Song of the Day 10/3

Posted: October 3, 2011 in J.C. Personal
Tags: ,

It’s fitting that I heard this song this morning because my calendar lists today as Labour Day as well as the Queen’s Birthday in Australia. What better way to celebrate than to recall one of the most famous Australian exports since Mel Gibson and Fosters. I am, of course, talking about the band led by Colin Hay, the band that won the Grammy for best new artist in 1983 and the only Australian band to have a simultaneous number 1 record and song in the U.S. The band is Men at Work and the song is Down Under.

The lyrics tell of an Australian who is circling the globe. He is proud of his heritage and the people he meets do not know a great deal about Australia. The song contains several slang words that can make the meaning unclear. A few of the terms are as follows – combie is a Volkswagen combination van, this is how he is traveling at the beginning of the song, “head full of zombie” is an obvious drug reference and “chunder” means to vomit. (I am reminded of the Indiana Standardized test – To wuzzle means to mix).

The well-known flute part of the song came into legal question recently as a music publishing company accused Men at Work of using the Australian nursery rhyme “Kookaburra” which is still under copyright as the basis of the riff. On July 6, 2010, 29 years after the song was written and released, a judge declared that there was an infringement of copyright and the music publishing company was awarded 5% of royalties from the song from 2002 until the date of the judgment. The band maintains that any plagiarism was purely accidental, although they did admit that their “heads were full of zombie” during the time when the flute riff was introduced into the song.

The song has come to signify anything Australian. Don’t believe me? Go to Boomerang Bay at King’s Island and you will hear the song about once an hour.

The song has been covered by bands like American punk band Pennywise, UK punk-pop band Cranial Screwtop, British ska punk band [spunge], Lithuanian and Finnish bands, and even a surf-rock/reggae band has covered the song.
Happy Labour Day to those that come from a land down under, eat vegemite and are known for their ability to drink large quantities of alcohol.

See ya on the “b” side.


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