Men At Work: Down Under Meaning
Song Released: 1981
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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?...
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Jul 16th 2009 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."
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous Jun 23rd 2009 report
@ christmas ape: Brussels is not in Germany, it belongs to Belgium.
3TOP RATED#3 top rated interpretation:Christmas_Ape May 1st 2009 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 May 23rd report
while doing research i have come up with my
opinion on the true meaning of the song Down Under.
In an interview song writer Colin Hay says that the song is mainly about celebrating Australia in a way that isn’t nationalistic and the loss of the true heritage of Australia due to over development of the country.
In the song this is shown through the story line of an Australian man who is traveling, while he is traveling, he meets various people that recognise he is Australian they all then express serotypes of what they think Australia is like. But their ideas are based around the development of Australia and not the true heritage of the country of what there was before white people.
This supports the issue that Colin Hay is stating that the true heritage of Australia is getting lost due to the development of the country.
anonymous Jul 17th 2020 report
Absolutely and unequivocally a metaphor for the devil. No, I will not be taking criticism.
(Or... y'know; Australia…)
anonymous Feb 17th 2018 report
It’s about the Americanisation of Australia and the superficiality that Australia has succumbed too. The culture is relative shallow, highlighted in the song as zombie (slang for marijuana), vegemite, vomiting due to drinking (chunder), and the hospitality Australia show or is shown.
‘Can’t you hear, Can’t you hear that thunder?
You better run, you better take thunder’
Those two lines are referencing the overpowering of other cultures, specifically American, and leading to the overdevelopment of its culture as foreign and not Australia’s own.
anonymous Oct 26th 2015 report
The song is about Tom
anonymous Nov 10th 2014 report
Do you come from a land down under= is your state of mind the happiest it can be so in the beginning he was Confused and in a void and at the end he singing and dancing about how is from the land down under and when he says cant you hear the thunder you better run you better take cover mean,do you hear all the poeple saying bad things making you feel bad ,you should ignore and dont care what they say and dont ruin your land down under=happy state of mind
anonymous Sep 11th 2014 report
i like da song v much and it its kool to listn to lmfoao
anonymous Aug 27th 2013 report
you guys are so dumb. the lyrics are "where women blow and men thunder"
it's about gassy australians eating veggiemite.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
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 report
Yes, It is a fish
anonymous Jul 25th 2012 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 report
It's about lyrics!!!!!! But what the lyrics well, I've done enough, you do the rest
anonymous Mar 13th 2012 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 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.
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