Monday, February 10, 2014

News that apparently traveled by bottle


I just found this out last night, via random YouTube comment. If ever I thought there was a piece of news I'd miss in the age of the Internet and me working in the media and all, it wouldn't be the sudden suicide in 2012 of a member of one of my favorite bands of all time.

"Down Under" has been one of my jams since it came out. I have a distinct memory of hearing this song's opening licks on the radio on New Year's Day 1983, and thinking, "Hey, there's that song I love!" I wasn't even 3 yet.

As years passed, I forgot the song, but recalled the memory. All I could remember was the song's famous flute work. Ten years later, while working on a Beatles report, I heard "Down Under" on the radio and felt the memories flood back. "You better run, you better take cover!" Mom told me the group was Men at Work, and a fervent fan was born. I boned up on the band and learned Ham lent the Men its most distinctive sounds.

Also, that we looked the same in 1983.
In 2009, the publishing company that owns the Australian classic "Kookaburra" sued Men at Work, claiming Ham lifted the flute melody from that song. The publisher won, and the band had pay back a percentage of the song's royalties as a result. This supposedly devastated Ham, who considered the cribbing an accident and imagined his reputation destroyed. And he took his life. Two years ago, that is, but it's fresh sadness for me.

A coworker friend remarked that it was a particularly cruddy move on the publisher's part to pursue action against a 30-year-old song for its subconscious sampling of a song widely thought to be in the public domain. I think so too, especially in light of the suicide it wrought. What a shame. A belated R.I.P. to an eternal talent.

Here is Greg gloriously hamming it up (sorry) on "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive." He loved the world, except for all the people.

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