Tie me Kangaroo down, sport ... the True story by Stuart Sherlock
The family entertainer Rolf Harris was born in Bassendean, a suburb
of Perth. He was educated at Perth Modern School in 1948, then went
to Claremont teachers college from 1950 to 1951. He was a champion
backstroke swimmer, a talented artist and performer: He left Australia
to become an arts student in England. He became a very popular entertainer
on English television.
During the 1950's and 1960's, he was very well known
in Australia and England, for songs such as "Tie me Kangaroo
down sport", "Jake the peg" (about a 3-legged man),
"Six white boomers" (about Santa's sleigh being drawn
by Kangaroos because the heat in the Australian summer was too great
for his reindeer), "Sun-a-rise" (a song-poem about the
dawn), "The court of King Caractacus" (a novelty song),
and "The big black hat", another novelty song.
All these songs appealed to families and children,
but mostly they were popular because of their Australian idiosyncrasies.
He accompanied many of his songs with his "wobble board",
a thin sheet of hardboard (wood) which, when flexed back and forth,
made a charming sound with which to keep to the beat.
"Tie me kangaroo down sport" was a huge
hit in Australia, and is beloved to this day. Most everybody from
that era still know the words and tune. Its appeal to some degree
lies in its nonsensical lyrics, which can only be understood by
Australians! For our Swiss friends, here is a translation into "proper"
Title: Tie me Kangaroo
Kangaroo: an animal about the size and facial
appearance of a deer. However, it hops on its 2 enormous back
legs at great speed and can leap over most fences without
slowing down. They are never tied down, as you would leash
a dog, because with their fore-paws they can undo any knot,
and have been known to undo padlocks with a bent hairpin!
The joke in the title is that you really cannot "tie
a Kangaroo" down!
by giant carnivorous red kangaroo. Victim cringes in fear,
to no avail.
Photographer barely escaped with his own life
sport: abbreviation of sportsman. Generally
refers to an Australian male person, one who fits in well with society
and is popular. Usually used as a from of address to strangers.
"Sports" on average are drunken louts, with pot bellies
and are inveterate gamblers, especially on the neddies (horse-racing).
There's an old Australian stockman, Lying,
Dying, and he gets up on one elbow, And he turns to his mates, Who
are gathered 'round him And he says:
"stockman": a man who has spent his
life caring for sheep and cattle. All other creatures are vermin
and un-Australian, especially camels and goats. His face is bronzed
and wrinkled from a life under the blazing sun. Every second word
he utters is a profanity, a common feature of men who have ridden
3-days just to get to the next watering hole.
"gets up on one elbow": That will
be his right elbow. It is very strong, from years of holding up
the bar at the local watering hole, also known as a pub (public
house, hotel, tavern).
"he turns to his mates": His mates
are more stockmen, and loafers from the pub. He turns to look them
in the eye, because eye contact is a sign of sincerity, and since
he's dying, that's a fair dinkum thing to do (sincere).
"and he says": This is novel, stockmen
have very few words, and they are always mis-pronounced and expressed
with bad grammar.
Watch me wallaby's feed, mate, Watch me Wallaby's feed.
Wallaby: smallish nocturnal Kangaroo, which
spends the long daylight hours thinking about sex.
"Watch me Wallaby's feed": poor grammar,
should be "watch my Wallaby's feed" . Poor grammar is
a deliberate affectation, to show solidarity with the poorly educated
working class, strongly suggestive that Rolf Harris was a communist.
"feed": Wallabys commonly eat grass
during the hours of darkness. They have been known to eat socks
(with fatal results), but their favourite food is chocolate stolen
from the packs of unwary bush-walkers. Wallaby's are extremely dextrous,
and can undo a hikers pack, steal the chocolate and retie the pack
before the bushwalker can return from behind a tree. Hence the need
to watch them carefully.
a dangerous breed, mate
"dangerous breed": This is a joke.
Wallaby's are very quiet creatures, and make good household pets.
