Men At Work: Down Under Meaning
Song Released: 1981
Down Under Lyrics
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?...
anonymous Jul 16th 2009, 10:43 report
Don’t go yelling “EVERYBODY LOVES Americans!!!” in northern Vietnam, North Korea or the middle east unless you want to get beaten up, arrested or shot (respectively – or there about). Australians are a bit kinder, and will merely laugh at you, thanks in no small part to this show:
No, this song is a deeper than just drugs & drinking, and the anonymous comment made before Wizzi’s speculates the intended meaning of the song a lot better than most (including most Australians – possibly even more so).
Colin Hay wrote the lyrics, and here’s what he’s had to say:
"The chorus is really about the selling of Australia in many ways, the over-development 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."
"It's a very important song for me. It always felt like a strong song, right from the start. Originally, the idea came from a little bass riff that Ron Strykert, the guitar player for Men at Work, had recorded on a little home cassette demo. It was just a little bass riff with some percussion that he played on bottles which were filled with water to varying degrees to get different notes. It was a very intriguing little groove. I really loved it, it had a real trance-like quality to it. I used to listen to it in the car all the time. When I was driving along one day in Melbourne, the chords popped out and a couple of days later I wrote the verses."
"It's ironic to me that so many people thought it was about a specific thing and that really wasn't the intention behind the song. If you listen to 'Born In The USA,' it's a similar song in that there's a lot of nuance missed because people like drinking beer and throwing their arms up in the air and feeling nationalistic. It's ultimately a song about celebration, but it's a matter of what you choose to celebrate about a country or a place. White people haven't been in Australia all that long, and it's truly an awesome place, but one of the most interesting and exciting things about the country is what was there before. The true heritage of a country often gets lost in the name of progress and development."
anonymous Jun 23rd 2009, 06:19 report
@ christmas ape: Brussels is not in Germany, it belongs to Belgium.
Christmas_Ape May 1st 2009, 16:26 report
I believe that this is very simply a song about a man from Australia who is traveling the globe and the various people he meets along the way, each of whom recognizes his Australian accent.
In the first verse his van breaks down and he is taken in by a "strange" woman. This may simply be a kind woman who give him a place to say and provides him with a meal, but I always though it referred to a sexual encounter, perhaps this young man's first. Thus he is "nervous" because it is his first sexual encounter and "gave me breakfast" implies that he stayed the night with her. She asks "do you come form a land down under?" because she finds his accent and perhaps his being from Australia in general to be sexy.
In the second verse he is in Brussels Germany where he goes into a bar/restaurant and finds that the bar tender is a fellow Australian. The man recognizes the accent and is happy for the chance to speak with one of his country men, which I'm sure a few and far between in Brussels.
In the third verse he is in an opium den in Bombay, India. Someone there is trying to sell him something, presumably drugs of some sort, but he turns it down claiming that the stuff from his homeland is much better. This man recognizes the accent and immediately understands what the Australian is talking about, and seems to agree that the Australian stuff is indeed the best.
As for the line "Do you feel the thunder, you better run you better take cover" I believe refers to the fact that Australian culture was very big in western countries during the 80's and thus Australian culture was taking the world by storm.
anonymous Jan 2nd, 00:11 report
This is the song my dad used to sing to me when I was a little girl. He said it was about espionage and war. But it's all in a days work from the fiction factory.
Now that I'm older, I can't help but think of the show Thunder Down Under or that Australian's are actually inbred. That's why it says zombie so it probably is a depiction of what Australia will be like in another thousand or so years.
It's an allegory for a straight man accidentally stumbling into a gay bar. "Where women glow and men plunder"
I mean, come on.
"Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover." Fair warning that he's not in Kansas any more.
"I said to the man 'Are you trying to tempt me because I come from the land of plenty?'"
'Land of plenty' means all the heterosexual men that are off limits to gay men.
anonymous Aug 23rd 2012, 20:51 report
Yes, It is a fish
anonymous Jul 25th 2012, 14:39 report
"Traveling in a fried out Kombi" = Driving a crappy car in a British prison colony.
"On a hippy trail, head full of zombie" = Driving around on 'pruno', a beverage people make in a British prison colony.
"I met a strange lady; she made me nervous." = She made me uneasy, as she was a felon in a British prison colony.
"She took me in and 'made me breakfast'" = Slang for raped me with a toilet brush in a British prison colony.
"Land down under" = Slang for British Prison Colony.
"Where women glow and men plunder" = Where men and women do stuff in a British prison colony.
"You better run, you better take cover." = You better leave, because it's a British prison colony.
...the rest of the song is pretty much about a British prison colony.
anonymous Apr 2nd 2012, 00:06 report
It's about lyrics!!!!!! But what the lyrics well, I've done enough, you do the rest
anonymous Mar 13th 2012, 22:31 report
Australians are famous for being world travellers. Countless Australians go backpacking through Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas every year.
