Men at Work – Down Under

At last! The track we’d all been waiting for!

A non Rolf Harris* track about Australia! And, let’s face it, one which got to number 1 in the UK singles chart!

As I was only eleven at the time of its release I didn’t buy it then, instead I waited for eight years or so until I was at university and bought it from a second hand seller in the Student Union. Mine is the Brazilian print of the single, released on CBS records and although on 7″ it’s actually played at 33 1/3 rpm. Now there’s a thing.

When released the song and its video became a massive hit for the nascent MTV. The song tells the story of an Australian man travelling the globe, interacting with people wanting to find out about his homeland.

Slang terms are thrown in aplenty, like fried-out Kombi – an over-heated Volkswagen van or head full of zombie – from zombie grass, a very strong batch of marijuana and my favourite where beer does flow and men chunder – chunder, to vomit. I’m guessing a much-loved Aussie pass-time, presumably because they can’t take their ale! Or something.

Of course in more recent years the track has probably become bogged down with the old Kookaburra copyright lawsuit. Written in 1932, by a lady called Marion Sinclair, Kookaburra was a children’s classic in Australia.

It was so much of a classic that nobody noticed the similarities between the two songs until 2008 when it was first suggested on an Australian TV show that part of Kookaburra had been plagiarised. Marion Sinclair hadn’t made the connection in her lifetime, but now all of a sudden, copyright owners Larrakin Music wanted their share.

In the event, Larrakin won the court case, but instead of 40, 50 60% they were awarded 5% backdated to 2002. Still a cool AUS$100,000 mind.

* we didn’t know then, what we know now…

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