Ukulele Video Lesson - Down Under (Men at Work)

Ukulele video lessons will help you learn to play this song, even if you don’t come from the land down under! The song “Down Under” is easily one of Men at Work’s biggest hits.

The story behind this ukulele video lesson...

Just about everyone knows that “Down Under” is about Australia, the Land Down Under. However, most do not stop to think about the actual meaning of the song. The lead singer of Men at Work, Colin Hay, is also the songwriter for “Down Under”. He said that the song was about overdevelopment in the country and the selling of Australia. He also said it was about “loss of spirit” and “plundering of the country by greedy people”.

The genesis of the song began from a bass riff that Ron Strkyert, their guitar player, had recorded on a home demo tape. Hay liked the riff and would listen to it often. He was listening to it in the car on his way to Melbourne when he heard the chords form in his head. A few days later, he wrote the verses to the song that so many people would come to love.

Unless you are from Australia, there’s a good chance that quite a few of the lyrics found “Down under” are a bit confusing. Let’s look at some of the biggest head scratchers that have been translated by

  • Fried Out Kombi – This simply means a broken down van. It actually comes from the name VW Kombivan, during the 60s and 70s.
  • Head Full of Zombie – Zombie was a strong batch of marijuana in Australia that had earned the nickname zombie grass.
  • Vegemite Sandwich – Vegemite is a type of spread that can go on toast or bread.
  • Chunder – While it might not be pleasant, to chunder means to vomit.

“Down Under” was and is a very popular song. When it came out, it went to the top spot in the United States and the UK, and in their home country of Australia, the single was at the top of the chart for six weeks. The song also helped Men at Work to achieve the Best New Artist Grammy Award. It’s a good song that has a fun and upbeat sound despite the somewhat sad subject matter, and it really sounds very good when played on ukulele. Use a ukulele video lesson to learn how to play it.

Unfortunately, there is something that mars the memory of the song. In 2009, Larrakin Music, a music publishing company that owns the rights to the song “Kookaburra” sued the songwriters of “Down Under”. They claimed that the flute you hear in the Men at Work song was the same as the riff in “Kookaburra”, which was written in 1935 by Marion Sinclair. They court ruled in favor of the music company, saying that the song infringed on the copyright of Larrakin since they owned Sinclair’s song.

Hay was disappointed by the judgement, as was Greg Ham, who wrote and performed the flute part for the song. He passed away shortly after the ruling.

Regardless of the kooky “Kookaburra” ruling, “Down Under” from Men at Work is still a fantastic song, and even though there may be some similarity with the flute part, it’s still a unique song well worth learning. While the song might seem difficult to learn, it’s actually relatively easy when you use a ukulele video lesson. Do just as you would for any other song – learn each bit and then put it all together.

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