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Greg Ham found Dead
April 19, 2012 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Men at Work's Greg Ham has been found dead. He was an Australian songwriter, actor and saxophone player known for playing multiple instruments in the 1980s band Men at Work. In addition to the saxophone, he played flute, organ, piano and the synthesiser.

Police said there were a number of "unexplained issues" with the 58-year-old's death, which had last night left Australia's music industry in shock.

The band achieved international fame in the 1980s but it was a copyright controversy over the distinctive flute riff that had Men at Work back in the headlines in recent years.

A court in 2010 found the riff was unmistakably the same as popular children's tune Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, penned by Toorak teacher Marion Sinclair more than 75 years ago for a Girl Guides competition.

The decision left Ham shattered.
"It has destroyed so much of my song," he told Fairfax at the time.
"It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that. I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered - for copying something."
posted by Sailormom (86 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 5:42 PM on April 19, 2012


I don't remember that song for it's copying.

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posted by IvoShandor at 5:43 PM on April 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


its
posted by IvoShandor at 5:43 PM on April 19, 2012


Re: the Kookaburra snippet in the flute part: when I heard about it I could see what they meant, and just assumed it was a deliberate musical quote. God knows it's a short enough phrase, and not central to the later song, I'd think it constitutes fair use. Apparently the judge agreed and lowered the royalties to only 5%, and only of mechanical rights, presumably on the reasonable assumption that a performance of the song might or might not actually contain that bit. I really think the definition of "derived work" should allow more breadth of legal interpretation. Where is that quote from, Sailormom?

Oh and:

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posted by George_Spiggott at 5:46 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sad that he thought everyone would remember him for the copyright infringement suit. I had already forgotten about it, and I've even listened to Men At Work's greatest hits album recently.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012


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Always considered his boyish looks to be a good counterpoint to singer Colin Hay's semi-creepy vibe, just as his instrumentation -more often sax than flute - provided a good counterpoint to the vocals. I've followed Hay's solo endeavors, but they honestly never seemed the same.

I hope Ham is now a Man At Rest.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


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George_Spiggott: the quotes (and the rest of the text of the post) are lifted from the first link.
posted by dumbland at 5:54 PM on April 19, 2012


The part where you say:
"Police said there were ..."
I instantly thought you were talking about the 80's band for some reason.

But I really had no idea about the Kookaburra issue, and I tend to follow these music copyright cases fairly closely. I'll always remember Down Under for its reference to a Vegemite sandwich. The lyrics are quite amazing.

Please let's not forget their other great earworm, Who Can It Be Now?, which had that awesome saxophone part.

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posted by jabberjaw at 5:54 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sad. Death, quit taking so many musicians before their time!

I also doubt that he will be remembered for the suit outside of legal circles. I had always assumed he thought it was a folk song, not something that had been written recently enough to still be under copyright (a la "Happy Birthday" in the US), not that he was intentionally or blithely disregarding Ms. Sinclair's IP rights.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2012


Business As Usual was an incredibly solid first album; richly varied and damn good from beginning to end. There aren't many you can say that about.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


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First album I ever bought was "Business As Usual".
posted by awfurby at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Business As Usual was a great album, and probably the first cassette I ever bought. I thought Cargo was pretty good, too.

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posted by jquinby at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2012


Grew up with this song, heard it a million times, saw the video a half million times. Never heard the copying story. They were a good band. Ah well, we're all just farting around waiting for the inevitable.

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posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very sad day for Australian music - coincidentally on a day where perhaps we should be celebrating after the wonderful Gotye reached Number 1 on the US Billboard charts with this song.

The Men At Work/Kookaburra case proved that the law can indeed be an ass. Unbelieveable to think the case stemmed from a joking mention of the two works made in passing on the ABC TV show Spicks and Specks in 2007.

Interestingly the Spicks and Specks team have remained silent on the issue. The mention was really a bit of a joke, but it was latched onto by those who own the Kookaburra song and used as a point to launch their court case.

