Men At Work's Colin Hay

The talents of Colin Hay were one of the main reasons for the phenomenal early-'80s

success of the Australian pop-rock band Men at Work. The band had a handful of catchy

Hay-written hits from such LPs as Business as Usual (1982).

Hay was born 46 years ago today in Kilwinning, Scotland. Hay moved with his family to

Australia in his teens. While performing in the musical "Heroes" in Sydney, Australia,

Hay befriended fellow performer Ron Strykert. The two formed an acoustic duo, with

Strykert playing guitar and Hay singing.

Soon bassist John Rees and two of Hay's schoolmates from Melbourne's La Troube

University — saxophonist/keyboardist Greg Ham and drummer Jerry Speiser

— were added to fill out the sound.

The group chose the name Men at Work and began playing regularly at Melbourne's

Cricketer's Arms pub, where they were discovered by a CBS Records executive. Men at

Work's first LP, Business as Usual, quickly conquered the albums chart in the

band's native land, staying at #1 for 10 weeks. The public was charmed by Hay's

soothing, engaging vocals and clever wordplay.

The album followed suit in the United States, where it spent nearly two years on the

Billboard 200 albums chart, spawning the hits "Who Can It Be Now?" and "Down

Under" (RealAudio excerpt). Men at Work's

follow-up, Cargo, was released while their debut was still in the top 10, and it

promptly joined its predecessor there. The public couldn't seem to get enough of the

band's bouncy, whimsical pop and its freewheeling image, which was showcased in

music videos featured on the fledgling MTV.

Men at Work had similar success in the UK with their albums and singles.

Cargo produced the U.S. top-five single "Overkill," the top-10 "It's a Mistake" and

the top-30 "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive." But just when it seemed Men at Work could do no

wrong, they did themselves in. Arguments about managers and songwriting led to

Speiser and Rees quitting in 1984.

The hitless Two Hearts (1985) went gold, but shortly after its release, Strykert and

Ham left the band.

Men at Work, the band that won the Best New Artist Grammy in 1982, was defunct by

1986. The following year, Hay issued Looking for Jack and then Wayfaring

Sons (1990). Both LPs flopped.

Hay continued to issue albums in Australia and also began acting. He appeared on TV

programs such as "The Larry Sanders Show" and "JAG" and in films such as "Georgia"

(1988), "Cosi" (1996) and "Heaven's Burning" (1997). This year he appeared in the

motion picture "The Craic."

In 1996 Sony issued Contraband: The Best of Men at Work. Last year Hay and

Ham re-formed Men at Work and released the live hits LP Brazil. It included the

new studio track "The Longest Night."

Earlier this year, Men at Work toured Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Other birthdays: Little Eva, 54; Ian Paice (Deep Purple, Whitesnake), 51; Evelyn

"Champagne" King, 39; Stedman Pearson (Five Star), 35; and Johnny Ace, 1929-1954.


VMAs 2018