(Debuted August 6, 1988, Peaked #53, 10 Weeks on the Chart)
In the late 1980s, I was still a teen and still trying to figure out where I fit in. That said, I did know what I liked when it came to music, and became a big fan of Midnight Oil when I first heard "Beds Are Burning" on the Top 40 radio station. So when "The Dead Heart" was released as a followup, I was pretty much predisposed to like that as well. After hearing that song, I picked up the cassette for Diesel and Dust and even "discovered" the band's earlier LPs Red Sails in the Sunset and 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 (which I simply called "Countdown").
At that age, I knew the group was into politics but I really didn't care about that. The beat was solid and the group's material (on Diesel and Dust) was skewed toward the pop side. As a 16 year old American, I wasn't really bothered by the plight of the Australian aboriginals but I liked the noise. I'm guessing the group and frontman Peter Garrett knew that too, since the message was tempered somewhat on the album: still present, but shifted more into the background than it was on previous records.
"The Dead Heart" was certainly a political song. The title was a reference to the sparsely populated center of Australia, and it directly addressed the treatment that Aborigines received after the English arrived and founded the nation. It was right there, and evident to anybody who wanted to hear it. That's a bold topic for a single, and probably why it stopped at #53 on the Hot 100. But enough teens and college-age kids dug it sufficiently to take it to #11 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. To this day, I'm unsure whether that proved their point or not.