Down Under (song)
|Single by Men at Work|
|from the album Business as Usual|
|Genre||New wave, pop rock|
|Writer(s)||Colin Hay, Ron Strykert|
|Men at Work singles chronology|
"Down Under" (also known as "Land Down Under") is a Platinum-certified single recorded by Australian new wave rock group Men at Work. It was initially released in October 1981 as the second single from their debut album Business as Usual (1981).
The song went to number one in their home country of Australia in December 1981, and then topped the New Zealand charts in February 1982. Released in North America in mid-1982, the song topped the Canadian charts in October. After initially being ignored in the US, the song then charted in America some months later, finally hitting the top spot - for four weeks - in January and February 1983. In America the song entered the charts on 6 November 1982 at 79, taking 10 weeks to climb to #1.
In the UK, the song topped the charts in January and February 1983, and is the only Men at Work song to make the UK top 20. The song also went No. 1 in Ireland, Denmark and Switzerland, and was a top 10 hit in many other territories. It has become a popular and patriotic song in Australia.
Background and writing
Colin Hay told Songfacts: "The chorus is really about the selling of Australia in many ways, the over-development of the country. It was a song about the loss of spirit in that country. It's really about the plundering of the country by greedy people. It is ultimately about celebrating the country, but not in a nationalistic way and not in a flag-waving sense. It's really more than that."
The lyrics are about an Australian traveller circling the globe, proud of his nationality, and about his interactions with people he meets on his travels who are interested in his home country.
Slang and drug terms are used in the lyrics:
Travelling in a fried-out Kombi, on a hippie trail, head full of zombie.
Here "fried-out" means overheated, Kombi refers to the Volkswagen Type 2 combination van, and having "a head full of zombie" refers to the use of a type of marijuana. Cultural slang is also used: after the second verse the refrain is "where the beer does flow and men chunder"; "chunder" means vomit.
The flute part in the song was based around the tune of "Kookaburra", a well-known Australian children's rhyme. (See Copyright lawsuit below for more details.) Originally, "Down Under" was released as the B-side to "Keypunch Operator", a rare custom-pressed single by Men at Work; some of the guitar melodies from that version were further developed into flute parts on the later release.
The exterior shots for the music video were filmed at the Cronulla Sand Dunes outside of Sydney. The video also features several litre-size cans of what appear to be Foster's Lager (although the brand is removed), a beer drunk mainly outside Australia while being marketed as Australian.
The song is a perennial favourite on Australian radio and television, and topped the charts in the U.S. and UK simultaneously in early 1983. It was later used as a theme song by the crew of Australia II in their successful bid to win the America's Cup in 1983, and a remixed version appears during the closing credits of Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Men at Work played this song in the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, alongside other Australian artists. It was also often played after Australian athletes had received medals during competition, as they walked around the venue on a parade lap after the medal ceremony.
In May 2001, Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Best Australian Songs of all time, as decided by a 100 strong industry panel, "Down Under" was ranked as the fourth song on the list.
- During the 1980s Yossi and Avi Piamenta recorded traditional Jewish wedding lyrics to the tune of the song. The name of this song is Asher Bara Sasson ve'Simcha. It is often played at Orthodox Jewish weddings and celebrations. Whilst the composition remains unaffected none of the lyrics relate to the original song.
- In 1983, Hong Kong pop singer Alan Tam made a cover of the song, which was included in his album "Late-coming Spring". The Cantonese version is called "一於少理" ("Just Don't Care" in English).
- In 1985, Lithuanian rock band Antis made a cover of the song, which became one of their most well known hits. It was called "Zombiai" (the Lithuanian word for zombies). This Lithuanian version had unique lyrics which represented ironic attitude towards Soviet regime (Lithuania was part of Soviet Union at the time), but some parts remain very similar. "Gyvenk kaip galima švariau, Pikti kenkėjai budi tundroj. Paklausyk, paklausyk ar girdi – Zombiai atrieda, atidunda." which means "Live as clean as possible, Angry pests are on the watch in tundra, Listen to, listen to, do you hear – Zombies roll in and thunder".
- A Finnish cover version titled "Tervetuloa Länteen, Andrej" (Welcome to west, Andrej) of the song was released by Vilperin Perikunta in 1992. The original story of the song was changed to tell a tale of Andrej, a Russian proletarian who travels to Finland to search for a job and better life in a welfare state. In the chorus Finland is described as "road to the top of heaven" and "road to freedom" for a Russian. In this cover version the flute parts were played with violin and a banjo lick was added to the background.
- Another version of the song was released in 1999 by the punk rock band Pennywise, as a bonus track on the album Straight Ahead
- The punk rock band Funeral Dress also had a version of the song on its 2001 album A Way of Life.
In 2001, a performance of the song by the Red Army Choir was released on the CD Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge. The song was performed in the manner of a Russian folk song and featured clapping, and accordion.
- British ska punk band spunge also covered the song on their 2004 covers album That Should Cover It! and regularly perform the song at live shows.
- UK punk-pop band Cranial Screwtop recorded a version of the song for their 2006 album, "Too Fast for Technology".
