As the singer, guitarist, and main songwriter of Australia's Men at Work, Colin Hay was responsible for penning several of the quirkiest pop hits of the early '80s.
Although he and his former band will forever be associated with "the land down under," Hay originally hailed from Scotland, where he was born in the town of Kilwinning on June 29, 1953. Hay relocated to Australia in 1967, by which time he had begun playing guitar and singing. Although the country is probably best known for spawning hard rock bands (AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Radio Birdman, etc.), Hay sought to form a band that was more in line with the burgeoning new wave style, but one that also embraced pop. Shortly after joining up with guitarist Ron Strykert in 1978, Hay's master plan was realized, and Men at Work were formed. Rounding out the band was saxophonist/flutist Greg Ham, bassist John Rees, and drummer Jerry Speiser, who in 1982 issued their debut full-length, Business as Usual. Earning quite a few comparisons to then-reigning chart kings the Police, Men at Work quickly became MTV favorites (during the station's early days). Since he was the group's main singer and songwriter, Hay quickly became the focal point of the band, as such humorous videos for "Who Can It Be Now" and "Down Under" pushed the debut album to the top of the U.S. charts -- making Men at Work an overnight sensation. Perhaps sensing that they should strike again while they were still fresh in people's minds, Men at Work went directly back in the studio to work on another album. Issued in 1983, Cargo was another sizable hit, but did not fare nearly as well as its predecessor -- commercially or artistically.
Taking an extended break, Hay and company did not resurface again until 1985's Two Hearts, an unfocused recording that saw almost half of the band replaced. With the album's disappointing showing, Men at Work split up shortly thereafter. Hay embarked on a solo career, debuting in 1987 with Looking for Jack (the title of which supposedly referred to a brief encounter Hay had with actor Jack Nicholson), which once more failed to match the success of his early work with Men at Work. Hay continued to release solo material with regularity throughout the '90s, including such titles as 1990's Wayfaring Sons, 1992's Peaks & Valleys, 1994's Topanga, and 1998's Transcendental Highway. The same decade, Hay also launched his own record label, Lazy Eye Records, and sporadically acted in cult movies (which he had begun doing the previous decade) and TV shows, including parts on such series as JAG, The Larry Sanders Show, and The Mick Molloy Show, among others. The first few years of the 21st century saw the release of a pair of recordings -- a new studio album in 2001, Going Somewhere, and a collection of re-recorded Men at Work and solo tracks in 2003 (Man at Work). Hay also toured with Ringo Starr in the summer of 2003, as part of the former Beatles drummer's annual All Starr Band. He issued Are You Lookin' at Me? in 2007 and American Sunshine in 2009, both of which were released on the Compass label. Two years later, Hay released his 11th album, Gathering Mercury, which was followed in 2015 by Next Year People. For 2017's Fierce Mercy, Hay produced the record himself, resulting in a richer sound than its immediate predecessors. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi