Business as Usual (Men at Work album)
|Business as Usual|
Original Australian vinyl cover art
|Studio album by|
|Released||9 November 1981|
June 1982 (U.S.)
|Recorded||March–September 1981 at Richmond Recorders, Melbourne|
|Genre||New wave, reggae rock, pop rock|
|Label||CBS / Columbia|
|Men at Work chronology|
|Singles from Business as Usual|
Business as Usual is the debut studio album by Australian new wave band Men at Work, which was released in November 1981 in Australia, and April 1982 in the United States. It spent nine weeks at the top of the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart from December 1981 through to March 1982. The Australian version had a black and white cover design; overseas releases had a similar design, but in a black and yellow colour scheme. Business as Usual was one of the most successful albums internationally by an Australian group. It spent an unprecedented 15 weeks at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 from late 1982 to early 1983; and five weeks at No. 1 in the United Kingdom Albums Chart in early 1983. Business as Usual was also one of the highest selling Australian albums in the early 1980s, with 6 million copies sold in the US, and 15 million sold worldwide. Surprisingly, the disc also made it to #31 on Billboard's Black Albums chart.
The first single from the album, "Who Can It Be Now?", was released in Australia in June 1981, prior to the recording of the rest of the album. It reached No. 2 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart in August that year. The second single, "Down Under", which was issued in October peaked at No. 1 for six weeks. A third single, "Be Good Johnny", appeared in April the following year and reached No. 8.
In February 2010 a Federal Court judge in Sydney found that the flute riff from "Down Under" had been plagiarised from the Australian song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree", written in 1934 by Marion Sinclair. The Federal Court determined that the copyright was still current (Sinclair died in 1988) and had been assigned to Larrikin Music. The judge found that "a substantial amount of the original song" had been reproduced in "Down Under". Larrikin Music had suggested 60% of the royalties would be appropriate compensation, but the court decreed they shall receive only 5%, and only on mechanical rights for the song since 2002, and on future profits.
By early 1981, Australian new wave group, Men at Work consisted of the late Greg Ham on flute, saxophone, keyboards and vocals; Colin Hay on vocals and guitar; John Rees on bass guitar; Jerry Speiser on drums and backing vocals; and Ron Strykert on lead guitar and vocals. Hay was the group's main songwriter both on his own, with Strykert, or with other band mates. The group signed with the Australian branch of Columbia Records, which issued their second single, 'Who Can It Be Now?, in June that year. As record producer they used United States-born Peter McIan (Franne Golde, Serious Young Insects). The track was one written by Hay alone, and, in August, it peaked at No. 2 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart.
The group had already returned to the studio to continue working with McIan, who produced their debut album, Business as Usual, which included the earlier single. The second single from the album, "Down Under", appeared in October and was a reworked version of the B-side to their debut single, "Keypunch Operator", from the previous year. "Down Under" was co-written by Hay and Strykert, and became the group's first number-one hit in December – which stayed at the top for six weeks. The album was released on 9 November 1981, it entered the top 50 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart in December peaking at No. 1 for nine weeks and appearing in the top 50 for 118 weeks.
The track "Crazy", released as a non-album B-side, is the only Men at Work recording to have Hay, Ham, and Strykert all performing lead vocals. Ham sings lead on the first halves of the verses, Hay on the second halves of the verses and the bridge, and Strykert on the choruses. Another non-album B-side, the jam-oriented instrumental "Anyone for Tennis", was omitted from the 2003 remaster of Business as Usual (which contained both the other non-album B-sides from this era). It appears only on the B-side to "Who Can it Be Now?".
|Christgau's Record Guide||B+|
Australian musicologist Ian McFarlane described Business as Usual: "Aside from the strength of the music, part of the [its] appeal was its economy. The production sound was low-key, but clean and uncluttered. Indeed, the songs stood by themselves with little embellishment save for a bright, melodic, singalong quality". Gerry Raffaele for The Canberra Times felt "[it] generally stays at a high level, tight and jerky, although I still favour the tracks which have appeared as singles ... There is a delicacy about this music — and that is not a thing you can say about too many rock groups".
Countdown Music and Video Awards
|1981||Business as Usual||Best Debut Album||Won|
|"Who Can It Be Now?"||Best Debut Single||Won|
|Men at Work||Best New Talent||Won|
|1982||Men at Work||Most Outstanding Achievement||Won|
|1983||Men at Work (performer)||Best New Artist||Won|
|1984||Men at Work (performer)||Best International Artist||Nominated|
|1.||"Who Can It Be Now?"||Colin Hay||3:25|
|2.||"I Can See It in Your Eyes"||Hay||3:32|
|3.||"Down Under"||Hay, Ron Strykert||3:45|
|5.||"Helpless Automaton"||Greg Ham||3:23|
|6.||"People Just Love to Play with Words"||Strykert||3:33|
|7.||"Be Good Johnny"||Hay, Ham||3:39|
|8.||"Touching the Untouchables"||Hay, Strykert||3:41|
|9.||"Catch a Star"||Hay||3:31|
|10.||"Down by the Sea"||Hay, Strykert, Ham, Jerry Speiser||6:53|
|2003 Remaster Bonus Tracks|
|11.||"Crazy" (B-side from "Down Under" single)||Strykert||2:37|
|13.||"Who Can It Be Now?" (live)||Hay||4:06|
|14.||"F-19" (B-side from "Be Good Johnny" Australian single)||Hay, Speiser||3:52|
Both live tracks on the 2003 remastered edition are from the 1998 live album Brazil.
- Greg Ham - flute, keyboards, saxophone, background vocals, lead vocals on tracks 5 and 11
- Colin Hay - guitar, lead vocals (except 5)
- John Rees - bass, background vocals
- Jerry Speiser - drums, background vocals
- Ron Strykert - guitar, background vocals, lead vocal on track 11
- Russell Deppeler - telephone, calculator
- Nathan D. Brenner - international manager
- Producer: Peter McIan
- Engineers: Jim Barbour, Peter McIan, Paul Ray
- Cover Illustration: Jon "JD" Dickson
|Australian Albums Chart||9|
|Australia (ARIA)||3× Platinum||150,000^|
|Canada (Music Canada)||5× Platinum||500,000^|
|Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)||Gold||10,000*|
|Japan (Oricon Charts)||266,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||6× Platinum||6,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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