Men at Work

Men at Work
Men at Work
Origin St. Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Genres Rock, New Wave, pop rock
Years active 1979–1986
Labels Columbia, Sony
Colin Hay
Greg Ham
Past members
Former members

Men at Work are an Australian rock band who achieved international success in the 1980s. They are the only Australian artists to have a simultaneous #1 album and #1 single in the United States (Business as Usual and "Down Under" respectively).[1] They achieved the same distinction of a simultaneous #1 album and #1 single in the United Kingdom. The group won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best New Artist,[2] and have sold over 30 million albums worldwide.[citation needed] The band's sound is distinguished by its use of woodwind and brass instruments.



Origins of the group

Colin Hay emigrated to Australia in 1967 from Scotland with his family. In 1978, he formed a duo with Ron Strykert, which expanded with the addition of drummer Jerry Speiser and Australian progressive rock keyboard player Greg Sneddon.[3][4] They formed an unnamed four-piece group that would later morph into Men at Work. The band's first experience in the recording studio was recording the music to Riff Raff, a low-budget stage musical on which Sneddon had worked.[5] Sneddon soon left, to be replaced in late 1979 by saxophonist/flautist/keyboardist Greg Ham. Bassist John Rees completed the band.

International success (1981-1983)

In 1981, Columbia Records signed Men at Work. Their second single, "Who Can It Be Now?", reached #1 on the Australian chart in August 1981. A subsequent single (a re-worked version of "Down Under") and their first album (Business as Usual) also went to #1. The album also debuted at #1 in New Zealand.

Despite its strong Australian showing, and having an American producer (Peter McIan), Business as Usual was twice rejected by Columbia's parent company in the United States. Thanks to the persistence of the band's management, the album was eventually released in the US and the UK six months after its Australian release. Men at Work toured Canada and the US to promote the album, supporting Fleetwood Mac.

The band initially broke through to North American audiences in the western provinces of Canada, with lead single "Who Can It Be Now?" hitting top 10 on radio stations in Winnipeg as early as May of 1982. The band became a top act across Canada in the following months, and Men At Work started receiving top 40 US airplay by August. In October 1982, "Who Can It Be Now?" hit #1 in the US. Then, in November of that year, Business as Usual began a 15-week run at #1 on the US album chart. While "Who Can It Be Now?" was still in the top ten, the second single, "Down Under" was released. It entered the charts at #79; ten weeks later, it was #1. By January 1983, Men at Work had the top album and single in both the US and the UK - a feat never achieved previously by an Australian act. "Be Good Johnny" also received moderate airplay, particularly in the US.

Men at Work won a Grammy Award, winning Best New Artist for 1983 ahead of Asia, Jennifer Holliday, The Human League and Stray Cats. This was the first for an Australian recording act.

That same year, Canada awarded them a Juno Award for "International LP of the Year."

The band soon released their second album Cargo. It had been finished in the summer of 1982, but held for release due to the phenomenal success of the band's debut. The new album went to #1. The international market, where Business as Usual was still riding high, kept the album at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album produced three chart singles in the US: "Overkill" [#3], "It's a Mistake" [#6], and "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive" [#28]. The band toured the world extensively in 1983.

Two Hearts; break-up (1984-1986)

In 1984, the band took a long break as members pursued other interests and recovered from the two years of constant touring they'd done in support of both albums. At the end of that period, Jerry Speiser and John Rees were advised by management that they were no longer members of the band. The remaining members (Hay, Ham and Strykert) recorded a third album Two Hearts which peaked at #50 on the chart. Although four songs were released as singles to promote the album (lead single "Everything I Need", "Man With Two Hearts", "Maria", and "Hard Luck Story"), only the first song charted in the US, and that only at #47. The record relied heavily on drum programming and synthesisers and reduced the presence of Ham's saxophone, giving it a different feel than the band's first two records.

