Saturday, January 15, 1983

Alan Parsons Project charted with “Old and Wise”

Old and Wise

Alan Parsons Project

Writer(s): Alan Parsons, Eric Wooflson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: January 15, 1983

Peak: 21 AC, 74 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 9.8 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Alan Parsons started out as an engineer, working on such classic albums as the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. In 1976, he formed the Alan Parsons Project. While the collective featured a rotating roster of musicians, singer/songwriter Eric Wooflson appeared on all ten of the group’s albums from 1976 to 1987.

The group found its greatest success with 1982’s Eye in the Sky, a top ten album in the U.S. which featured the #3 title track. “Old and Wise” was also released from the album. It didn’t fare nearly as well, but it did mark the Project’s first UK chart entry and was a minor hit on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart.

Parsons and Woolfson co-wrote the song “about a man approaching death, addressing those he knew with fond remembrance.” SF They recorded a version with Woolfson singing lead – as he often did on songs by the Project – without the orchestration or saxophone solo which was featured on the final album version. Woolfson’s vocal version is, however, featured on the 2007 reissue of the Eye in the Sky album. WK

For the version initially released, however, the Project used a vocal by Colin Blunstone. Parsons knew him from his days in the Zombies when Parsons was an engineer on the group’s 1968 Odessey and Oracle album. SF Blunstone had worked with the Project before, having sung “The Eagle Will Rise Again” on the group’s 1978 Pyramid album.

Woolfson and Blunstone were both at Abbey Road studios and Woolfson told him, “I’d like to play you this song.” SF Eric sat down at a piano in the same studio where the Zombies had recorded “Time of the Season” and played “Old and Wise.” Blunstone thought it was wonderful and Woolfson asked if he’d take a stab at the vocals. SF Blunstone would record other songs with the Project, but this was the only single released by them which featured Blunstone on vocals. WK

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 12/24/2019; last updated 7/14/2021.

Men at Work hit #1 on the Hot 100 with “Down Under”

First posted 10/20/2020; updated 3/16/2021.

Down Under

Men at Work

Writer(s): Colin Hay, Ron Strykert (see lyrics here)

Released: October 23, 1981

Peak: 14 US, 15 CB, 15 RR, 13 AC, 15 AR, 1 CO, 13 UK, 13 CN, 16 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.6 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 223.0 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

The first version of this Australian classic was released in 1980 as the B-side to “Keypunch Operator.” After Men at Work signed with Columbia Records, they re-recorded “Down Under” with a different arrangement and tempo. It was released in Australia in late ’81 and reached the top of the charts. It would be another year before it charted in the U.S. After “Who Can It Be Now?” hit #1 in America, “Down Under” was released as the follow-up and hit the Billboard Hot 100 on November 6, 1982. It topped the charts in January 1983 and helped propel the album to the top of the U.S. charts for 15 weeks. The song also reached the pinnacle in the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland. WK

The song’s lyrics focus on a man who travels the world meeting people curious about his home country of Australia. Colin Hay was inspired by his own experiences as well as Australian entertainer Barry Humphries, who created a “larger-than-life character” SF who “was a beer-swilling Australian who traveled to England.” SF References include Vegemite sandwich (a popular Australian snack), a “fried-out Kombi” (an overheated Volkswagen), and “head full of zombie” (marijuana use), and “chunder” (Aussie slang for vomit). The song and its quirky video were practically a parody, but Hay said “it is ultimately about celebrating the country, but not in a nationalistic way and not in a flag-waving sense.” SF

Hay explained that Ron Strykert created the bass riff with percussion played on bottles filled with varying degrees of water, which would produce different notes. He said “it had a real trance-like quality to it. I used to listen to it in the car all the time. When I was driving along one day..the chords popped out and a couple of days later I wrote the verses.” SF

The band were sued in 2009 for copyright infringement. Larrikin Music claimed the flute solo in the song was based on the 1932 song “Kookaburra” written by Marion Sinclair. In 2010, it was ruled that Larrikin would receive 5% of royalties from 2002, WK which ended up being about $100,000. However, legal fees added up to about $4.5 million. SF

Resources and Related Links: