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Profile of '80s Australian New Wave Band Men at Work


Men at Work
Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


1979 in Melbourne, Australia

Group Members:

  • Colin Hay (born June 29, 1953 in Saltcoats, Scotland) – Lead vocals, guitar, songwriter
  • Greg Ham – Saxophone, flute, keyboards, vocals, songwriter
  • Ron Strykert – Lead guitar, vocals, songwriter
  • John Rees – Bass guitar, vocals
  • Jerry Speiser – Drums, vocals

Men at Work - The Early Years:

Men at Work began as modestly and quietly as its brief but successful career ended in 1985, as an acoustic duo of Hay and Strykert in Melbourne. Soon the group built up to its full quintet lineup and embarked on a slow but steady rise on Australia’s pub rock circuit. After the band's brilliant and utterly unique single "Who Can It Be Now?" began to dominate the Australian charts in 1981, Men at Work quickly segued into the lucrative American market that was all too happy to incorporate the band's quirky sound into the burgeoning new wave scene. 1982 would prove to be the Year of Men at Work.

America Embraces Men at Work:

Released during the summer of 1982, Men at Work's debut album, Business as Usual, steadily climbed the American charts, reaching No. 1 in November. The record applied a stranglehold on the top spot, staying put for an amazing 15 weeks well into 1983. The band then parlayed its rip-roaring success into its second consecutive No. 1 single, "Down Under," and a Grammy award for Best New Artist for 1982. In fact, the massive success of Men at Work's debut delayed the release of the band's also successful sophomore release, Cargo, from which two more Top 10 singles, "It's a Mistake" and "Overkill," resulted.

A Fine Band Quietly Dissolves:

Even on Cargo, Hay had begun to exert the lion's share of songwriting influence, and that trend would continue into the band's disappointing swan song, 1985's Two Hearts. Reception was so cold to that album that many music fans may have thought the band had already broken up. Ultimately, the combination of a long 1984 hiatus with the decline of new wave left Men at Work a bit behind. And while the band has sometimes been unfairly tagged with a one-hit wonder label, Hay's solo career has proved far steadier than that of his former band. His 2009 release, American Sunshine, was his tenth in two decades.
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