And when they do, a funny thing happens: everywhere they go, hoping to meet new people and encounter new cultures, they keep running into OTHER bloody Australians!
That's really what the song is about- an Australian finds that, whether he's in India or in Belgium, he keeps bumping into fellow Aussies!
anonymous Feb 23rd 2012, 01:37 report
Yeah pre cool song it has a lot of diff stuff and diff stories. You have to be aussie to really understand it.
I'd like to get behind the interpretation given by Anonymous on July 30th 2009. Right on. Correct on the timing . . .think Midnight Oil etc. . . Correct on the protagonist . . . travel is what many young Aussies do, and the scenes/locales identified (yes, Belgium, thank you . . . )resonate as typical of the range/diversity of the travels Australians often enjoy. Also, nice comment on the easy resonance of the melody--congruent with the picture painted, and a nice counterpoint to the darker message.
I'd argue, however, that contrary to "naivety/innocence/ignorance", the tone of this song and the perspectives/observations of the protagonist illustrate another thing young Aussies do: think. In the song, I think he gets it. Many of the interpretations above, portraying Australians as simple hedonists, fall short. The thunder Anonymous identifies has been heard loud and clear by many Australians. That is clear, now, 30 years after the song was written. There is a similar thunder we should ALL be hearing in this world of ours presently, and it's not just coming from Down Under. Thanks.
anonymous Apr 5th 2011, 18:06 report
I'm 100% sure this song is about Australian's, not the devil.
Combi = Van
Zombie = because he's high on drugs.
Chunder is Aussie slang for vomitting.
You obviously don't know much about Australia :S Nor heard of it I guess
anonymous Feb 8th 2011, 12:32 report
Land down under = Australia!!!
anonymous Jul 27th 2010, 01:03 report
Having reviewed the video clip, he and his colleagues are definitely on the nod in Bombay. The den operator is either asking to him to buy or sell clothes, in the clip it is a shoe. Hasn't everyone gone to opium den in their youth and ended up selling all the belonging including their clothes before legging it home broken and sick?? lol.
anonymous Jul 27th 2010, 00:42 report
The whole trip he is wasted. I believe he has used opium in the third verse. He is "slack jawed and nothing much to say" implies to me that he is on the "nod". A common after effect of the use of heroine or as in this case smoking opium.
anonymous Apr 30th 2010, 21:21 report
Anon..damn, relax. and remember, every time USA goes somewhere, the Aussies are right there, side by side. yeah. and the viet nam thing? hate the french too? they started there before the usa was ever there. read up.
anonymous Apr 16th 2010, 13:16 report
I do believe that all the interpreted words mean certain things; like combie (minivan)and zombie (pot)and this whole song is about an Aussie guy who travels and meets all kinds of people, just to tell a "story" but the one thing (if you read what the writer Colin Hay said about the song)it's all about celebrating Australia and being Australian and what Australia once was and is now. Everyone he meets knows this guy is Australian by his accent and they ask "do you come from the Land Down Under?" and everyone he meets he ultimately says "I'm Australian, our people are great and the country is so awesome, can you hear the "thunder"!!! If you want to look into it sexually or drug-wise is up to you; everyone is going to have a different interpretation; but i choose to see the real meaning like Colin Hay about ultimately celebrating how great Australia and the people are!!!
anonymous Aug 6th 2009, 04:56 report
I would say that the reference about thunder could be the police. Thunder could be the sound of cars, camels, horses or whatever the police are using. They are warned about the police, so "you better run, you better take cover"
anonymous Jul 30th 2009, 08:54 report
This song is more political than anyone has stated.
It was written at a time in Australia's social conscience when impact of the 'new world' on the native Aboriginals (Abos) came to the fore. During this time there was (and continues to be) social discord about the plundering of lands from the Abos. The allusion to thunder in the song reflects the feeling of the time that a social storm was brewing and that the Abos would rise up and stake a claim to their land and the Australian identity; they did go on to do this.
Against this underlying theme is the modern Aussie cliche: young, carefree, traveller, pot-head, beer aplenty etc. The cultural references (beer, chunder, vegemite, hunky fella) are relatively modern (flimsy) cultural identifiers that contrast against the bedrock of Abo indigenous culture. The final verse in which the Aussie is being tempted and comes from the 'land of plenty' is a play on the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, whereby Eden is Australia, and modern Aussies Adam. This analogy is used to demonstrate the naivety/innocence/ignorance of the modern travelling Aussie to the nature of the world and his own country.
On its most superficial level, this is the story of a fella from Aus enjoying and experiencing his travels. It is this level that most of us hear when the song is played with its child-like happy-go-lucky melody.
I personally think that song simply isn't as deep as you think it is. That is simply about some hippies traveling around while using opium and drinking a lot.
Men plunder (slang for RAPE)
Thunder (slang for diarrhea, Chunder (slang for vomitting), this all because they are drunk and stoned.
Not every song is deep, most are simply rimes with nice music too it.
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