American English.  For 
instance, I just love seeing the word we spell 'tires' here in the 
States spelled 'tyres'.  It's so cute....wish we spelled it tyres, too. 
  Reminds me of 'tyger, tyger, burning bright...." (we spell it 
'tiger').  And what, pray tell, is a 'busker'?

The several references to the powderworkers were interesting to 
me....especially the one where he was thinking after a concert that we 
would flame him for playing a bad rendition of Bon Jovi's 'Livin' on a 
prayer' with the opening act.  Sometimes he seemed to be matter of fact 
about us -- we were simply their devoted fans -- and others sounded 
like we were a little too much -- one quote mentions the "self-anointed 
powderworkers".  Interesting, too, that he recognized several of the 
powderworkers at concerts in the US.  Also interesting to read his 
takes on the concerts I was at.  The one I thought was the best, he 
didn't seem as fond of.

All in all, I liked it a lot.  In that closing chapter, it seemed to me 
at points that he saw Pete leaving as Pete leaving, not as the band 
breaking up per se.  The joking talk about new lead singers, the 
suggestion to get together 'middle of next year' (is that this year?) 
once Jim's studio was up and running, and play and the sense that Pete 
really just up and left and the rest of the band was left sitting there 
together with each other made it seem a little different than I 
initially thought.  It was a reminder that the main songwriting center 
of the band is intact.  The musicianship is intact.  The voice is gone, 
but so much of Midnight Oil is still there.  Then again, there was that 
sense of the ending, and Bones' suggestion for the last song of a 
'farewell' concert was, indeed, both funny, sad, and moving.

Overall, I was struck with what a sharp guy Rob is.  Apparently well 
read on a lot of subjects and with a very good vocabulary (too good, at 
times).  I liked the glimpse into life on tour and could see that if 
you were into anything at all besides sex, drugs, and rock & roll, the 
opportunity to see the world, explore various cultures, and have such 
varied experiences as a touring musician would be just amazing.  In 
Rob, I think it's created a very interesting, learned person. Which 
brings me to my final point....

On the whole, I just kept wanting more soul in the entire book.  So 
much of what he noted about the state of the States during that time 
period was very true but (i think) pretty superficial.  I mean, yeah, 
stories about the torment of sitting next to fat Americans on airplanes 
and the obnoxious ultrasecurity of the post 9-11 US  and snide remarks 
about the incredible reactive stupidity of George W. and are funny, but 
ultimately, a little un-filling.  I still am not sure what book he was 
trying to write...it was part travelogue, part band diary, part post 
9-11 reflection, but a whole of none.  I kept getting the feeling I get 
when I'm with one of those people who tend to make jokes to gloss over 
or avoid the more deep, serious, or uncomfortable sentiments and 
situations that life presents.  God knows, the America they were 
touring presented some deep, serious, and uncomfortable sentiments and 
situations.  There were definitely profound little moments in the book 
-- the closer for sure.  But not enough.  I'm glad that Rob is a funny 
guy; the book was definitely enjoyable.  But that book read too smart 
to stay that superficial.  Was he afraid to reveal too much about 
others in the band (it's got to be tough to balance respect for the 
privacy of others with the confessional nature of a first-person 
narrative) or his own more serious thoughts or analyses of the 
situations he was confronting?  I kept myself wanting to know what he 
*thought* about things, rather than what he saw, did, or recounted.  

On the whole, a good read.
I'm feeling very sad after finishing it.