By contrast, the Giant Red Kangaroo, which stand 3 metres tall when
sitting on its tail, is carnivorous and has been known to kill and
eat Rottweilers. If menaced by a giant Red, you can only escape
by throwing your children to it as sacrifices, or as a last resort,
throw it your chocolate bars and run. Actually, running is a waste
of time, they can cover 14 metres in a single bound.
Verse 2: Keep me
cockatoo cool, Curl
"cockatoo": a large white parrot,
sometimes with a sulphur crest, and short legs. Makes an incredibly
raucous call, and is known for its strong character and filthy language.
Speaks English better than the stockmen. Good company when boundary
riding. (boundary riding: inspecting the fences on a station [large
farm] from horseback. May take 6 months to get around them on a
"Curl": abbreviation, short for Curley,
which is a reference to curley hair. Nickname applied to men with
straight hair, which is an unusual trait in the outback.
Verse 3: Take me Koala
"Koala": arboreal Wombat. A cute, teddy-bear-like,
furry creature that spends all day sleeping high in the trees, and
at night, resting in the same place. The sort of creature you instinctively
want to enfold in your arms and cuddle. Newly born Koala's must
eat their mothers faeces to obtain the bacteria needed to break
down the cellulose in gum leaves, which are their principal food
source. Irritable and hyper-active Koalas have been known to wake
up, open one eye, and scratch their bum before falling back to sleep.
Verse 4: Let me abos
go loose , Lew
"abos": refers to the Australian
indigenous people, the aboriginals, who were kept as indentured
labour (slaves) up until the 1966 Wave Hill stockmans strike which
broke the power of the English absentee pastoralists. At the time
this song was written, aboriginal people were denied the vote, were
not counted in the census, could not borrow money for housing, and
were kept in "camps" out of sight of white communities.
Not much has changed.
The suggestion of freeing the abos is a further
indication that Rolf Harris was a communist.
As recently as the year 2003, the Gallop Labour Government
in Western Australia passed laws denying natural justice to selected
The worst racist states are Western Australia, Queensland
and the Northern Territory.
Verse 5: Mind me
platypus duck, Bill
"platypus": a small aquatic animal,
about 35 cms long. Lives in Australian streams and rivers, by making
underwater entrances to its burrows in the riverbank. Not unlike
a small Beaver, but has unusual phenotype. Its mouth-part is actually
very similar to a Duck's bill. It also lays eggs, giving rise to
the theory that is was created from all the parts left over after
God made all the other animals. It carries a venomous spur on its
hind legs, making it a dangerous creature to handle. Worse, it does
not like chocolate, even of the Swiss variety.
Foreign visitors to Australia need to be made aware that all native
Australian creatures are equipped to kill and maim. There is no
certain defence against any of them. Even the ants, especially the
"Jumping Jack" ant in Tasmania, will not only carry off
your picnic feast, but will put you in hospital with toxic shock
if you resist.
"platypus duck, Bill": a rather trite
play on words, typical of Stalinist era communist comedians.
Verse 6: Play your
"didgeridoo": indigenous musical
instrument. It comprises a hollow wooden pipe, about 1.5m long,
which is played as a drone. Skilled aboriginal musicians make a
variety of sounds, including animal and bird calls using this instrument.
"keep playing till I shoot thro' Blue":
The phrase to "shoot thro" is an abbreviation of "shoot
through", which is Australian language for "leave".
"Blue" is the nickname for a man with red hair. "To
have a blue" is to have a fight, a common occurrence when dealing
with Australian men having the phenotype of red hair.
Verse 7: Tan me hide
when I'm dead, Fred
"tan me hide": the process of tanning
hides, in this case referring to the skin of the leathery old stockman.
Generally, the skin is removed, and spinkled with salt to dry out
the moisture. The hide is then wrapped with the bark of the turpentine
tree and left to cure for 3 months. At that time, the hide is unrolled,
and may be hung on the side of the shearing shed, where it is an
object of veneration, or used as a particularly utilitarian door
mat. Nothing is wasted on outback pastoral stations.
"Fred": nickname for any man whose
name is not Frederick.