I had a great interview with Hay a couple years ago [which you can find elsewhere on this blog]. I look forward to hearing the fresh versions...
A newly recorded version of the hit Men at Work song “Down Under” will be released globally on Compass Records in celebration of the song’s 30th anniversary. Colin Hay re-recorded the song without the “Kookaburra” flute line which is the subject of a drawn out and embittered lawsuit in Australia.
The track will be released as part of an EP (available on iTunes July 31) which will include three versions of the song: newly recorded studio, solo acoustic and live, solo, story-song takes (the latter finds Hay humorously describing how he wrote song. The three track EP will be released exclusively through iTunes with the single "Down Under 2012" available through other digital outlets including compassrecords.com.
Marketing executives at Telstra, the Australian network provider, tapped the track as the theme for their Olympic games advertising campaign. "Down Under" has been the unofficial anthem of Australian sports since it was adopted by the Australian team during the 1983 America’s Cup which Australia won.
Telstra chose "Down Under" as the centerpiece for their campaign in recognition of its unparalleled representation of the Australian national spirit. The campaign features Colin Hay in a series of 30-and 60-second commercials singing the song with groups of various sizes, ranging from people on the street to a children’s chorus up to a football stadium of 60,000.
In addition to their TV campaign, Telstra is promoting the song through broadcasters Bigpond, Ninemsn, and worldwide via a social media campaign on Youtube, Facebook, Flikr, and more. Australian TV Channel 9 will also air a three-minute ‘making of’ video during the Olympics. Compass Records Group will be promoting the release of the digital EP with a “Down Under” trivia contest and social media campaign targeting Hay fans.
In 2009, a multi-million dollar lawsuit was filed by Larrikin Music Publishing against EMI Music Publishing and co-writers Colin Hay and Ron Strykert for allegedly plagiarizing the folk melody “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.” Despite overwhelming popular support for Hay, the court ruled that the two-bar flute line did infringe on the original copyright, though ultimately the claimant was rewarded a fraction of what they were seeking.
Media attention surrounding this was further heightened this year with the death of Greg Ham, Men at Work co-founder, saxophonist and flute player who played the melody off the top of his head while recording the song.
The current re-release of the song and the simultaneous media campaign will serve as a vehicle for illustrating the integrity of the song.
“Fortunately on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the song Telstra, the communications company, have decided to license "Down Under" and are about to show it on the telly, as well as the cyber-world to hopefully inspire our athletes at the upcoming Olympics. I was happy to help, and along with my friend Dorian West, created a spirited version of the song featuring footballers, pub goers, sailors on the Thames, school kids in Sydney, and, well, you get the idea. This led me to the idea of re-releasing "Down Under 2012" (without the so-called infringing flute line), to re-establish the song in the consciousness of the public, and in so doing, highlight that the power and strength of the song lies in its original words and music. It speaks for itself."