Today marks 37 years since the release of Australian new wave band Men at Work's first album Business as Usual; the record that gave us Down Under and Who Can It Be Now?. Since its release, it has sold 15 million worldwide becoming one of the most internationally successful records by an Australian artist ever.
Released in 1981, Business as Usual ended up topping charts in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK with the Melbourne group becoming the first Australian artists to have a number one album and a number one single in the US Billboard Charts at the same time, the latter being Down Under.
Despite the success of singles Who Can It Be Now? and Be Good Johnny, there's no doubt that Down Under is Men at Work's greatest and most recognisable hit. Co-written by lead vocalist Colin Hay and lead guitarist Ron Strykert, it was originally a B-side to their debut single Keypunch Operator and has become something of a patriotic anthem for Australians, particularly in sporting events.
But it would go on to receive notoriety for a completely different reason by 2010, when the group were successfully sued by Larrikin Music Publishing for the song's appropriation of the popular Australian nursery rhyme Kookaburra. The song, written in 1932, was still under copyright protection at the time with songwriter Marion Sinclair having died in 1988, though publishing rights had been passed to Larrikin.
However, while the publishing group would demand between 40% and 60% of royalties, a judge accepted that the use of the song in the improvised flute line had been a later addition and ruled that, since it did not make up a significant part of the Down Under, Larrikin would receive just 5% of past and future earnings. Despite this, Greg Ham - who performed the flute riff - took the lawsuit especially hard. He would suffer depression and anxiety over worries that his only legacy would be that of plagiarism until his death two years later.
Nonetheless, Business as Usual ended up winning the group a Grammy for Best New Artist, a Juno Award for International LP of the Year, and was also entered into the book 100 Best Australian Albums compiled by music journalists Toby Creswell, Craig Mathieson and John O'Donnell.
Unfortunately, the group only released two albums after that; 1983's Cargo and 1985's Two Hearts; before disbanding over creative differences. They would reform ten years later, but split again in 2002. Over the course of their career, Men at Work have sold over an impressive 30 million albums worldwide.