- A version of "Down Under" has been released in 2012 by Argentinian multi-instrumentalist songwriter and producer Damián Gaume.
- In 2012 the reggae Chilean band Gondwana also covered "Down Under" for a radio program in Argentina called "La 100 Vivo".
In 2008 on the ABC-TV quiz show Spicks and Specks the question was posed "What children's song is contained in the song Down Under?" resulting in phone calls and emails to Larrikin Music the next day. Larrikin Music subsequently decided to take legal action against the songs writers Colin Hay and Ron Strykert.
Sections of the flute part of the recording of the song were found to be based on the children's song "Kookaburra", written in 1932 by Marion Sinclair. Sinclair died in 1988 and the rights to the Kookaburra song were deemed to have been transferred to publisher Larrikin Music on 21 March 1990. In the United States, the rights are administered by Music Sales Corporation in New York City.
In June 2009, 28 years after the release of the recording, Larrikin Music sued Men At Work for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff of "Down Under" was copied from "Kookaburra". The counsel for the band's record label and publishing company (Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI Songs Australia) claimed that, based on the agreement under which the song was written, the copyright was actually held by the Girl Guides Association. On 30 July, Justice Peter Jacobson of the Federal Court of Australia made a preliminary ruling that Larrikin did own copyright on the song, but the issue of whether or not Hay and Strykert had plagiarised the riff was set aside to be determined at a later date.
On 4 February 2010, Justice Jacobson ruled that Larrikin's copyright had been infringed because "Down Under" reproduced "a substantial part of Kookaburra".
When asked how much Larrikin would be seeking in damages, Larrikin's lawyer Adam Simpson replied: "anything from what we've claimed, which is between 40 and 60 per cent, and what they suggest, which is considerably less." In court, Larrikin's principal Norman Lurie gave the opinion that, had the parties negotiated a licence at the outset as willing parties, the royalties would have been between 25 and 50 per cent. On 6 July 2010, Justice Jacobson handed down a decision that Larrikin receive 5% of royalties from 2002. In October 2011 the band lost its final court bid when the High Court of Australia refused to hear an appeal.
Until this high-profile case, "Kookaburra"'s standing as a traditional song combined with the lack of visible policing of the song's rights by its composer had led to the general public perception that the song was within the public domain.
The revelation of "Kookaburra"'s copyright status, and more-so the pursuit of royalties from it, has generated a negative response among sections of the Australian public. In response to unsourced speculation of a Welsh connection, Dr Rhidian Griffiths pointed out that the Welsh words to the tune were published in 1989 and musicologist Phyllis Kinney stated neither the song's metre nor its lines were typical Welsh.
Since the verdict, Colin Hay has continued to insist that any plagiarism was wholly unintentional. He says that when the song was originally written in 1978, it did not have the musical passage in question, and that it was not until two years later, during a jam rehearsal session, that flautist Greg Ham improvised the riff, perhaps subconsciously recalling "Kookaburra". Hay has also added that Ham and the other members of the band were under the influence of marijuana during that particular rehearsal. Greg Ham was found dead in Melbourne on 19 April 2012. In the months before his death, Ham had been despondent over the verdict, and convinced that "the only thing people will remember me for" would be the plagiarism conviction.
A new version of the song has been created by Colin Hay, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the original's release. Requested by Telstra for use in an Australian advertising campaign during the 2012 Summer Olympics period, the song will be available through iTunes on 31 July.
In the new version, Hay intentionally changed the flute part that caused the copyright lawsuit.
In popular culture
The song was used on the in-car radio station, The Mix 107.77, in Saints Row 2
The song is playing on KITT's car radio in Knight Rider Season 1 Episode 16 (TOPAZ Connection).
Australian professional darts player Simon Whitlock uses the song for his walk on music.
7": CBS / BA 222891 Australia
- "Down Under" – 3:44
- "Crazy" – 2:34
7": CBS / A 2066 Europe
- "Down Under" – 3:44
- "Helpless Automaton" – 3:23
12": CBS / BA 12229 Australia / promo-release 1986
- "Down Under (Extended mix)" – 5:30
- "Sail to you (Extended mix)" – 5:48
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||1|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||6|
|Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)||4|
|Germany (Media Control Charts)||9|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||2|
|New Zealand (RIANZ)||1|
|South African Chart||2|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||1|
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||13|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks||1|
- Whitburn, Joel (2010). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 420.
- Men at Work UK chart history, The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
- "'80s hit Down Under copies kids' song: court". CBC News. Associated Press. 4 February 2010. "Larrikin Music owns the copyright"
- "Down Under". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
- Pop, Classic (1 September 2009). "Down Under-covered". BBC News magazine (BBC). Retrieved 7 July 2010. "Kombi ... Kombinationskraftwagen – aka the trusty old VW camper van ... zombie ... potent strain of marijuana (on occasion laced with angel dust) The use of "slack jawed, and not much to say" "lying in a den in Bombay" depict the traveller "on the nod". Being "on the nod" is a common after effect of the use of heroine or as in this case smoking opium. The video clip even shows the actual "nod" occurring briefly."
