Men at Work

Claim to Fame: They came from the land Down Under and conquered with hits like "Down Under."

Where are they now?

Lead singer Colin Hay and multi-instrumentalist Greg Ham are still performing as the new-and-improved Men at Work, while the other original members have faded from the radar. Unless you were Australian, chances are you had no clue what a Vegemite sandwich was when you first heard Men at Work sing about it on their 1983 platinum-selling single, "Down Under." Heck, you probably still don't know (it's a tasty spread of yeast extract mixed with celery and onion). But even if you couldn't understand the words, you undoubtedly bopped to the reggae-rock beat. It came from a quintet -- vocalist-songwriter Colin Hay, guitarist Ron Strykert, saxophonist-keyboardist-flutist Greg Ham, bassist John Rees and drummer Jerry Speiser -- which got their start playing pubs in Melbourne. They landed in the U.S. in 1981 and hit the big time with their 1982 album Business As Usual, which spent 15 weeks at No. 1. Business As Usual, whose lyrics were injected with Hay's wry sense of humor, was recorded in just three weeks and for only $17,000, but its modest budget didn't keep the Men from becoming one of pop's biggest phenomena in the early '80s. "I'd be lying if I said those years hadn't changed my life in ways I still can't quite comprehend," the Scottish-born Hay (who moved to Australia as a teenager), now 48, told The Toronto Star in 1987. In 1983, the group won a Best New Artist Grammy and that same year their second album Cargo sold 3 million copies (and spawned two modest hits, "It's A Mistake" and "Overkill"). But by 1985, after the disappointing reception to that year's Two of Hearts, they broke up. "Musical differences, philosophical differences, personal differences -- there were problems from Day One," Hay told the Chicago Tribune in 1987. "We should have called it quits with Men at Work a lot earlier than we did. That way there wouldn't have been all the ugliness, the 'lawyers at 50 paces' and all that.'" Hay has continued as a solo performer. In 1998, he and Ham began performing as a new version of Men at Work, albeit without the other three original members -- Rees and Speiser were no longer on speaking terms with Hay anymore, and Strykert opted not to join the band. And though it seems unlikely that they could ever reach the same heights that they rose to back in the 1980s, Hay is content to let his destiny take its course. "I just sort of stumble along on my merry way. I have no real plan, you know?" Hay told The Denver Post in 1998. "I mean, I have plans, but they're pretty vague."


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