In honor (or should I say, honour) of Australia Day, Mark Steyn brings back his terrific appreciation of Men At Work's "Down Under." Here's a brief sample, but really, you should read the whole thing. Even by Steyn's standards, it's a gem:
The song was born in ten green bottles, more or less. Ron Strykert, the guitarist of Men At Work, was at home and at a loose end and decided, as one does, to fill various wine and beer bottles with different amounts of water and then give 'em a thwack and see what kind of tune emerges. That's the origin of the opening of "Down Under". Next up came the chorus. In 1978, two years before the first record of the song was released, Strykert's fellow band member Colin Hay was out in the car, when the muse descended. He was driving down Power Street in Hawthorn in the Melbourne suburbs, when "it just popped into my head". The verses popped up a day or so later, all in about half an hour.
Hay was the only band member not to come, originally, from a land down under. He was born in Scotland and his family emigrated to Australia when he was 14, so he brought to the song not just a genuine love for his new home but also an ability to see what it was about "the lucky country" that so tickled the outside world. If the chorus is almost ingenious in its simplicity (how come no-one ever cottoned on to "Down Under" as a song title before?), the linking quatrains give the piece a structure and a story. "The verses were more the Barry McKenzie aspect of the song," Hay recalled, referring to Barry Humphries' popular cartoon strip in Private Eye in the Sixties, "and that thing where it's almost a rite of passage for young Australians to travel through Asia and India, and go back to find out where their families come from in England or Ireland or Scotland."