Some wonderful but sad tributes in a couple of Melbourne's main newspapers - The Age and The Herald Sun (the latter behind a paywall, but easily viewed by typing the story's headline into a google search).

Ham's saxophone solo at the start of Who Can It Be Now is just as iconic as his flute solo at the start of Down Under.

Very definitely:

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posted by chris88 at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


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I still love the moody tracks that close Business as Usual.
posted by Flashman at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not to dwell on this angle overmuch, but some forms of quoting actually enhance the value of the original, by keeping it alive in the public consciousness and renewing its cultural relevance. I assumed it was consciously done, and I can't imagine that it could in any way devalue the original -- far from it. The very idea of "damages" in this case is completely wrongheaded.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


NAH! NAH! NAH!
posted by grog at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I seem to remember some radio stations in the US substituting the lyrics "Big Mac® sandwich" for "Vegemite sandwich." Anyone else recall this or did I make it up in my head?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2012


And to those non-Australians, there are a generation of Aussies who would class Down Under as an psuedo National Anthem.

Of course the song is also closely linked with Australia II's famous triumph in the Americas Cup in 1983.
posted by chris88 at 6:06 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even though it's been played to death, I unabashedly love this song. And think the world needs more jazz, pop, and rock flute solos.

.....

(trilled RIP)
posted by smirkette at 6:10 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by gomichild at 6:13 PM on April 19, 2012


Also: He worried that his legacy would be the copyright suit. No worries, mate! FWIW, I think he appropriately musically quoted a well-known song (who according to the linked article, herself didn't give a damn, but the subsequent rights-buyer did).
posted by smirkette at 6:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


For a brief window of time, it looked like Men At Work were going to be Beatles huge. Perhaps because of the "you have your whole life to write your first album and then a few months to write your second" syndrome, their albums after Business As Usual suffered from diminishing returns of quality.

While Hay's voice is the main thin that distinguishes Men At Work songs, Ham's wind instrument work was frequently the difference between their tunes being good and being great.

Thank you for some great music Mr. Ham. I promise I will have forgotten the lawsuit long, long before I forget your work.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Business as Usual was the first album I bought, too (vinyl!). I've got that yellow-and-black cover art etched into brain.

Thanks for the great music, Mr. Ham.
posted by argonauta at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by bjgeiger at 6:18 PM on April 19, 2012


Ha, I was also coming to post that Business as Usual was the first full album I ever bought with my own money. My cover was black and white!

I willingly acknowledge that my ears are quite unsophisticated--and I've never been a Girl Guide--but even listening to the two together in that clip, I honestly do not hear Kookaburra.
posted by looli at 6:20 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by wilful at 6:34 PM on April 19, 2012


What a silly lawsuit. What a great band.

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posted by parki at 6:37 PM on April 19, 2012


Dammit. First Paul Hester and now Greg Ham. Australians are supposed to live forever, right?

Ghosts appear and fade away...
posted by bpm140 at 6:42 PM on April 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ah damn.

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posted by randomkeystrike at 6:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I smuggled a cassette copy of Business as Usual to church camp one summer long ago. No way was I going to go a whole week without listening to Men At Work.

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posted by Sailormom at 6:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never liked that song, but it's really shitty that he had to deal with that copyright issue. I agree with George_Spiggott; I always assumed it was a deliberate musical quote.

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posted by MexicanYenta at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by pompomtom at 7:00 PM on April 19, 2012


Overkill was on my band's playlist, a great, haunting tune in which the sax plays an integral part. Quite a departure from the Vegemite sandwich.

Ghosts appear, indeed.
posted by stargell at 7:09 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]



posted by ryanshepard at 7:12 PM on April 19, 2012


I hear the Kookaburra riff there, but it seems like a small piece of a larger work, and one of those pieces that we all learn in school singing or music lessons as kids. As a result, it's become part of our national identity, and I find it hard to understand how anyone might claim it as their own and sue over it. Doing so was really quite despicable.

