Down Under by Men At Work is one of those 80s music videos that we just can’t forget. The tune is catchy and the video is quirky, and it embodied a lot of what the music scene of that era was about.
When it comes to the 1980s, nothing Australian was more iconic than the popularity of Crocodile Dundee and the land down under. The 1980s was when America was really introduced to Australian culture, and the fascination of which led to numerous movies and music collaborations that we still talk about today.
Released in Australia in 1981, the song “Down Under” by Men at Work did not receive instant success in the US. It would take several years, and the release of Crocodile Dundee, to eventually push the band and the song to the top of the charts.
Down Under By Men At Work
The song itself was written by none other than Colin Hay. Colin, a Scottish native, had moved to Melbourne when he was only 14 years old. For him, the song “Down Under” represented the Americanization of the country during the late 1970s.
Yet despite this anger towards the growing popularity of American culture in Australia, it would be his slang and Aussie accent that would eventually lead to their popularity in the United States.
The Theme Behind “Down Under”
The song “Down Under” is about an Australian traveling the world. And, no matter where he went in the world, he would encounter other Australians. As the traveler passes through Brussels, he meets a tall man who works in a bakery and is offered a Vegemite sandwich.
From there, he goes through Mumbai where he ends up in an opium den and once again he encounters more Australians.
Everywhere that the traveler visited throughout the song, he would encounter fellow Australians and a wide variety of other people who were simply fascinated with everything about Australia.
A Vegemite Sandwich
Naturally, while the song “Down Under” was a hit in the United States, one particular part of the song left every American trying to figure out exactly what Men at Work was talking about. When the traveler met a man in Brussels, he was offered a Vegemite sandwich.
Unfortunately, Vegemite is not popular in the United States, and is therefore relatively unknown. However in Australia, it is the equivalent of the American peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Just like American kids that are brought up on peanut butter and jelly, Australian children are brought up on Vegemite sandwiches.
It was so popular in Australia, that many travelers would bring their own supply of Vegemite whenever they traveled, simply because it could not be found in other countries.
The Down Under Music Video
Without a question, the song “Down Under” and its success had everything to do with its exposure on MTV. Featuring a very wacky and outlandish plot, the video starts off with a man wearing a leotard in the middle of the desert playing on beer bottles as if they were drums.
This segues into a VW bus breaking down in the middle of the desert filled with pot-smoking hippies. And the reoccurring theme throughout the entire video is a band member who is constantly seen dragging a stuffed kangaroo plushie behind him on a leash.
The song was a hit in Australia, and in December 1981 it topped their charts. The following year it went all the way to the top of the New Zealand charts before finally climbing the charts in Canada at the end of 1982. By November, “Down Under” made its first appearance on the Billboard charts, coming in at number 79.
It would eventually hit the number one spot and stay there for over 4 weeks. To date, more than 2 million copies of the song have been sold in the United States, and the official music video on YouTube has received just under 300 million views.