Song of the Day #393: ‘Down Under’ – Men at Work

menatwork20 Best Songs of the 80s – #12

My father used to confuse Men at Work with The Village People. His argument, which admittedly makes a lot of sense, was that a group made up of men dressed in the garb of various occupations — including a construction worker — should almost certainly be named Men at Work. Still, the thought of a gay-themed disco concept band being confused for Australian rockers is pretty funny.

Men at Work is another example of a band that was seemingly born for the 80s and the 80s alone. They put out only three albums, starting with the smash hit Business as Usual in 1981 and ending with the modest hit Two Heart in 1985. In ’83 they released Cargo, another big hit that featured ‘Overkill.’

But Business as Usual was their touchstone. Lifted by first single ‘Who Can It Be Now?’ and launched into the stratosphere by today’s song, ‘Down Under,’ it remains the most successful album ever by an Australian band, which is interesting considering all the great Australian actors who’ve found big success in the U.S.

One funny thing I noticed in the Men at Work discography is that they have three original studio albums but six greatest hits albums. How is that possible?

As for ‘Down Under,’ I love it to this day — all that weird Aussie lingo (vegemite sandwich!) sung in Colin Hay’s accent, set against those cool pipes and the Bahamas-via-Sydney rhythm section. Great, great stuff.

Traveling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said,

“Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said,

“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.”

Lyin’ in a den in Bombay
With a slack jaw, and not much to say
I said to the man, “Are you trying to tempt me
Because I come from the land of plenty?”
And he said,

“Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”
Yeah!

Living in a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover!

Living in a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover!

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #393: ‘Down Under’ – Men at Work

  1. Dana says:

    Another true classic of the 80’s. I really loved the sound of Men At Work, and I wonder if they would have evolved beyond the 80’s had they continued to record as the songwriting talent was certainly there. I recently heard Hay doing an acoustic version of Who Can it Be Now on satellite radio. it was quite good and it reminded me of how good this band was back in the day.

  2. Amy says:

    I, too, love this song. The way he sings “Bombay” has always particularly pleased me 🙂 What happens to a group like this? They just live the rest of their lives off the royalties from a couple of songs? Do they get “real” jobs (they are, after all, men at work)? I’m very curious. I liked that VH1 (I think) concept of a “Where are they now?” show. I’d definitely tune in to an episode about these guys.

  3. Clay says:

    Here’s the scoop from Wikipedia:

    “Hay maintains a successful solo career. Strykert lives in Montana, continues to play music and has expressed some resentment towards Hay, having been arrested February 13, 2009 for allegedly making death threats against Hay. Speiser, Ham and Rees still work in the music industry.”

  4. pegclifton says:

    Another great 80’s song!

  5. Kerrie says:

    Yep, this is a great one. Still makes me smile. And I always picture the video in my mind when I hear it on the radio, so it was nice to see the real thing for a change. Pure 80s – well done, sir!

    One question though . Did Men at Work really have a more successful album than Air Supply??? Those guys were around forever! And they were lovely. 🙂

  6. Amy says:

    Death threats?!! These guys need to get together over a couple of vegemite sandwiches and work things out.

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