That said, I think I'm going to forever remember Down Under as the song, and Greg Ham as the man, that first inspired me to pack my bags and travel. Looking back on it now, that inspiration seems to come from an era when Australians were more adventurous, joyful, and left more friends and lighter footprints wherever they went. Losing him is like losing one of the better parts of who we are.

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posted by Ahab at 7:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


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I always think of Men At Work as my very first MTV band. The video for Who Can It Be Now came out a day or two after we first got cable at my house, and I loved it. I played alto sax at the time, and I was *extremely* tickled to see someone in an actual hit video playing my instrument!
posted by John Smallberries at 7:16 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]



posted by theartandsound at 7:27 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by motty at 7:32 PM on April 19, 2012


The Men At Work/Kookaburra case proved that the law can indeed be an ass. Unbelieveable to think the case stemmed from a joking mention of the two works made in passing on the ABC TV show Spicks and Specks in 2007.

I assumed the phrase "the law is an ass" was a reference to how slowly things can go when one pursues legal means. But a quick google reveals it goes back to Dickens ...

The phrase "the law is an ass" originates in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, when the character Mr. Bumble is informed that "the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction". Mr. Bumble replies "If the law supposes that ... the law is a [sic] ass—a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience."

And oh yeah:

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posted by philip-random at 7:35 PM on April 19, 2012


I seem to remember some radio stations in the US substituting the lyrics "Big Mac® sandwich" for "Vegemite sandwich." Anyone else recall this or did I make it up in my head?


I only heard the Vegemite version. If anything "Down Under" was a huge boon to the Vegemite industry. I remember there was an Australian kid in my class that tried to explain what it tasted like and he was going to try and get some for us to try. This was in Spanish class.
posted by birdherder at 7:41 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I put Down By The Sea and Overkill on so many mix tapes...

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posted by MrVisible at 7:44 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by Mitheral at 7:45 PM on April 19, 2012


Stargell beat me to the mention of Ham's fine, haunting sax performance in "Overkill" (one of my favorite Men at work songs), and his sax hook on "Who Can It Be now" is, of course, inconic -- it led off their first album, after all.

Dick Clark, Levon Helm and now Greg Ham. What a sad day.
posted by Gelatin at 8:03 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by LobsterMitten at 8:09 PM on April 19, 2012


Colin Hay pays tribute to Men at Work bandmate Greg Ham
posted by Sailormom at 8:21 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ghosts appear and fade away...
...come back another day.


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posted by eriko at 8:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are those bands that you develop a strong attachment to simply because they happen to exist on the cusp of your becoming aware of music. It's not the kind of music you end up devoting yourself to, it's not the kind of thing you would, in other circumstances, particularly enjoy, but you hear it and all of a sudden your synapses fire and you realize holy shit why haven't I been paying closer attention to this music stuff? It makes me feel alive! Transcendent! Essential!

My brother (age 8 at the time, 5 years older than me) got two cassettes for Christmas, 1982. One was Adam Ant's Friend or Foe and one was Business as Usual.

I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my brother has since forgotten about both of these albums and the artists behind them, but both Men at Work and Adam Ant are absolutely instrumental in my understanding of melody, hooks, and in particular, how to perfectly employ the saxophone in a pop song.

RIP Greg.

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posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, dear.

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posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:28 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by rahnefan at 8:40 PM on April 19, 2012


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posted by MelanieL at 8:41 PM on April 19, 2012


ouch. the year business as usual came out I had a cassette with that on one side and Ghost in the Machine by The Police. I played that thing over and over again.

Must have drove my parents nuts.

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posted by Bonzai at 8:54 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a slightly ironic twist, in an interview with Radio National I heard this morning, the drummer from Men At Work said the song existed for a few years without the Kookaburra... reference. It may have only been added during the studio recording.

