Men at Work were an Australian reggae-influenced rock band which achieved international success in the 1980s. They are the only Australian artists to have a #1 album and single simultaneously in the United States (with Business as Usual and "Down Under" respectively). At the same time, they also had a simultaneous #1 single and album in the United Kingdom. The group won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The band's sound is distinguished by its use of woodwind and brass.
Colin Hay emigrated to Australia in 1967 from Scotland with his family. In 1978, he formed a duo with Ron Strykert, which expanded with the addition of drummer Jerry Speiser and Australian progressive rock keyboard player Greg Sneddon. They formed an unnamed four-piece group that would later morph into Men at Work. The band's first experience in the recording studio was recording the music to "Riff Raff," a low-budget stage musical Sneddon had worked on. Sneddon soon left, to be replaced in late 1979 by saxophonist/flautist/keyboardist Greg Ham.
The group played a regular residency at Melbourne's Cricketers Arms Hotel and built a strong local following. According to the liner notes in Contraband: the Best of Men at Work, the group did not have a name until, driving the group van one night and desperate for something to put on the chalk board outside the pub, Greg Ham spied a "Men at Work" construction sign, and decided to use that for the group's name. In 1980, they financed a single ("Keypunch Operator") backed by an early version of "Down Under".
In 1981, Columbia Records signed Men at Work. Their first single, "Who Can It Be Now?", reached #1 on the Australian chart in August 1981. A subsequent single (a re-worked version of "Down Under") and their first album (Business as Usual) also went to #1. The album also debuted at #1 in New Zealand.In October 1982, "Who Can It Be Now?" hit #1 in the USA. Then, in November of that year, Business As Usual began a 12 week run at #1 on the US album chart. While "Who Can It Be Now?" was still in the top ten, the second single, "Down Under" was released. It entered the charts at #79; ten weeks later, it was #1. By January 1983, Men at Work had the top album and single in both the USA and the UK - a feat never achieved previously by an Australian act.
The band soon released their second album Cargo. It had been finished in the summer of 1982, but held for release due to the phenomenal success of the band's debut. The new album went to #1. The international market, where Business As Usual was still riding high, kept the album at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album produced three chart singles in the USA: "Overkill" [#3], "It's a Mistake" [#6], and "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive" [#28]. The band toured the world extensively in 1983.
Men at Work won a Grammy Award, winning Best New Artist for 1983 ahead of Asia, Jennifer Holliday, The Human League and Stray Cats. This was the first for an Australian recording act. That same year, Canada awarded them a Juno Award for "International LP of the Year." [wikipedia]