‘Do you come from a land down under?’
July 8, 2010

Isn’t it funny how certain songs creep up on you, and then as Kylie famously sang, “I just can’t get you out of my head!”  

One that I’ve been plagued by lately was also born out of Australia; ‘Down Under’ by ‘80s band Men at Work.

I hadn’t heard it for ages until I went to watch the recent England v Australia ODI at Cardiff. As each Aussie batsman trudged from the pavilion out to the middle they were accompanied by MaW’s  unforgettable tune and lyrics which remained with me for several days after. All together now: 

“I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”

Personally I would prefer to see them come out to bat with another  bit of Kylie: I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky ” –  but that’s another story!

As I was flicking through the paper yesterday, Men at Work were there again.  Apparently a judge has ruled that the well-known flute riff from ‘Down Under’, “where women glow and men plunder”, was indeed plundered from that other well-known 1930’s Aussie hit, “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree”.
The top or bottom is, the band have got to pay 5% of royalties to the publishing company that hold the copyright. So I guess the kookaburra had the last laugh!  

Any how,  the song stuck with me again. But later, as I was mowing the lawn, I got to thinking (as one does during this most tedious of jobs) what other, never to be forgotten, ‘classics’  have our Antipodean friends contributed to 20th and 21st Century pop culture? 

To be honest I’d set myself a difficult task. Having taken away Kylie’s Greatest Hits I was in the realms of, “Can you tell what it is yet?”, Rolf Harris (seen here showing off his didgeridoo) and, Sun Arise, Tie me Kangaroo down Sport, Jake the Peg (with the extra leg, diddle, diddle) etc. etc.

When I delved even deeper into the recesses I dredged up I Remember You (well only just actually) from ‘60s yodeller Frank Ifield. After that I admit to giving up.   

Having trimmed and edged the lawns to perfection, I took the last resort, Wikipedia, where I found I’d underestimated the musical talent from down below – well just a little bit! The top 4 Australian recording artists of all time are as follows:        

The Bee Gees (1958-2003) top the list with an estimated 220 million in record sales. Well I guess the UK and the USA  both might argue the toss here and lay claim to them – but no worries the Aussies are welcome!   

In second place AC/DC, (1973-present), with 200 million sales from the heavy metal rockers, but more problems here too. All the group members are Scottish or English, except one, and they perform out of the States, but are classified as an Aussie band, having originally formed in Sydney.

AC/DC  don’t do ‘catchy tunes’ of course, but their 1980 album Back in Black has sold 49 million copies world-wide. This makes it the highest selling album ever for any band and 2nd only to Wacko Jacko’s Thriller in the all time best-selling albums list!     

Olivia Newton-John (1966-present). 100 million sales for the bronze medallist and just when I thought I’d found a bona fide Aussie, well actually no! 

O N-J was  born in Cambridge to a Welsh father and German mother. Her Dad was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park and, apparently, the officer who accompanied Rudolph Hess into custody during World War II!   

Having emigrated to Aus in 1954, aged six, she went on to carve out a pop career with largely country-style music until 1978 and Grease.

As a 29-year-old playing high school senior Sandy, along side John Travolta’s Danny, her career really took off and she became only the 2nd female artist ever to have 2 top 5 singles simultaneously, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Summer Night, both taken from the Grease soundtrack.    

Kylie Minogue (1987-) with 60 million sales comes in a surprising 4th but fair dinkum mate, we’ve found an out-and-out Aussie at last. Kylie (seen here starring as Little Red Riding Hood!) first achieved recognition as Charlene in the TV soap Neighbours before chugging her way to number 1 in the charts with the Locomotion (1987).

Having reinvented herself and relaunched her career several times since, she is of course a genuine Australian national treasure.   

All of that ‘trivia’ because I couldn’t get some tune out of my head, while mowing the lawn. Incidentally in this morning’s Sky News review of the papers a Daily Mail article was flagged up, which claims, the way to a woman’s heart is no longer through chocolates and flowers but the rather less romantic avenue of vacuuming and ironing!      

So I’d better go and do battle with the Dyson then. Another tedious chore – I wonder what earth shattering questions I can resolve today?