Greg Ham had supposedly spent a lot of time trying to track down a recording of one of those early versions showing this. Not that it would have helped their case...
posted by hifimofo at 8:57 PM on April 19, 2012


By the time I retired my cassette version of Cargo, the tape hissed and warbled during No Sign of Yesterday; a song that I listened to incessantly for months...and now here I am on my fourth listen of the tune this evening, focused on Ham's masterful, subtle nuances. Great musician, great band.
posted by prinado at 9:03 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, this is sad. I don't like the idea that he died thinking everyone thought he was a thief. Count me as another person who thought that riff was quoted on purpose.

On another note: man, what a great time 1981/1982 was for music- so many things just sounded so new and amazing and different to me. I had Land Down Under on a tape with Tainted Love, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, Look of Love, The Safety Dance, Young Guns, Happy Talk, Don't Change, and A Town Called Malice. It was a good time to be a kid.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:10 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:17 PM on April 19, 2012


I have so much love for that band, probably because of the time and the places and the age I was when I listened to it. But through the ensuing decades, no matter how far I went into much angrier, much louder, much less innocent musical directions in my tastes, I could always listen to the first two Men At Work albums and they'd just make me purely happy.

In recent years I've discovered Colin Hay's solo work, and though it's somewhat inconsistent and often bland, he really does have some gems and even some truly great songs, and that voice, man that voice. His solo renditions of some of the old Men At Work catalog, much older, much wearier -- just like me -- still let the sunlight shine through the tinges of sadness.

It's terrible that Ham died, relatively young and apparently unhappy about his legacy. I've read elsewhere that he was back on the heroin, and if true, that makes it even sadder.

It's Friday, and when I get on to my Friday beers tonight, I think I'll listen to some Men At Work, and raise a few to Greg Ham.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:38 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Men at Work have a fixed place in my childhood...

And in my life's soundtrack....

For Greg.

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posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:54 PM on April 19, 2012



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From Sailormom's link, Hay says, The saxophone solo on Who Can It Be Now was the rehearsal take. We kept it, that was the one. He’s here forever.

As far as 'quoting' Kookaburra, is eleven notes even really a quote? It's what, a measure or two at most? That whole situation is weak. I hope the plaintiffs are happy with themselves.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I always noticed the Kookaburra riff and accepted it as a quote. It seemed to say the song wasn't intended to be serious, just some fun, like Kookaburra. So, party on. Never heard they landed in a lawsuit over that. Absurd! As someone said above, appropriate quoting of music maintains and enhances its significance.
posted by Goofyy at 10:25 PM on April 19, 2012


I bet I can, all these years later, still whistle any sax solo off of Business as Usual; they're that good, that memorable and, for my money, that original.

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posted by lekvar at 10:45 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very sad day for Australian music - coincidentally on a day where perhaps we should be celebrating after the wonderful Gotye reached Number 1 on the US Billboard charts with this song.

Thank you for introducing me to "Somebody I used to know". By the same crazy copyright laws that dogged Greg Ham, Gotye should be looking out for "Bah Bah Blacksheep".

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posted by rongorongo at 1:28 AM on April 20, 2012


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posted by Coaticass at 1:33 AM on April 20, 2012


He lived in my neighbourhood and I'm sure my friends at the local are raising one to him as well.

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posted by michswiss at 1:36 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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This made me sad :(
posted by jet_manifesto at 1:51 AM on April 20, 2012



posted by Smart Dalek at 3:12 AM on April 20, 2012


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posted by ZeusHumms at 3:41 AM on April 20, 2012


First thing I read about this morning, right on the exhalation of asking my girl if she had the tickets for Colin Hay tonight in VA....

...this is very sad. I grew up on Business as Usual and Cargo. I can still see the liner notes and the tiny print where it says, "Keyboards, sax and other fiddly things - Greg Ham."
posted by Thistledown at 3:50 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As far as 'quoting' Kookaburra, is eleven notes even really a quote?

