An absolute Australian anthem
Some interesting facts about “Down Under” by Men At Work that went No.1 simultaneously on two countries in 1983
Written by Australian Rock band Men At Work founders Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, “Down Under” was originally released in 1980 as the B-side to their first local single titled “Keypunch Operator. The early version of “Down Under” has a slightly different tempo and arrangement from the later Columbia release in October 1981 as the third single from their debut album “Business as Usual” and that became the most well-known version. 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. In only one year it became a worldwide hit, something that was not common back then for an Australian band. On January 29th, 1983, simultaneously on the American Hot 100 and British charts, the song went No.1 and also reached the top of the charts in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland, in many other countries around the globe was a top 10 hit. “Down Under” is perceived as a patriotic song in Australia; it remains popular and is often played at sporting events. Here are some interesting facts about the lyrics of the song: The song lyrics depict an Australian man traveling the globe, where he meets a number of people who are interested in his home country, including a prominent reference to a Vegemite sandwich (a popular snack in Australia). Many Australian slang and drug terms are featured in the lyrics. They open with the singer traveling in a fried-out Kombi, on a hippie trail, head full of zombie. In Australian slang “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. Hippie trail refers to a sub-cultural tourist route popular in 1960’s and 70’s which stretched from Western Europe to South-East Asia. The song also contains the refrain, where beer does flow and men chunder. To “chunder” means to vomit. The promotional video comically plays out the events of the lyrics, showing Hay and other members of the band riding in a VW van, eating muesli with a ‘strange lady’, eating and drinking in a cafe, and lying in an opium den The band are also seen carrying a coffin across the dunes at the end. This, Hay has explained, was a warning to his fellow Australians that their country’s identity was dying as a result of over-development and Americanization. Hay has also stated that the same ominous sentiment lies behind the choral line, “Can’t you hear that thunder? You’d better run; you’d better take cover”.
Look back at the famous 1983 music video for “Down Under” by Men At Work
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