Thursday, April 22, 1982

Men at Work released Business As Usual in the U.S.: April 22, 1982

Originally posted April 22, 2012.

image from myfoxhouston.com

Sadly, Greg Ham, one of the band members of Australian band Men at Work, was found dead on April 19 at his home. Two concerned friends found the body when they went to check on him after not hearing from him in some time. Police did not release any details. Ham lived alone. He was 58.

Among his musical contributions to Men at Work were the sax solo in “Who Can It Be Now?” and the flute solo in “Down Under.” Both songs were from the band’s debut album, Business As Usual. It was released in their home country in November 1981 and saw U.S. release five months later in April 1982. The “Australian five-piece [became] the most unlikely success story of 1982,” AZ spending 15 weeks atop the U.S. album chart and eventually selling 15 million copies worldwide on the basis of “two excellent singles that merged straight-ahead pop/rock hooks with a quirky new wave production and an offbeat sense of humor. Colin Hay’s keening vocals uncannily recall Sting, and the band’s rhythmic pulse and phased guitars also bring to mind a bar band version of the Police.” AMG “Like Sting, Colin Hay’s vocal inflections were more suited to reggae than to white guitar-pop; the band, meanwhile, seemed to aim for much the same kind of earnest, slightly arch tone as early XTC.” AZ

Who Can It Be Now?

The lead single, Who Can It Be Now?, was released in Australia in June 1981, where it became a #1 hit. More than a year later, it made its U.S. chart debut, eventually soaring to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

While that song played up paranoia in its video, the follow-up hit, Down Under, showcased Men at Work’s goofier side. The almost-novelty song celebrated their native country with a campy and popular video. The song was an even bigger hit on the U.S. charts. “For a time, Australians abroad seemed destined to have ‘Down Under’ sung at them – often by whole groups of strangers – as if it were a sunny gesture of greeting or camaraderie, instead of what it actually was: a tacit reinforcement of cultural stereotypes.” AZ “For the record: to ‘chunder’ means to vomit. And a Vegemite sandwich is nothing you’d want to eat.” AZ

Down Under

The song met with more controversy in 2010 when it was determined it had been plagiarized from a 1934 Australian song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree,” written by Marion Sinclair. The band were ordered to pay a portion of royalties to the company holding the copyright on “Kookaburra.”

“There’s a fair amount of filler on the record, but Be Good Johnny, I Can See It in Your Eyes, and Down by the Sea are all fine new wave pop songs, making Business as Usual one of the more enjoyable mainstream-oriented efforts of the era.” AMG


Awards:



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Be Good Johnny

Monday, April 12, 1982

John Cougar American Fool

First posted 6/10/2010; updated 9/20/2020.

American Fool

John Cougar


Released: April 12, 1982


Peak: 19 US, 37 UK, 13 CN, 18 AU


Sales (in millions): 5.75 US, -- UK, 5.75 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic heartland rock


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Hurts So Good (4/24/82, 2 US, 1 AR, 3 CN, 5 AU, sales: ½ million)
  2. Jack and Diane (6/26/82, 1 US, 3 AR, 25 UK, 1 CN, 7 AU, sales: ½ million)
  3. Hand to Hold Onto (11/6/82, 19 US, 89 UK, 97 AU)
  4. Danger List
  5. Can You Take It
  6. Thundering Hearts (9/25/82, 36 AR)
  7. China Girl
  8. Close Enough
  9. Weakest Moments


Total Running Time: 34:26

Rating:

3.554 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

American Fool was the sixth, and last, album released by John Cougar. Saddled with the nickname against his will at the onset of his career, he would finally have the musical clout after this album to go back to his given name (although it would take a few more albums before “Cougar” was dropped from his name altogether).

And what was it about this album that gave him such clout? His previous albums hadn’t really hinted at what was to come. Mellencamp’s “first albums were so bereaved of strong material that the lean swagger of American Fool came as a shock. The difference is evident from the opening song, Hurts So Good, a hard, Stonesy rocker with an irresistibly sleazy hook.” STE He’d “never wrote anything as catchy as this before;” STE it “was destined to be a huge hit – ludicrous, powerful, and utterly unforgettable – and has long since gone on to be something of a rock & roll standard.” PK

“But the real revelation on this record was Jack and Diane, a poignant slice of life” PK and “remarkably affecting sketch of dead-end romance” STE Never before “had his romantic vision of small-town America resonated like it did” STE here; this became “a topical vein he would mine with even greater success on later recordings (especially on The Lonesome Jubilee).” PK

Those songs made him a superstar and landed American Fool atop the Billboard album chart for two months and sold 5 million copies. “These two songs are the only true keepers on American Fool, but the rest of the record works better than his previous material because his band is tighter than ever before, making his weaker moments convincing.” STE “Backed by a crisp, powerful, spot-on band that gave a needed sense of urgency to the material, Cougar deservedly wore the mantle of Mainstream Rock King while this record ruled the airwaves.” PK “Besides, songs like Hand to Hold On To and China Girl, for all their faults, do indicate that his sense of craft is improving considerably.” STE

“According to a 1983 article in the Toledo Blade, the song Danger List originated when Mellencamp heard his guitarist Larry Crane playing some chords in a basement rehearsal room. ‘I turned on the tape recorder and sang 30 verses,’ Mellencamp explained. ‘I just made them up. Then I went and weeded out the ones I didn’t like.’” WK

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