Men At Work do the business for Support Act’s Roadies Fund
Their debut album Business As Usual yielded perennial hits ‘Who Can It Be Now’ and ‘Down Under’ and spent 15 weeks at #1 in the US. The follow-up Cargo was also an international smash.
The band has now released a live tape-recorded in 1982 in New Zealand through the Australian Road Crews Association’s Black Box.
Black Box was set up to release its Desk Tape Series of live recordings made by road crews.
Colin Hay, who formed the band with guitarist Ron Strykert while at university in Melbourne, says Men At Work Live At Christchurch Town Hall 1982 captured an exciting period in the band’s career.
Beginning as a hippy outfit in the late ‘70s, they received the attention of CBS Records. The label put them with American producer Peter McIan who turned their songs into tight radio hits.
Hay recalls, “I started to notice something about the audiences during ’81, going into ’82. They were becoming incredibly energized at the shows, fiercely responsive.
“It was like a deep recognition of the electric beauty and pure energy that music can create. It was one of the happiest, most creative and exciting periods of my life. It stays with you. Always.”
Hay and Strykert initially played as an acoustic duo and were joined by three musicians.
Drummer Jerry Speiser’s jazz and prog-rock background provided rhythms. Multi-instrumentalist Greg Ham was doing a music degree when he joined. Jazz bassist John Rees was the last to join.
“There was a rapport between us and the humour was an important part of it all,” Speise recalls. “We could be tight but also be loose within that.
“The arrangements were very strong, we all had good voices, Colin’s was unique, and I always regarded him as a genius songwriter.
“When I listen to the Christchurch tape, what strikes me most was that the band was happy, we were having fun.”
Men At Work’s rise to the top was very quick.
Their sound technician Mark Woods recounts that within months, they went from playing a tiny club in Richmond in Melbourne to playing to tens of thousands at outdoor concerts.
By the time of their New Zealand tour, Men At Work were already a hit in Europe and Canada.
They broke venue attendance records in NZ, and the Christchurch show was broadcast on radio.
It would be another year before they made inroads in the US: the American operations of CBS turned down Business As Usual twice, insisting it had no hits.
Apart from selling millions of units, its success also won them a Grammy for Best New Act.
Speiser says that in those days the Grammys were not telecast in Australia, so the band had no idea how massive the win was.
“I took the Grammy to my daughter’s school for a show and tell, and it was only after the excited response from the teachers and other parents that I realised how significant it was!
“It went straight from being stored in a box with other awards to prize of place in my studio!”