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Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Down Under on Wikipedia
"Down Under"
Down under men at work australia single.jpg7" Australian single
Single by Men at Work
from the album Business as Usual
ReleasedOctober 1981
Format7" , 12" , CD reissue
  • New wave[1]
  • pop rock[2]
  • Colin Hay
  • Ron Strykert
Producer(s)Peter McIan
Men at Work singles chronology

"Down Under" (also known as "Land Down Under") is a song recorded by Australian rock band Men at Work. It was originally released in 1980 as the B-side to their first local single titled "Keypunch Operator", released before the band signed with Columbia Records. Both early songs were written by the group's co-founders, Colin Hay and Ron Strykert. The early version of "Down Under" has a slightly different tempo and arrangement from the later Columbia release.[3] The most well known version was then released on Columbia in October 1981 as the third single from their debut album Business as Usual (1981).

The hit 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. In the United States, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on 6 November 1982 at No. 79, and reached No. 1 in January 1983 where it spent four non-consecutive weeks. It eventually sold over two million copies in the US alone. Billboard ranked it at No. 4 for 1983.[4]

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.[5] The song also went No. 1 in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland, and was a top 10 hit in many other countries. It remains a popular and patriotic song in Australia.[6]


  • 1 Background and writing
  • 2 Meaning
  • 3 Cultural significance
  • 4 Copyright lawsuit
  • 5 Colin Hay version
  • 6 Track listing
    • 6.1 7": CBS / BA 222891 Australia
    • 6.2 7": CBS / A 2066 Europe
    • 6.3 7": CBS / 43.539 Brazil
    • 6.4 12": CBS / BA 12229 Australia / promo-release 1986
  • 7 Charts and certifications
    • 7.1 Weekly charts
    • 7.2 Year-end charts
    • 7.3 Certifications and sales
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links

Background and writing

Colin Hay told Songfacts: "The chorus is really about the selling of Australia in many ways, the overdevelopment 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."[7]

Hay has also said that the lyrics for "Down Under" were inspired by the Barry McKenzie character.[7]


The lyrics are about an Australian man travelling 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.

In Australian slang "fried-out" means overheated,[8] Kombi refers to the Volkswagen Type 2 combination van,[9][8] and having "a head full of zombie" refers to the use of a type of marijuana.[9][8] Cultural slang is also used: after the second verse the refrain is "where beer does flow and men chunder"; "chunder" means vomit.[9]

Cultural significance

The flute part in the song was claimed to have been based on the tune of "Kookaburra", a well-known Australian children's rhyme, but both Colin Hay and the flautist, Greg Ham, continue to deny that any part of the song was appropriated.[10] (see Copyright lawsuit below for more details.)

The exterior shots for the music video were filmed at the Cronulla sand dunes in Sydney.[11]

The song is a perennial favourite on Australian radio and television, and topped the charts in the US and UK simultaneously in early 1983.[12] 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,[13] 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 Summer Olympics in Sydney, alongside other Australian artists.[10]

In May 2001, Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Best Australian Songs between 1926 and 2001, as decided by a 100 strong industry panel, "Down Under" was ranked as the fourth song on the list.[14]

The song was ranked number 96 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 1980s in October 2006.[15]

Simon Whitlock, an Australian professional darts player who plays in Professional Darts Corporation, uses the song as his walk-on music.[16]

Copyright lawsuit

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?" The answer, "Kookaburra", a song whose rights were owned by Larrikin Music, resulted in phone calls and emails to Larrikin the next day.[17] Larrikin Music subsequently decided to take legal action against the song's writers Colin Hay and Ron Strykert.

Sections of the flute part of the recording of the song were found to be based on "Kookaburra", written in 1932 by Marion Sinclair. Sinclair died in 1988[6] and the rights to the Kookaburra song were deemed to have been transferred to publisher Larrikin Music on 21 March 1990.[18] 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.[19][20] 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.[21]

On 4 February 2010, Justice Jacobson ruled that Larrikin's copyright had been infringed because "Down Under" reproduced "a substantial part of Kookaburra".[22]

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."[23][24][25] 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.[26] On 6 July 2010, Justice Jacobson handed down a decision that Larrikin receive 5% of royalties from 2002.[26][27] In October 2011, the band lost its final court bid when the High Court of Australia refused to hear an appeal.[28]

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.[29][30]

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.[31][32][33][34] 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.[30]

Colin Hay version

A new version of the song was produced by Colin Hay, coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of the original's release.[35] Requested by Telstra for use in an Australian advertising campaign during the 2012 Summer Olympics period, the song was available through iTunes on 31 July.[36]

In the new version, Hay intentionally changed the flute part that caused the copyright lawsuit.[37]

7": CBS / BA 222891 Australia

  1. "Down Under" – 3:44
  2. "Crazy" – 2:34

7": CBS / A 2066 Europe

  1. "Down Under" – 3:44
  2. "Helpless Automaton" – 3:23

7": CBS / 43.539 Brazil

  1. "Down Under" – 3:44
  2. "Who Can It Be Now?" – 3:21

12": CBS / BA 12229 Australia / promo-release 1986

  1. "Down Under (Extended mix)" – 5:30
  2. "Sail to you (Extended mix)" – 5:48


See also

  • List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1980s
  • List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of 1983
  • List of Billboard Mainstream Rock number-one songs of the 1980s
  • List of Cash Box Top 100 number-one singles of 1983
  • List of number-one singles of 1982 (Canada)
  • List of number-one singles of 1983 (Ireland)
  • List of number-one singles from the 1980s (New Zealand)
  • List of number-one singles of the 1980s (Switzerland)
  • List of UK Singles Chart number ones of the 1980s


