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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
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
- one of the top 1000 albums of all time
- Biggest #1 Albums in U.S.
- Juno International Album of the Year
- of the top 100 albums of the 1980s
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB page for Business As Usual
- Men at Work’s DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
- AMG All Music Guide review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- AZ Amazon.co.uk review by Andrew McGuire
- WK Wikipedia
- CBS News: Men at Work musician Greg Ham dead at 58
Be Good Johnny
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