Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Down Under

First recorded by Men at Work (1979).
Hit version by Men at Work (US#1/CAN #1/UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Down Under’ was written by the group’s co-founders, Colin Hay and Ron Strykert. It was originally released in 1980 as the B-side to their first local single titled ‘Keypunch Operator’, on a self-released vinyl single distributed only in Australia. The early version of ‘Down Under’ has a slightly different tempo and arrangement than the later Columbia release. The more well-known version was then released on Columbia in October 1981 as the third single from their debut album Business as Usual (1981).

“Colin Hay told Songfacts: ‘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.’

“In June 2009, 28 years after the release of the recording, Larrikin Music sued Men At Work for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff of ‘Down Under’ was copied from ‘Kookaburra’. On 30 July, Justice Peter Jacobson of the Federal Court of Australia made a preliminary ruling that Larrikin did own copyright on the song, but the issue of whether or not Hay and Strykert had plagiarised the riff was set aside to be determined at a later date.

“On 4 February 2010, Justice Jacobson ruled that Larrikin’s copyright had been infringed because ‘Down Under’ reproduced ‘a substantial part of Kookaburra.'”

Men At Work, “Down Under” (1981):

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