Sounds from Down Under Blog Series: Day 3
"Down Under" (also known as "Land Down Under") is a platinum-certified single recorded by Men at Work. It was originally released in 1980 as the B-side to their first local single titled "Keypunch Operator", released before the band signed with Columbia Records. Both early songs were written by the group's co-founders, Colin Hay and Ron Strykert. The early version of "Down Under" has a slightly different tempo and arrangement than the later Columbia release. The most well known version was then released on Columbia in October 1981 as the third single from their debut album Business as Usual (1981).
The song went to number one in their home country of Australia in December 1981, and then topped the New Zealand charts in February 1982. Released in North America in mid-1982, the song topped the Canadian charts in October. In the United States, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on 6 November 1982 at No. 79, and reached No. 1 in January 1983 where it spent four non-consecutive weeks. It eventually sold over two million copies in the US alone. Billboard ranked it at the No. 4 song for 1983.
In February 2010 Larrikin Music Publishing won a case against Hay and Strykert, their record label (Sony BMG Music Entertainment) and music publishing company (EMI Songs Australia) arising from the uncredited appropriation of "Kookaburra", originally written in 1934 by Marion Sinclair and for which Larrikin owned the publishing rights, as the flute line in the Men at Work song, "Down Under". Back in early 2009 the Australian music-themed TV quiz, Spicks and Specks, had posed a question which suggested that "Down Under" contained elements of "Kookaburra".
Larrikin, headed by Norman Lurie (now retired), then filed suit after Larrikin was sold to another company and had demanded between 40% and 60% of the previous six years of earnings from the song. In February 2010 the judge ruled that "Down Under" did contain a flute riff based on "Kookaburra" but stipulated that neither was it necessarily the hook nor a substantial part of the hit song (Hay and Strykert had written the track years before the flute riff was added by Ham). In July 2010 a judge ruled that Larrikin should be paid 5% of past (since 2002) and future profits.