Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport"
Single by Rolf Harris
B-side "The Big Black Hat"
Released 1960
Format 7" single
Recorded 1960
Genre Pop
Length 3:03
Label Epic, EMI Columbia
Writer(s) Rolf Harris

"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" is a song written by Australian singer and painter Rolf Harris in 1957 which became a hit across the world in the 1960s in two recordings (1960 in Australia and the United Kingdom for the original, and 1963 with a re-recording of his song in the United States). Inspired by Harry Belafonte's calypsos, it is about an Australian stockman on his deathbed. The song is one of the best-known and most successful Australian songs.

Harris originally offered four unknown Australian backing musicians 10% of the royalties for the song in 1960, but they decided to take a recording fee of £28 among them because they thought the song would be a flop.[1]

The recording peaked at No. 1 in the Australian charts[2] and was a Top 10 hit in the UK in 1960. In 1963 Harris re-recorded the song in the UK with George Martin as producer and this remake of the song reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and spent three weeks atop the easy listening chart in 1963.[3] Harris re-recorded his song a second time along with The Wiggles in 2000 with the introductory verse and the verse mentioning the stockman's death omitted. It is still popular today as a children's song.

The distinctive sound of Harris' original recording was achieved by the use of an instrument of his own design called the "wobble board" — a two- by three-foot piece of Masonite.[4]

The story of the song[edit]

The opening recitation by Harris:

There's an old Australian stockman, lying, dying,
and he gets himself up on one elbow,
and he turns to his mates,
who are gathered 'round him and he says…

is similar to the first verse of a song, The Dying Stockman, collected by Banjo Paterson and published in 1905:[5]

A strapping young stockman lay dying,
His saddle supporting his head;
His two mates around him were crying,
As he rose on his pillow and said…

In Harris' version, a dying Australian stockman instructs his friends to take care of his affairs when he is gone. The first of these is to watch his wallabies' feed, then to tie his kangaroo down, since they jump around (which is the chorus). "Sport" is an Australian term of address, alluding to "good sport", which often, as in this case, praises someone for carrying out a small favour one is asking of them. The lyrics mention animals and things associated with Australia, including cockatoos, koalas, platypuses, and didgeridoos. His last dying wish is "Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred". By the end of the song, the stockman has died and his wish has been carried out: "We tanned his hide when he died, Clyde, and that's it hanging on the shed".

Deleted verse[edit]

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport sheet music cover

The fourth verse was removed after December 1964 because of its use of the word "Abo", an offensive slang term for Aboriginal Australians.[6] The lyrics of this verse (not found on Rolf Harris' official Web site) are as follows:

Let me Abos go loose, Lou
Let me Abos go loose:
They're of no further use, Lou
So let me Abos go loose.

The stockman thus emancipates his native ranch hands at his death, when they were "of no further use" to him. It is unlikely that Harris envisioned these men as captives of the stockman, but simply meant that they be "let go" from their positions. This verse does not feature in later versions of the song, and, in a 2006 interview, Harris expressed regret about the racist nature of the original lyrics.[7]

Many parodies, variations, and versions tailored for different countries exist of the song, and Harris performs excerpts from some of them on a 1969 live album released only in the UK called Rolf Harris Live at the Talk of the Town (EMI Columbia SCX 6313).

1982 Commonwealth Games[edit]

Rolf Harris performed the song during the Opening Ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia with a special verse of lyrics written for the event, they are as follows:

Let me welcome you to the Games, friends,
Welcome you to the Games,
Look, I don't know all your names, friends,
But let me welcome you to the Games.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Did you know... page 18 "Westside News", 20 February 2008 — Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. ^ Rolf Harris lyrics
  3. ^ The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition, 1996
  4. ^ Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport at Time.com, retrieved on 3/14/2008.
  5. ^ "The Old Bush Songs", http://freeread.com.au/ebooks/e00070.txt
  6. ^ Thomas, Athol (12 December 1964). "In Western Australia This Week: Card Falls Wrongly for Country Party". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 2. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Renee Switzer, Rolf's lyrics 'a sign of the times', The Age, 6 December 2006.
Preceded by
"My Old Man's a Dustman" by Lonnie Donegan and His Group
Australian Singles Chart number-one single
11–25 June 1960
Succeeded by
"Swingin' School" by Bobby Rydell