Meaning of “Down Under” by Men at Work

Down Under is a song performed by the noted Australian rock band Men at Work. The song, which was a major hit in several countries across the globe, has lyrics that follow the international travels of an Australian man who is so full of pride for his country. His travels throughout the world see him go to places such as Brussels in Belgium and Bombay (now called Mumbai) in India where he meets with nice people who show some level of interest in his cherished home country of Australia. In an interview with Songfacts.com, the lead vocalist of Men at Work Colin Hay said of the chorus of the song as one that is about celebrating Australia in a way that isn’t nationalistic.

According to Colin Hay, the lyrics of the song were inspired by the character of the famous Australian fictional character Barry McKenzie who travels to England. The character Barry McKenzie was created by the Australian comedian, satirist, and author Barry Humphries in 1964.

Top Slang Terms in the song “Down Under”

The lyrics of the song contain a lot of Australian slang terms, including “fried out“, which means overheated.

The word “Kombi” from the famous line “traveling in a fried-out kombi, on a hippie trail, head full of zombie” refers to the Volkswagen Type 2 car, which was widely used by hippies during the 1960s and 1970s. Therefore that famous line simply means traveling in an overheated car (Volkswagen Type 2). But what about the phrase “head full of zombie“? It is a slang term used to refer to the usage of a kind of marijuana which was once very popular in Australia.

Down Under

The word “chunder’ in the line, in which the singer sings about the place where beer flows and “men chunder“, is a slang word for “vomit” in Australia.

The “Vegemite sandwich” that the narrator receives in Brussels is a very popular delicacy in Australia made of vegetables, spice additives and leftover brewers’ yeast extract.

Facts about “Down Under”

  • The song also goes by the title Land Down Under.
  • The song was written by Men at Work members lead singer Colin Hay and lead guitarist Ron Strykert.
  • Down Under is the most famous song ever released by Men at Work. In addition to peaking at number 1 in the band’s home country of Australia, the song also reached the number one spot in several other countries including in the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • In June 2009, the writers of the song Ron Strykert and Colin Hay were sued for copyright infringement after it was discovered that the flute riff of Down Under was plagiarized from the popular Australian nursery rhyme Kookaburra which was written by songwriter Marion Sinclair. In February 2010, both songwriters Strykert and Hay were found guilty of copyright infringement.

1 Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a true classic from Australia.

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