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Men At Work Biography

Home > Music > M > Men At Work > Biography

Birth Place: St. Kilda, Australia
Years Active: 1979–1986, 1996–present
Genres: Rock, Pop, Reggae, New Wave

Men at Work are an Australian rock band who hit the height of their success in the 1980s. The band was formed in 1978 by Colin Hay, who immigrated to Australia in 1967 from Scotland, and Ron Strykert. The duo added drummer Jerry Speiser and keyboard player Greg Sneddon. The four piece began playing gigs locally without a name and got their first break when they were asked to record some music for the musical stage show, “Riff Raff.” Just as the band came up with a name and began to gather a local following, Sneddon left and was replaced by saxophonist/flautist/keyboardist Greg Ham, in addition to bassist John Rees, who completed the band. Men at Work were officially a band. By 1981 the band were signed to Columbia Records and put out the single, “Who Can It Be Now,” which peaked at #1 on the Australian Singles Chart. The single remained there for two weeks as the band's popularity began to grow.

Men at Work's debut album, “Business as Usual” was released that same years and shot to #1 on the Album Charts in Australia and New Zealand. However, the band was looking to break into the American market and their album was doing nothing in the U.S. The band then embarked on a tour of Canada and the U.S. with Fleetwood Mac, in an effort to promote their album and expose their music to American audiences. The band managed to break through to the North American market with their single “Who Can It Be Now?” peaking in the top ten of the Canadian Singles Chart. By 1982, the band had broken into the U.S. markets and their debut album peaked at #1 on Billboard's Album Charts. 1983 marked a top ten album and a top ten single in both the U.S and the U.K. for Men at Work. A Grammy Award for 'Best New Artist' followed for the band later that year, and a Juno Award for “International Album of the Year” in Canada.

The band's second offering, “Cargo” was released in 1982 and went straight to #1, and produced three hit singles in the U.S. The band then embarked on a world tour. 1984 saw the band take a break due to exhaustion; Jerry Speiser and John Rees were also fired from the band around this time. The band put out their third album, “Two Hearts” as a trio, which peaked at #50 on the Album Chart. Strykert left the group after the album's release and Hay and Ham recruited new band members: Jeremy Alsop on bass, Mark Kennedy on drums, guitarist James Black, and a third guitarist, Colin Bayley. Ham left the band in 1985 to work on his solo career, and more line-up changes ensued. By 1986 the band began to unravel and called it quits. However, after a ten year hiatus, Hay and Ham reformed Men at Work and embarked on a tour of South America. The new incarnation consisted of bassist Stephen Hadley and drummer John Watson. The band released the album, “Brazil” in 1998. Throughout the 2000s the band appeared at various public events, but remained fairly inactive. Hay and Ham still perform as Men at Work with guest musicians.