- "SongMeanings / Lyrics / Men At Work – Down Under". Retrieved 9 July 2010. "A Volkswagen Kombi is a minivan. It's fried-out because of the heat and it's probably overheating. Head full of zombie refers to him being wasted on a head full of pot."
- "Men At Work lose plagiarism case". BBC News. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
- "Men at Work's Colin Hay on Friday Night Videos intro for Down Under".
- "Artist Biography – Men at Work". Billboard. 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2010. "second American number one early in 1983 and it became the band's first British hit single; the song reached number one in both countries simultaneously."
- Shears, Richard (5 February 2010). "Men At Work face £33m bill after judge rules Australian band copied Down Under melody". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 24 January 2011.
- "The final list: APRA'S Ten best Australian Songs". APRA. 28 May 2001. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- "Ep. 167 "100 Greatest Songs of the 80s (Hour 1)". VH1. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
- "CD Review – Yihiyu Leratzon by Piamenta".
- "YouTube: 谭咏麟 – 一於少理".
- "YouTube: Antis – Zombiai".
- "YouTube: Vilperin Perikunta – Tervetuloa Länteen".
- "Various – The Andrew Denton Breakfast Show Musical Challenge". discogs.com.
- "Down Under and Kookaburra in copyright battle". The Sunday Telegraph. 12 October 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- JACOBSON, J (7 September 2009). Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited  FCA 799 (30 July 2009). Sydney: Federal Court of Australia. "170. ... with effect from 21 Match 1990 ... Yes"
- Davies, Lisa (25 June 2009). "Claims Men At Work hit Down Under is a rip-off of Kookaburra song". news.com.au. Retrieved 7 July 2010. "claiming Larrikin doesn't actually have copyright to Kookaburra – the Girl Guides do."
- "Girls may have guided Men at Work's song Down Under". The Australian. 25 June 2009.[dead link]
- "Men At Work face plagiarism case". BBC News. 30 July 2009.
- "Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited  FCA 29 (4 February 2010)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Dingle, Sarah (4 February 2010). "Australian court rules 'Down Under' riff plundered". Australia News Network.
- Dingle, Sarah (4 February 2010). "Men at Work plundered Kookaburra riff: court". ABC News.
- Arlington, Kim (5 February 2010). "Infringement Down Under". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2010. "Larrikin is entitled to recover damages"
- "Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited (No 2)  FCA 698 (6 July 2010)". Australasian Legal Information Institute. 6 July 2010. para. 45. Retrieved 9 July 2010. "File number(s): NSD 145 of 2008 ... 45. Mr Lurie expressed the opinion that having regard to his experience in conducting license negotiations in the industry, and taking into account percentages that were agreed in other instances of sampling, a fair remuneration for the license to use the copyright in Kookaburra for the purpose of writing and exploiting Down Under negotiated on an arm’s length basis between willing parties would have been a royalty in the order of between 25% and 50% of the total income of Down Under. ... 222. The 5% figure is the total percentage payable to Larrikin of the APRA/AMCOS income."
- Gibson, Joel (6 July 2010). "Kookaburra sits on a small fortune: ruling on Down Under royalties". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2010. "to pay Larrikin 5 per cent of royalties from the song dating back to 2002 and on royalties from future earnings"
- Associated Press in Sydney (7 October 2011). "Men at Work lose appeal over Kookaburra riff". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Ham, Larissa; Arlington, Kim (5 February 2010). "Kookaburra case: publisher hits back at Colin Hay's "greed" claim – Music". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- "Origins: Kookaburra – possible copyright info". Mudcat.org. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- "Men at Work steal children's song... – Artists – Music". Forums.whirlpool.net.au. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- "Kookaburra vs Down Under?". Mudcat.org. 30 July 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010. "From: Paul Burke ... illustrates the stupidity and tragedy of copyright. ... From: bodgie ... down to two rather stubborn music industry companies ... only ones making money out of this fight are the lawyers. Damn them all. Warren Fahey"
- "Lawyers sue, men plunder – Music – Entertainment". Sydney Morning Herald. 2 November 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010. "For some, Larrikin's suit will be seen as a brazen and opportunistic attempt"
- Ulaby, Neda (1 December 2009). "A Kookaburra Causes Trouble 'Down Under'". NPR. Retrieved 27 April 2010. "number of Australians, including Westwood, found this a bit much."
- Giles Hardie (27 July 2012). "Down Under loses its infringing flute". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- "Colin Hay to Celebrate 'Down Under' 30th Anniversary with Global Re-Release". Colin Hay. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- "Colin Hay and Down Under 2012". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_green. Missing or empty
- "Australian n°1 Hits - 80's". Worldcharts.co.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- International chart lists – australian-charts.com
- "Down under in Canadian Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
- "Down under in German Chart". Media control. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- "Down under in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 1 June 2013. Only one result when searching "Down under"
- John Samson. "Down under in South African Chart". Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- "Business as Usual awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Down Under-covered. BBC News article decodes the lyrics
- Legacy Recordings – Men at Work
- Sony BMG – Men at Work
- Listen to a clip from 'Down Under' and read more about it on australianscreen online
- 'Down Under' was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia Registry in 2007
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