Death By iPod

Following the tragic death of a Sydney woman knocked down by an ambulance while crossing a road, apparently because she failed to hear the siren due to listening to loud music through earphones, the Pedestrian Council of Australia wants the government to force manufacturers of headphones, portable music players and mobile phones to include warnings with their products of the risks consumers could run by using earphones. ‘The government is quite happy to legislate that people can lose two demerit points for having music too loud in their cars, but is apparently unconcerned that listening devices now appear to have become lethal pieces of entertainment,’ said the PCA’s Harold Scruby. The PCA says that so-called ‘death by iPod’ could be a factor in the recent increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities in NSW, which has resulted in 53 deaths so far this year.

Kookaburra has the Last Laugh

Who would have thought that the classic Aussie song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree could have caused so much trouble? For those who don’t spend their lives sitting at the back of Sydney courtrooms, rock band Men at Work recently lost a copyright case regarding the theme from one of its most famous songs. Justice Jacobson ruled that the flute solo from Men At Work’s classic anthem Down Under (‘Where women blow/glow and men plunder/chunder’*), was similar enough to the melody of the song Kookaburra (written by Marion Sinclair in 1934 and given by her to the Girl Guides Association of Victoria, the copyright for which is now owned by Larrikin Records) that Men at Work (well, actually just songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, along with Sony BMG and EMI Songs Australia) should pay Larrikin royalties. Colin Hay reportedly said after the judgment: ‘I will go to my grave knowing Down Under is an original piece of work. In over 20 years no one noticed the reference to Kookaburra. Marion Sinclair never made any claim that we had appropriated any part of her song and she was alive when Down Under was a hit. Apparently she didn’t notice either.’ In fact, EMI argued in its appeal that the similarity between the two tunes can be detected ‘only by people with a highly educated musical ear.’ Anyway, Kookaburra is back in the news again after Melbourne’s LePage Primary School changed the words ‘Gay your life must be’ to ‘Fun your life must be’ on the basis that the word ‘gay’ now has meanings other than the one that existed ‘way back when the song was written. School principal Garry Martin told the press he wasn’t meaning to insult the gay community and that the word change was a case of behaviour management: ‘I knew if we sang “Gay your life must be” that kids would roll around the floor in fits of laughter.’ His explanation didn’t cut any ice with Crusader Hillis of The Also Foundation (a gay advocacy group) who said that changing the word ‘sends a signal to people that just because a word has two meanings, that one of those meanings is unacceptable and that’s really putting us backwards.’  greg borrowman

*After my discussion of Mondegreens in the last issue of Australian Hi-Fi (my review of Aaron’s HMF-600MkII Loudspeakers), it seems we have more Mondegreens here, because many listeners claim to hear the word as ‘blow’ rather than ‘glow’ and equally as many claim the word is not ‘plunder’, but ‘chunder’. I’m not buying into this one: there are many different versions of this song on different CDs and it’s entirely possible that the lyric changes depending on which version you’re listening to.)