Men at Work

Men at Work were an Australian new wave band from St. Kilda that released three albums on CBS/Columbia between 1981 and 1985.

Members: Colin Hay (vocals, guitar), Ron Strykert (bass, guitar, vocals, 1979-85), Greg Sneddon (keyboards, 1979), Jerry Speiser (drums, vocals, 1979-84), John Rees (bass, 1979-84), Greg Ham (saxophone, keyboards, vocals, flute, harmonica, 1979-85)


Background

Men at Work formed in late 1979 when singer–guitarist Colin Hay and then-bassist Ron Stryker assembled Melbourne musicians for a proper band. The pair first performed in 1978 as an acoustic duo.

Hay was born on June 29, 1953, in Saltcoats on the west coast of North Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, James, had a song-and-dance career in Glasgow. In 1967, the Hay family migrated to Melbourne, where Colin’s parents ran a music shop.

Strykert (b. August 18, 1957) made frequent performances with Hay at the Cricketer’s Arms Hotel in Richmond, Victoria, where they soon welcomed drummer Jerry Speiser (b. August 12, 1953), whose prior session work included Mind Stroll, the 1974 Mushroom Records release by symphonic-rock keyboardist Greg Sneddon. Most recently, Speiser drummer in a local band named Numbers.

Just as the new band took root, Sneddon asked Hay, Speiser, and Strykert to play in the pit band for Riff Raff, an original musical that Sneddon arranged with writer Jan McDonald. The recorded work, with eleven songs and five credited performers, appeared in 1979 as Riff-Raff (A Rock Musical), a self-pressed album credited to W.E.S.T. (West Community Theatre).

Hay next approached keyboardist and multi-reedist Greg Ham, who Colin first met in 1972 through their mutual friend, comedian Kim Gyngell. Ham completed his music degree and joined Hay’s band in October. Soon after Speiser brought in his bassist friend John Rees, whose presence allowed Strykert to concentrate on lead guitar. Rees hailed from Chetarca, a piano-based symphonic-rock band that cut a 1975 self-titled album on WEA–Atlantic.

Before the new band’s stage debut in Richmond at the Cricketer’s Arms Hotel, they entered possible band names into a hat. Hay submitted Men At Work, a description of their situation as a an unsigned act on the hustle. Strykert seconded Hay’s idea.

In 1980, Men At Work released their debut single: “Keypunch Operator” backed by “Down Under,” both Hay–Strykert originals. They self-financed the single on one-press MAW Music.

By Christmas, Men At Work gained an avid live following. In early 1981, they signed with CBS Records and recorded their first album with Los Angeles producer Peter McIan.


Discography:

  • Business as Usual (1981)
  • Cargo (1983)
  • Two Hearts (1985)

Sources:

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