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Music / Men at Work

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Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover!
— "Down Under"

Men at Work were a five piece Australian rock band from Melbourne who came to prominence in the Eighties. The lineup of the band during its years of fame featured Colin Hay (vocals, rhythm guitar), Ron Strykert (lead guitar, bass, vocals), Jerry Speiser (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Greg Ham (keyboards, vocals, saxophone, harmonica, flute) and John Rees (bass, backing vocals). All was well for the first few years.

However, from 1984 onwards, the band would suffer a number of lineup changes (mostly due to good old infighting brought by sudden rise to fame) - 16 other musicians were members of the band, with Hay and Ham the only constants. After Greg Ham's untimely death in 2012, the band was done for good. On a somewhat more optimistic note, Colin Hay managed to start a fairly successful solo career which is still going well.


  • Business as Usual in 1981 (has an Updated Re-release)
  • Cargo in 1983 (same as above)
  • Two Hearts in 1985
  • Live in Brazil in 1997 (with two new tracks!)

They are best known for their hit "Down Under", which is better known overseas than the Australian national anthem, as well as the opening line for their first song on their first album "Who Can It Be Now?"

Men at Work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock: Toward the end of the music video for "It's a Mistake", some military officer has an ashtray sitting on the control console right next to a Big Red Button, which he unwittingly presses while fumbling around.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Overkill"
  • Everybody Do the Endless Loop: A long sequence in the video for Down Under has the band members doing repetitive motions, including dancing and pantomiming digging for several seconds before turning from the camera and hopping away.
  • The Four Chords of Pop: The chorus of "Down Under".
  • Genre Mashup: Much like The Police, their main style combined New Wave Music and Rock with Reggae, though their style was pop rock instead of punk rock.
  • Mickey Mousing: Near the beginning of the music video for "Who Can It Be Now?", the stranger's knocking on the apartment door sync up with the drumbeats.
  • Large Ham: Colin Hay. Just watch the clips for "Who Can It Be Now?" or "Overkill". Or his appearances on Scrubs.
    • Greg Ham (no pun intended) had his moments as well; the video for "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive" might be the best example.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The band managed to book their first gig without even having a name yet. When they were pressed for one, they took inspiration from a sign out the front of the pub - which was being renovated at the time.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Their music is very cheery reggae, but some of the lyrics are dark, such as the paranoia of "Overkill" or the anti-war dirge of "It's a Mistake".
  • Old Man Conversation Song: "Settle Down My Boy"
  • The Paranoiac: "Who Can It Be Now?" is about someone driven to paranoia by repeated unexpected visits to his home. The music video has imagine spots where he pictures that the people on the other side of the door are government agents, mobsters, or space aliens.
  • Questioning Title?: "Who Can It Be Now?"
  • Protest Song: "It's a Mistake", and "Down Under"
  • Revolving Door Band: Between 1979 and 2012 (including ten years of being entirely broken up), the band had a total of 22 different members. Only Hay and Ham (until Ham's death in 2012) featured in all of them.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Helpless Automaton. Nobody seeme to believe the title character is a robot.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The front of the van in the clip to "Down Under" bears the name "Tanelorn".
    • "Be Good Johnny" is one to "Johnny Be Goode"
  • Small Town, Big Hell: Hay made precisely a song called "Small Town Big Hell", part of his 2002 album Company of Strangers. The song is about a man who turns the page after all the suffering he had in the past.
    Small Town Big Hell, for me for you
    Superstitious minds can kill the truth
  • Stock Rhymes: Averted by "Down Under". No one else has ever rhymed "chunder" with either plunder or thunder. (Note for non-Aussies: to chunder means to vomit.)
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Who Can It Be Now?"


Video Example(s):


"Down Under"

The lyrics to "Down Under" depict an Australian man traveling the globe, who meets people who are interested in his home country. The story is based in part on singer Colin Hay's own experiences, including a prominent reference to a Vegemite sandwich (a popular snack in Australia), which derived from an encounter, during Hay's travels abroad, with a baker who emigrated from Brunswick, Melbourne.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / LandDownunder

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