Strykert left the group during the album's production.[6] Hay and Ham hired new bandmates to tour behind the record, including jazz/fusion bassist Jeremy Alsop, progressive rock drummer Mark Kennedy (ex Ayers Rock), and guitarist James Black, who respectively play on seven, eight and one of the ten tracks on Two Hearts. Soon after, third guitarist Colin Bayley was added to the band's touring lineup, and Kennedy was replaced by prodigious young drummer Chad Wackerman. Australian singers Kate Ceberano and Renee Geyer also worked and performed live with the group during this period as guests.

Men at Work performed three songs for the 1985 Oz for Africa concert (part of the global Live Aid program) - "Maria", "Overkill", and an unreleased song called "The Longest Night". It was broadcast in Australia (on both Seven Network and Nine Network) and on MTV in the US. "Maria" and "Overkill" were also broadcast by American Broadcasting Company (ABC) during their Live Aid telecast.[7]

Ham left during the band's time touring behind the album.[6] The final Men at Work performances in the 1980s found Australian jazz saxophonist Paul Williamson replacing Ham. By early 1986, the band was defunct, and Hay was working on his first solo album, Looking for Jack, which would feature participation from Alsop and Wackerman.

Reunion (1996-present)

In 1996, after a ten-year absence, Hay and Ham reunited under the Men at Work moniker to tour South America. They had enjoyed strong fan support in this continent during their heyday, and demands for Men at Work concerts persisted prior to Hay and Ham's decision to reform. The new lineup also featured guitarist Simon Hosford from Hay's solo band, along with bassist Stephen Hadley and drummer John Watson. This tour culminated in the Brazilian release of a live CD Brazil '96 in 1997. The album was subsequently released worldwide in 1998 as 'Brazil' with a bonus studio song "The Longest Night", the first Men at Work studio track since Two Hearts.

The band toured various corners of the world throughout from 1998-2000. The lineup for these tours varied greatly, occasionally including Rick Grossman of the Hoodoo Gurus on bass, among numerous other touring musicians.

Men at Work performed "Down Under" at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, alongside Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame.[8] The group has been mostly inactive in recent years, although Hay and Ham still perform on occasion as Men at Work with guest musicians. In February 2009, they performed "Down Under" at the Australia Unites Victorian Bushfire Appeal Telethon.

Copyright lawsuit and controversy

In February 2010, Larrikin Music Publishing won a case against the group arising from the uncredited appropriation of "Kookaburra", originally written in 1934 by Marion Sinclair and for which they owned the publishing rights, as the flute line in the song "Down Under".[9] The Australian music-themed TV quiz "Spicks and Specks" had suggested that "Down Under" contained Kookaburra.[10] Larrikin then filed suit and had demanded between 40% and 60% of the previous six years of earnings from the song.[11] In February 2010, the Australian judge ruled that "Down Under" did contain a flute riff based on "Kookaburra" but stipulated that neither was it necessarily the hook nor a substantial part of the hit song (Colin Hay wrote the song years before the flute riff was added by a later member of the band).[12] In July 2010 a judge ruled that Larrikin should be paid 5% of past (since 2002) and future profits.[13]

Other projects

Hay maintains a successful solo career and plays with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Strykert lives in Los Angeles, continues to play music and released his first solo album titled Paradise in September 2009.[14] He has expressed some resentment towards Hay, mainly over royalties. Ham has remained musically active and currently plays sax with the Melbourne-based group The Nudist Funk Orchestra. Rees is now a music teacher in Melbourne.

Band members



  • Ron Strykert – guitar, bass, vocals (1978–1985)
  • Jerry Speiser – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1978–1984)
  • Greg Sneddon - keyboards (1978)
  • John Rees – bass, backing vocals (1979–1984)
  • Jeremy Alsop – bass, backing vocals (1985–1986)
  • James Black – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1985–1986)
  • Mark Kennedy – drums (1985)
  • Colin Bayley – guitar, backing vocals (1985–1986)
  • Chad Wackerman – drums, backing vocals (1985–1986)
  • Paul Williamson – saxophone, keyboards, backing vocals (1985–1986)
  • Chris Conley - backing vocals, saxophone (1986)
  • Jordan McNair - keyboard, oboe (1986)
  • Simon Hosford – guitar, backing vocals (1996–1998, 1999–2001)
  • Stephen Hadley – bass, backing vocals (1996–1998, 2001)
  • John Watson – drums (1996–1997)
  • Tony Floyd – drums (1997–1998)
  • Rick Grossman – bass, backing vocals (1998–2000)
  • James Ryan — guitar, backing vocals (1998)
  • Peter Maslen – drums (1998)
  • Rodrigo Aravena – bass, backing vocals (2000)
  • Heta Moses – drums (2000)
  • Warren Trout – drums (2001)


