Great Rock Albums of 1982: Men At Work- Business as Usual


This is probably the closest I ever came to mainstream commercial rock or pop back in the 1980s. When I first heard the song, “Who Can It Be Now?” I found myself liking it. It was the humourous feel to it, that Men At Work didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and that’s why I enjoyed the song so much. Furthermore, I remember the radio saying they were from Australia and any country that gives the world the likes of AC/DC, must be a great place for music.

Of course, there is no real comparison between Men At Work and AC/DC. They are two completely different styles of music. Saying that, there are quite a few AC/DC songs that have a great sense of humour, they’re just backed up with some great power chords. Men At Work are more a commercial new wave rock. Many of the songs are just simply catchy tunes and combined with some of the humourous lyrics, makes a rather potent combination.

Like so many albums in 1982, the album “Business As Usual” starts out with the most prominent hit. In this case it’s the already mentioned “Who Can It Be Now?” I can relate better to this song these days as my phone always seems to ring with calls from telemarketers. Fortunately, an answer phone works wonders but I still find myself wanting to sing the title each time it rings. Following next is “I Can See It In Your Eyes,” which has one of those catchy tunes I was talking about. However, that is followed by their second, possibly the first, biggest hit, “Down Under.” This ditty shows off the Australian sense of humour in a big way. There is some very funny lyrics in each verse and like “Who Can It Be Now?,” lead singer Colin Hay has a way to make it sound even funnier. What I find amusing though is this seems to be the only song not recorded by Jethro Tull to make such great use of a flute in a rock song.

The next several tracks continue in the sort of vein with “Helpless Automation” being a slight stand out. Then comes the track, “Be Good Johnny,” which brings back some happy memories. My marine buddies and I tried to harmonize with the chorus, of course after many beers. We tried to sing “Be good, be good” and then come in with the high pitched “Johnny.” Let’s just say I hope no one ever recorded us as that would be a good blackmail tool. “Touching the Untouchables” is also a good song and after “Catch a Star” is the closer, “Down By the Sea.” It’s not a bad song but goes on for too long in my opinion making it the one chink in the album’s armour.

Track Listing;

1. Who Can It Be Now?

2. I Can See It In Your Eyes

3. Down Under

4. Underground

5. Helpless Automation

6. People Just Love to Play With Words

7. Be Good, Johnny

8. Touching the Untouchables

9. Catch a Star

10. Down By the Sea

Men At Work

Men At Work

Greg Ham- flute, keyboards, saxophone, backing vocals, lead vocal on track 5

Colin Hay- lead vocals, guitar

John Rees- bass, backing vocals

Jerry Speiser- drums, backing vocals

Ron Strykert- guitar, backing vocals, lead vocal on track 11

Men At Work proved that Australia weren’t a one band country, even if that one band was AC/DC. “Business As Usual” is a catchy album with a great sense of humour and it easy to see why it went to number one in so many countries.

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10 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1982: Men At Work- Business as Usual”

  1. I love these guys, especially the first two albums. It’s ironic that they’re considered mainstream rock or pop now. At the time they sounded very different from anything that was on the radio, and it was their songs that won over a mainstream audience. Colin Hay had such an awesome voice back then, and all the guys in the band were solid musicians. Also, it was nice to hear a flute-based rock song that didn’t involve Ian Anderson for a change.

    Oh, and as for Australia being a one-band country, let’s not forget the Bee Gees. Even if you don’t like the disco era stuff, their late-60s & early-70s output is excellent.

    Thanks for showing Men At Work some love.


    • Ah yes, the Bee Gees. They will always be infamous for the disco era even though they issued a statement in 1980 saying they regretted ever starting it. You are spot on about their pre- disco era stuff. I think the reason Men At Work are now considered mainstream pop is because of their chart success. Their sound was unique and everything you say about Colin Hay’s vocals and their musicianship is spot on. It was my pleasure to give these guys the recognition they deserve.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Humor cuts through all genres so these guys were popular even among the alternative crowd at the time. And since we are on a “shrimp on the barbie” kick—How about Midnight Oil? Intense live act.


    • So true about humour. I have to admit that I haven’t had experienced much midnight oil. Will have to amend that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • no man 🙂 it is cool – there is no homework in blogging – I once saw them close a Peter Gabriel Womad festival (Because Peter refused to follow them at his own event!) and they were friggin’ awesome- all fire and brimstone!!! The next week was that stupid-ass mud Woodstock ’94 which Peter Gabriel closed and Midnight Oil would not play, as they put it -“We don’t do nostalgia!”


      • Cool.I can’t decide if Peter Gabriel was being humble and not feeling worthy enough to follow Midnight Oil or if he was being some kind of prat. Got to give MO credit for not doing nostalgia. Makes me want to do the extra homework.


      • All I can say is they rocked it and nobody would have been able to follow them….especially a PG that was tired from rockin’ Sinead (they performed together) at the time. I can’t blame him-an artist only has so much energy.

        And MO themselves proudly stated to us they were not playing Woodstock during their set.

        This Womad festival is also where I discovered real jambalaya and have been making it ever since.

        I also danced with one of the African bands who were on a back stage.

        This was the best show of my life.

        May be worth a post sometime. 🙂


      • Well, if you do post about it, I would love to read it. The Womad festival sounded pretty cool.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great album by a great band…..and it introduced me to Vegemite! “He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”


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