22 notes (there are two parts to the flute riff), and it's more than half the song. Really, it's pretty much all of the song - the last bit is more of a coda.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree (the first bit)
Merry merry king of the bush is he (the second, lower bit)
Laugh, kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra
Gay your life must be.

posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:48 AM on April 20, 2012


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Sad news. I've been listening to a bit of Men at Work recently; I like it more now than I did in the 80s
posted by pointystick at 5:31 AM on April 20, 2012


I followed the copyright case when it happened (commenting on it in the Popular thread about "Down Under") , and at the time found a late-2006 Wikipedia edit that made the "Kookaburra" connection, which may be where Spicks and Specks got it from. In the court case, it emerged that Colin Hay himself "morphed the two songs during some concerts in 2002", long before any of those. But I still don't think that makes it a rip-off, any more than Bono morphing “Electric Co.” into “Send in the Clowns” during U2's Red Rocks concerts.

Farewell, Greg. Business as Usual and Cargo were two of my first record purchases, and the tracks with your vocals were some of my favourites. I’ll always love “I Like To” and “Helpless Automaton”.
posted by rory at 5:43 AM on April 20, 2012


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posted by andraste at 6:30 AM on April 20, 2012


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posted by jlkr at 6:44 AM on April 20, 2012


Another great instrument falls silent.

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posted by kinnakeet at 6:50 AM on April 20, 2012


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posted by spinifex23 at 7:36 AM on April 20, 2012


I just downloaded the Contraband compilation. I'd forgotten how great some of this stuff was. Highly recommended.
posted by jquinby at 7:41 AM on April 20, 2012


"Down Under" was literally the first music video I ever saw, when I first turned on MTV coming home after school the day my family had cable installed. Bought "Business as Usual" shortly thereafter and listened to it endlessly.





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posted by JJtheJetPlane at 7:57 AM on April 20, 2012


Definitely an MTV favorite. I remember the Aussie-slang-to-English guides that helped decipher Land Down Under lyrics.
posted by mikepop at 8:29 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


22 notes (there are two parts to the flute riff), and it's more than half the song. Really, it's pretty much all of the song - the last bit is more of a coda.

The proportion of the original work (or rather, the tune of the work sans lyrics) quoted does seem relevant, but really, does it help or harm the economic value of Kookaburra? Is anyone, anywhere, going to say "I don't need to license Kookaburra because I can get most of the notes of it as an instrumental in the form of two widely separated phrases transposed into a different key in the flute part of Down Under?" It seems, um, unlikely. On the other hand, does it reinforce Kookaburra's cultural relevance well into a new era and improve its chances of being licensed for various uses today? Seems a bit more plausible.

To me the former is about as likely as "I don't need to buy Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' because I can go down to the guitar store and sooner or later I'll hear some 14 year old mangle an attempt to play it." But apparently Congress actually bought into that demented scenario.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:20 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ha, I was also coming to post that Business as Usual was the first full album I ever bought with my own money.

Me too. Actually I got two LPs that trip: Business as Usual and Duran Duran.
posted by dfan at 11:02 AM on April 20, 2012


obiwanwasabi: "22 notes (there are two parts to the flute riff), and it's more than half the song. Really, it's pretty much all of the song - the last bit is more of a coda."

George_Spiggott: "The proportion of the original work (or rather, the tune of the work sans lyrics) quoted does seem relevant…"

Not to drag out a relevant but still off-topic derail in a memorial thread, but while I see obiwanwasabi's point I still respectfully disagree with the conclusion.

When I made my comment, I was going off the linked video which only compares the first line of "Kookaburra" with the eleven note passage from the vamp in "Down Under" and didn't think to listen further. Once obiwanwasabi pointed out my mistake, I listened to them both a few times and compared the sheet[PDF] music. I now see that when the vamp is reprised at the end of the bridge, eliding the non-similar measures in-between and ignoring durations, there's a pitch difference of maybe six notes between the 22 in the first four measures of "Kookaburra" and the 22 in the two (separated) measures of the flute passage in question from "Down Under." Even so, and granted that I'm not a musicologist, I would still characterize "Down Under" as a musical allusion and not a quotation as such.

