Sunday, June 7, 2020

5 x 5: Songs About Australia, Part 1



5 Facts about 5 songs about Australia  . . . 
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(a favourite of mine)

Great Southern Land 

By Icehouse 

Link: 

Young Einstein clip: 

Lyrics 

Standing at the limit of an endless ocean 
Stranded like a runaway, lost at sea 
City on a rainy day down in the harbour 
Watching as the grey clouds shadow the bay 
Looking everywhere 'cause I had to find you 
This is not the way that I remember it here 
Anyone will tell you its a prisoner island 
Hidden in the summer for a million years 

Great Southern Land, burned you black 

So you look into the land and it will tell you a story 
Story 'bout a journey ended long ago 
Listen to the motion of the wind in the mountains 
Maybe you can hear them talking like I do 
". . they're gonna betray you, they're gonna forget you 
Are you gonna let them take you over that way . ." 

Great Southern Land, Great Southern Land 
You walk alone, like a primitive man 
And they make it work, with sticks and bones 
See their hungry eyes, its a hungry home 

I hear the sound of the stranger's voices 
I see their hungry eyes, their hungry eyes 
Great Southern Land, Great Southern Land 
They burned you black, black against the ground 

Standing at the limit of an endless ocean 
Stranded like a runaway, lost at sea 
City on a rainy day down in the harbour 
Watching as the grey clouds shadow the bay 
Looking everywhere 'cause I had to find you 
This is not the way that I remember it here 
Anyone will tell you its a prisoner island 
Hidden in the summer for a million years 

Great Southern Land, in the sleeping sun 
You walk alone with the ghost of time 
They burned you black, black against the ground 
And they make it work with rocks and sand 

I hear the sound of the stanger's voices 
I see their hungry eyes, their hungry eyes 
Great Southern Land, Great Southern Land 
You walk alone, like a primitive man 
You walk alone with the ghost of time 
And they burned you black 
Yeah, they burned you black 
Great Southern Land 
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"Great Southern Land" is a 1982 single released by the Australian rock band Icehouse.   Regarded by many as an unofficial Australian anthem, Iva Davies of Icehouse, who wrote the song, it was intended as an antidote to Men at Work’s cliche-filled Down Under. Iva Davies has also stated that he was initially told to deny his song was about Australia for fear of alienating international listeners. 
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"Great Southern Land" was featured in the 1988 Yahoo Serious film "Young Einstein" and is used as the walk out tune for the Australian cricket team for their home matches during the Australian summer. 
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The original film clip, link above, was filmed at the disused Jones' quarry in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga in 1982, with solarised clips of the band in daylight and surrounded by camp fires at night. 
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From the National Film and Sound Archive at: 

'Great Southern Land' is one of the most enduring popular songs from the early 1980s about the nature of Australia. The song reflects a blend of Australian geography and culture, with lyrics that cast back across the vast history of the land and its Indigenous inhabitants, to a time long before the arrival of white settlers. The music adds to the sense of place, suggesting the openness and expansiveness of Australia’s desert interior. Songwriter and composer Iva Davies made extensive use of the new generation of polyphonic synthesizers, especially the Prophet 5 and Linn drum machine, in creating the song and the LP, Primitive Man, from which it came. 'Great Southern Land' reached No. 5 on the national charts. 
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Early mapmakers and scientists thought that there must be a large land mass in the bottom half of the planet to counterbalance all the land in the northern hemisphere. Their maps showed such a hypothetical continent and called it Terra Australis, Latin for South Land. It was also called the Great Southern Land and appeared on maps between the 15th and 18th centuries. This theory of balancing land has been documented as early as the 5th century on maps by Macrobius, who uses the term Australis on his maps. 

The name of Australia derives therefrom, the name having been popularised by the explorer Matthew Flinders from 1804. It has been in official use since 1817, replacing "New Holland," the Dutch name, as the name for the continent. 



Down Under 

By Men at Work 

Link: 

Lyrics: 

Traveling in a fried-out Kombi 
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, yeah 

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, oh 

Do you come from a land down under? (Ooh yeah yeah) 
Where women glow and men plunder? 
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder? 
You better run, you better take cover ('cause we are) 

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? (Ooh yeah) 
You better run, you better take cover (we are) 

Living in a land down under (ooh yeah) 
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 (living in a land down under) 
Where women glow and men plunder 
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder? 
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“Down Under" is a 1981 song recorded by Australian rock band Men at Work which hit No 1 in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland. 
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The lyrics to Down Under depict an Australian man travelling the globe, who meets people who are interested in his home country. The story is based in part on singer Colin Hay's own experiences, including a prominent reference to a Vegemite sandwich (a popular snack in Oz, hate the stuff myself, as readers know), which derived from an encounter, during Hay's travels abroad, with a baker who emigrated from Brunswick, Melbourne. Hay has also said that the lyrics were partly inspired by Barry Humphries' character Barry McKenzie, a comically stereotypical Australian who tours abroad. 
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Slang and drug terms featured in the lyrics: 

fried-out: over-heated 
Kombi: Volkswagen Type 2 combination van 
head full of zombie: use of a type of marijuana 
Hippie-trail: subcultural tourist route popular in 1960s and 70s which stretched from Western Europe to South-East Asia 
chunder: to vomit. Its origin is not, as stated in the Barry MacKenzie film, from the nautical shout to “watch under” if someone in the rigging was going to throw up. It dates from the 1950s and believed to come from from the rhyming slang Chunder Loo, rhyming with ‘spew’. This comes from the name of a cartoon character Chunder Loo of Akim Foo, who appeared in advertisements for Cobra boot polish in the Sydney Bulletin in the early 20th century. 
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According to Hay: 

The chorus is really about the selling of Australia in many ways, the overdevelopment of the country. It was a song about the loss of spirit in that country. It's really about the plundering of the country by greedy people. It is ultimately about celebrating the country, but not in a nationalistic way and not in a flag-waving sense. It's really more than that. 

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 café, and lying in an opium den. The band are moved along at one point by a man in a shirt and tie who places a 'Sold' sign in the ground. The exterior shots for the music video were filmed at the Cronulla sand dunes in Sydney. The band are 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 overdevelopment 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.” 
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It was used as a theme song by the crew of Australia II in their successful bid to win the America's Cup in 1983. Men at Work played this song in the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, alongside other Australian artists. 
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Extra fact:

In 2007, on the ABC-TV quiz show Spicks and Specks the question was posed "What children's song is contained in the song 'Down Under'?" The answer, "Kookaburra", a song whose rights were owned by Larrikin Music, resulted in phone calls and emails to Larrikin the next day. Larrikin Music subsequently decided to take legal action against Hay and Strykert, the song's writers. 

Hear the parts of the two songs that led to the legal action: 

In June 2009, 28 years after the release of the recording, Larrikin Music sued Men At Work for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff of "Down Under" was copied from "Kookaburra". On 4 February 2010, Justice Jacobson ruled that Larrikin's copyright had been infringed because "Down Under" reproduced "a substantial part of 'Kookaburra'".On 6 July 2010, Justice Jacobson handed down a decision that Larrikin receive 5% of royalties from 2002. In October 2011, the band lost its final court bid when the High Court of Australia refused to hear an appeal. The decision was not popular with the Australian public, many being of the opinion that the Men at Work riff was quite different from that in Kookaburra, a feeling with which I agree,. 

Colin Hay has since suggested that the deaths of his father, Jim, in 2010, and of Men at Work flute player Greg Ham in 2012 were directly linked to the stress of the court case. 


More to come. 


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