Guest appearances

  • Colin Hay has made three guest appearances on Scrubs as 'Troubadour' on "My Overkill", season 2 episode 1, singing "Overkill","My Hard Labor", season 7 episode 2, singing "Down Under" and season 8 "My Finale"
  • Colin Hay made a guest appearance on "The Larry Sanders Show"
  • Greg Ham sang their hit Helpless Automaton on the Oprah series in 2002
  • Colin Hay performed "Down Under" on FOX News Channel for Fox & Friends' "80s Weekend".
  • Colin Hay Performed "Overkill" on the Bob & Tom TV Show on 28 April 2009
  • Colin Hay performed "Down Under" and, "Who Can it be Now" on Don't Forget the Lyrics on the Fox network 5 June 2009
  • Jerry Speiser guest appeared on the Frost[15] track, 'You and Me' receiving hi-rotation on Melbourne's Nova 100 in 2003 and SBS Television.

See also

  • Artists achieving simultaneous US and UK number-one hits


  1. ^ Howlspace: Men at Work Retrieved on 9 July 2007
  2. ^ GRAMMY Rewind: 25th Annual GRAMMY Awards
  3. ^ "Men at Work: Best Music from the 1980s". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Featured Artist". Countdown. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "MEN AT WORK - St. Kilda, AU - Reggae / New Wave / Pop -". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  7. ^ "Oz for Africa". Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  8. ^ "INXS : INXS, Midnight Oil, Colin Hay & Greg Ham of Men at Work Close Sydney Olympics - Rhapsody Music Downloads". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "Men At Work lose plagiarism case in Australia". BBC News. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  10. ^ Ulaby, Neda (1 December 2009). "A Kookaburra Causes Trouble 'Down Under' at". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  11. ^ "Men At Work lose plagiarism case". BBC News. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  12. ^ By the CNN Wire Staff (6 July 2010). "Men at Work must pay portion of royalties for plagiarizing song". CNN. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  13. ^ Mail Foreign Service (7 June 2010). "Men at Work ordered to pay five per cent of royalties for 1980s hit Down Under after copying riff at". The Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  14. ^ "Ron Strykert Official Website". Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  15. ^ "FROST op MySpace Music – Gratis gestreamde MP3’s, foto’s en Videoclips". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 

4. Liner notes from Contraband. 5.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Sheena Easton
Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Succeeded by
Culture Club

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Men at Work — Datos generales Origen St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia Información artí …   Wikipedia Español

  • Men At Work — Gründung 1979 Auflösung 1985 Wiedervereinigung 1996 Genre Rock Gründungsmitglieder Gesang, Gitarre Colin Hay …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Men At Work — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Men at Work (film, 1990) film américain sorti en 1990 Men at Work (film, 2006) titre anglais d un film iranien sorti en 2006 Men at Work (groupe) groupe… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Men at work — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Men at Work (film, 1990) film américain sorti en 1990 Men at Work (film, 2006) titre anglais d un film iranien sorti en 2006 Men at Work (groupe) groupe… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Men at Work — Жанры поп рок новая волна Годы 1979 1985 с 1996 Страна …   Википедия

  • Men at Work — Allgemeine Informationen Genre(s) Rock Gründung 1979 Auflösung 1985 Neugründung 1996 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Men at Work — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Men at Work (film, 1990), film américain sorti en 1990 Men at Work (film, 2006), titre anglais d un film iranien sorti en 2006 Men at Work (groupe),… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Men at Work — noun Australian pop group, formed in 1979 and disbanded in 1985 …   Australian English dictionary

  • MEN AT WORK — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Men at Work discography — Men at Work discography Releases ↙Studio albums 3 ↙Live albums 1 …   Wikipedia

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