It's a Mistake

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"It's a Mistake"
Men at work-its a mistake.jpg
Single by Men at Work
from the album Cargo

"Shintaro" (International)

"No Restrictions" (Australia)
Released June 1983
Format 7"/12" Vinyl
Recorded 1982
Length 4:33
Label Epic
Writer(s) Colin Hay
Producer(s) Peter McIan
Men at Work singles chronology
"It's a Mistake"
"High Wire"

"It's a Mistake" is a song by the Australian band Men at Work. The song was written by lead singer and guitarist Colin Hay and the recording was produced by Peter McIan. It was released in June 1983, as the third single from their album Cargo, and peaked at #34 in Australia. In the US, it entered the charts at #42 on July 2, 1983 and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1983. It was performed live on Saturday Night Live on October 22, 1983.


The song's lyrics deal with the mindset of military men across the world in the 1980s, wondering if and when the democratic countries of NATO and the communist states of the Warsaw Pact will end the Cold War standoff with conventional battle or a nuclear exchange. Hay sings in the persona of a mid-level officer wishing to learn from his superiors if his men are going to war or not.

Music video[edit]

The video, which had moderate rotation on MTV (as opposed to the band's singles from their Business as Usual album), told a satirical story of the outbreak of a war between the Eastern and Western blocs. The beginning of the video shows the five band members dressed as children playing "soldiers" and being invited into an officer's tent by an American officer, inside of which are many allied officers of various services drinking and partying. The video then shows four adult men whom are working each as a businessman, a road worker, an anti war protester and a doctor. The video then shows each of them fading into a military uniform vaguely corresponding to each of their peace time professions with a surprised look on their faces, as to imply they were drafted. We then see them walking through a burnt out forest and come across an elderly man, who beats one of the soldiers with an umbrella, one of the soldiers takes aim but upon realizing what is happening lowers his weapon. The latter of the video is mostly set in an underground bunker or "War Room" similar to the NORAD facility of Cheyenne Mountain, and the band seemed to engage in a semi-retelling of the 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove. At the end of the video, the officer is nervously tapping his fingers and inadvertently knocks open the protective cover from the nuclear button, which is right next to his ashtray. Then, when he goes to stub out his cigar in the ashtray, he accidentally hits the button instead.

Track listing[edit]

7": CBS / BA 223076 Australia 1983[edit]

  1. "It's a Mistake" (Colin Hay) – 4:33
  2. "No Restrictions" (Ron Strykert) – 4:29

7": Epic / 07·5P-235 Japan 1983[edit]

  1. "It's a Mistake" (Colin Hay) – 4:34
  2. "Shintaro" (Ron Strykert) – 2:51

7": Columbia / 38-03959 US 1983[edit]

  1. "It's a Mistake" (Colin Hay) – 4:33
  2. "Shintaro" (Ron Strykert) – 2:51

12" Maxi-Single: CBS / 12.3475 Europe 1983[edit]

  1. "It's a Mistake" (Colin Hay) – 4:33
  2. "Shintaro" (Ron Strykert) – 2:51
  3. "Be Good Johnny" (Colin Hay, Greg Ham) – 3:34

12" Remastered Single: Columbia / 44-03977 US 1983[edit]

  1. "It's a Mistake" (Colin Hay) – a special re-mastered version of "It's a Mistake" – 4:33
  2. "Who Can It Be Now?" (Colin Hay) – a special re-mastered version of "Who Can It Be Now?" – the original version was released on Men at Work's 1981 début album Business as Usual – 3:21
  3. "F 19" (Colin Hay, Jerry Speiser) – previously unreleased – 3:49

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1983)[1] Position
Australia (Kent Music Report) 34
Canada (RPM Magazine) 26
Germany (Media Control Charts) 19
Ireland (IRMA) 11
New Zealand (RIANZ) 43
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company) 33
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 6
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 10
U.S. Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 27


External links[edit]