Men At Work: The 80’s

Who Can It Be Now? Men at Work, that’s who.

men-at-work-1983-billboard-1548Business as Usual was released in 1981 from the boys from Australia. Men At Work had a reggae-flavored rock vibe that was a unique sound and a breath of fresh air on radio.

Two big hits came from that album, “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under.” Men At Work would win the Grammy for Best New Artist.

There were five core members from 1978-1985, then a changing lineup after the group’s three albums.

We’ll focus on the lineup from the early to mid 1980’s, their classic period.

The band’s main songwriters were guitarist/ lead singer Colin Hay, sax/flute/keyboard player Greg Ham and lead guitarist Ron Strykert.

Business as Usual was released in early 1981 and only after great success in Australia, did it slowly gained a foothold around the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, the band broke in Canada before eventually becoming the number one album in the U.S. a slow voyage from Australia to America.

Even though their second album, Cargo, was recorded in 1982, it wasn’t released until April 1983, because their first album was still selling briskly around the world. Their record company pushed a second album, then had to sit on it.

Cargo peaked at number three on the U.S. charts, released four singles and charted three in the top ten.  “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive,” “Overkill,” “It’s a Mistake,” and “High Wire.”

From 1981-1983, Men At Work toured the world non-stop, pausing only to record, as they were in demand and their songs were being played everywhere.

Two Hearts (1985) was recorded by Hay, Ham and Strykert, as the other two band members were dismissed prior to recording sessions.  Two Hearts, the resulting album sold poorly and was generally panned as lacking in originality and creativity.  The freshness of their sound was now vanilla synth-pop.

Within a year, the remaining members parted company, with Hay going solo.  He even joined Ringo Starr’s All Stars during a summer tour a few years ago. As a solo artist, Hay has been prolific, releasing 13 albums.

Through the years, Hay and Ham reformed the group and toured, yet no new material ever came from the group.

In 2012, Greg Ham died of a heart attack.  Colin Hay now tours as Men At Work with hired musicians.  The band does play on.

 


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