  1. ^ Parker, Lyndsey (4 February 2010). Men At Work vs. The Man: '80s Band Charged With Plagiarism at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 July 2014). Yahoo! Music.
  2. ^ Reed, Ryan (2 March 2011). Colin Hay Is Still at Work, 25 Years After 'Down Under' at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 March 2011). Metro Pulse.
  3. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Men at Work'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. 
  4. ^ a b "Top 100 Hits for 1983". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "Men at Work". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "'80s hit Down Under copies kids' song: court". CBC News. Associated Press. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2014. Larrikin Music owns the copyright 
  7. ^ a b "Down Under by Men at Work". Songfacts. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "Men At Work – Down Under". SongMeanings. 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. 
  9. ^ a b c "Down Under-covered". BBC News Online. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 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. 
  10. ^ a b "Men At Work lose plagiarism case". BBC News Online. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  11. ^ "Men at Work's Colin Hay on Friday Night Videos intro for Down Under". YouTube. 
  12. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Men at Work – Artist Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ The final list: APRA'S Ten best Australian Songs at the Wayback Machine (archived 8 March 2008). Australasian Performing Right Association. 28 May 2001.
  15. ^ The Greatest » Ep. 167 "100 Greatest Songs of the 80s (Hour 1)" at the Wayback Machine (archived 10 December 2011). VH1. Viacom.
  16. ^ "Simon Whitlock". Sporting Life. 6 December 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  17. ^ "Down Under and Kookaburra in copyright battle". 12 October 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited [2009] FCA 799 (30 July 2009)". Sydney: Federal Court of Australia. 7 September 2009. 170. ... with effect from 21 Match 1990 ... Yes 
  19. ^ Davies, Lisa (25 June 2009). "Claims Men At Work hit Down Under is a rip-off of Kookaburra song". Retrieved 7 July 2010. claiming Larrikin doesn't actually have copyright to Kookaburra – the Girl Guides do. 
  20. ^ Hohenboken, Angus (25 June 2009). "Girls may have guided Men at Work's song Down Under". The Australian. 
  21. ^ "Men At Work face plagiarism case". BBC News Online. 30 July 2009. 
  22. ^ "Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited [2010] FCA 29 (4 February 2010)". Federal Court of Australia. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Dingle, Sarah (3 January 2012). "Australian court rules 'Down Under' riff plundered". Australia Plus. 
  24. ^ Dingle, Sarah (4 February 2010). "Men at Work plundered Kookaburra riff: court". ABC News. 
  25. ^ Arlington, Kim (5 February 2010). "Infringement Down Under". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2010. Larrikin is entitled to recover damages 
  26. ^ a b "Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Limited (No 2) [2010] FCA 698 (6 July 2010)". Federal Court of Australia. para. 45. Retrieved 27 April 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. 
  27. ^ 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 
  28. ^ "Men at Work lose appeal over Kookaburra riff". The Guardian. London. Associated Press in Sydney. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ a b "Origins: Kookaburra – possible copyright info". Mudcat Café. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  31. ^ "Men at Work steal children's song...". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  32. ^ "Kookaburra vs Down Under?". Mudcat Café. 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 
  33. ^ "Lawyers sue, men plunder". Sydney Morning Herald. 2 November 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010. For some, Larrikin's suit will be seen as a brazen and opportunistic attempt 
  34. ^ Ulaby, Neda (1 December 2009). "A Kookaburra Causes Trouble 'Down Under'". NPR Music. Retrieved 27 April 2010. number of Australians, including Westwood, found this a bit much. 
  35. ^ Hardie, Giles (27 July 2012). "Down Under loses its infringing flute". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  36. ^ "Colin Hay to Celebrate 'Down Under' 30th Anniversary with Global Re-Release". 24 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  37. ^ Henschke, Ian. "Colin Hay and Down Under 2012". Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  38. ^ "Australia No. 1 hits -- 1980's". World Charts. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  39. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  40. ^ CHART NUMBER 1343 – Saturday, October 16, 1982 at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 July 2007). CHUM.
  41. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6942." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  42. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3. 
  43. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste" (in French). InfoDisc. Select "Men at Work" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  44. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  45. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Down Under". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  46. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Men At Work - Down Under search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  47. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  48. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  49. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under". VG-lista. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  50. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (M)". Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  51. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  52. ^ " – Men At Work – Down Under". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  53. ^ "Archive Chart: 1983-01-29" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  54. ^ a b c d "Business as Usual – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  55. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JANUARY 22, 1983 at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 September 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  56. ^ a b "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  57. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1982" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  58. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 1982". RPM. Vol. 37 no. 19. 25 December 1982. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  59. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1982" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  60. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1982" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  61. ^ "End of Year Charts 1982". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  62. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1982". Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  63. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1982" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  64. ^ "Chart Archive – 1980s Singles". Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  65. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1983 at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 September 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  66. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Men at Work – Down Under". Music Canada. 
  67. ^ "British single certifications – Men at Work – Down Under". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Down Under in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  68. ^ "American single certifications – Men at Work – Down Under". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links

  • Down Under-covered. BBC News article decodes the lyrics
  • 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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