Either way I still think it's pretty weak, especially if it drove Ham into depression. He made beautiful music and deserved better than to be broken emotionally over a 16 notes in an international #1 hit song that sounded similar to those in a kid's campfire favorite.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:41 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well said, ob1quixote. I can't believe the case got any settlement at all. I kept listening to the first video you mention, and I couldn't hear how you would construe it as a quote. I was thinking 'echo' but allusion is a good word.

Plus, how this case does anything for the public good is not adding up to me. Some vulture publisher swoops down and gloms onto a work and sues eighty years later?

At the root of all this, seriously: is it a public good to turn everything into a trade-able commodity?

I'll tell you who got screwed. Greg Ham contributes to two songs that are a well beloved part of the songlist of these times, and he's had to teach guitar in his later years? And now, eighty years later some vulture publisher will swoop down and sue somebody for alluding to Land Down Under?

We gotta be in the end times, right?
posted by Trochanter at 3:03 PM on April 20, 2012


Cargo and Business as Usual were a near constant presence on my high school era turntable, and were among the first 10 albums I bought. Everybody remembers the quirky, upbeat songs, but their moody songs, such as "Overkill," also had a bounciness that belied the lyrics.

I wish Greg godspeed.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:16 PM on April 20, 2012


Even so, and granted that I'm not a musicologist, I would still characterize "Down Under" as a musical allusion and not a quotation as such.

Mate, they're identical. By all means, argue whether they should've been sued for using it, but it's the same song. You can sing it higher or lower, stick a tiny refrain between the two lines, but it's the same 22 notes, same melody, same rhythm. Not really an 'allusion' when your front man starts singing the lyrics to Kookaburra during live performances, is it? Bit late to start playing dumb then.

What seems more likely? 'Band writing song full of iconic Australian imagery decided to add an iconic Australian melody'? Or 'Band writing song full of iconic Australian imagery stumbled across riff identical to iconic Australian melody by dumb luck; fails to notice, even while acting out lyrics in official music video; future performances that include singing the bloody lyrics of said iconic Australian melody just coincidence'?

On the other hand, does it reinforce Kookaburra's cultural relevance well into a new era and improve its chances of being licensed for various uses today

No, because it says 'Men at Work didn't license it, so why should I?'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:49 PM on April 20, 2012


That is sad! I liked Men At Work. They cheered me up during a hard time in my life. :( .
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:31 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Men at Work introduced me to a world outside of UK and US pop music.

Being a 12 year old in public school in Wisconsin, Australia was a blurb in the history books and a geographic anomaly. I know that people lived there, but I knew nothing about them. And the writing I found about Australia (and most other foreign countries, in fact) that I had exposure to were filtered through American eyes, with all of our prejudices and privileges and preferences. I knew that they spoke English, they had kangaroos, they were the only inhabited continent that was also an island, and at Santa visited them in the summer.

Enter Men at Work. That song Down Under introduced me to an Australia I never found in the books - because what Middle School history book is going to talk about their breakfast foods and drinking habits and nursery rhymes? Those things aren't Important. But those were the things that made Men At Work, and Australia as a whole, relateable, and it whetted an appetite to learn more.

It also warmed me up for the melodious Crowded House and the chunky Hoodoo Gurus. It enabled me to get seriously into Midnight Oil (still my favorite band of all time), and their poignant stories of Aboriginal land rights and the plight of mining workers in the Outback, set to an abrasive yet danceable beat. And Yothu Yindi, who told similar stories from their Aboriginal point of view, and also incorporating their traditional music in the process. Without the gateway drug of Men At Work, I don't know if I would have discovered these other musicians that left their indelible mark.

So, thank you, Men At Work, and Greg Ham. You will be missed.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:49 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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