Who Can It Be Now?

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"Who Can It Be Now?"
Men at work-Who Can It Be Now (Australia).jpeg
Australian single sleeve
Single by Men at Work
from the album Business as Usual
B-side"Anyone for Tennis" (instrumental)
  • 25 May 1981 (Australia)[1]
  • May 1982 (US)[2]
RecordedEarly 1981
Songwriter(s)Colin Hay
Producer(s)Peter McIan
Men at Work singles chronology
"Keypunch Operator"
"Who Can It Be Now?"
"Down Under"

"Who Can It Be Now?" is a song recorded by Australian band Men at Work. It was released in Australia in 1981, prior to the recording of their 1981 debut album Business as Usual, on which the track was later included.

"Who Can It Be Now?" reached No. 2 on the Australian singles chart in August that year,[5] and was awarded a gold disc for sales of over 50,000 copies in Australia.[6] The song also hit No. 45 in New Zealand. Released in Canada in early 1982, the track peaked at No. 8 in late July. This spurred an American release of the song, and the single, by then well over a year old, went on to hit No. 1 in the US in October 1982. "Who Can It Be Now?" was also a modest hit in the UK, reaching No. 45. As one of Men at Work's biggest hits, it was featured on their later compilation albums, and a live version can be found on Brazil. The song remains a popular symbol of new wave music and has been featured on numerous 1980s compilations. The band performed both this song and "Down Under" live on Saturday Night Live on 23 October 1982.

At the 1981 Countdown Australian Music Awards, the song won Best Debut Single.[7]

Writing and recording[edit]

Around 1979, lead vocalist Colin Hay wrote the music for "Who Can It Be Now" in a tree house he and his girlfriend made in Bermagui, New South Wales.[8] The lyrics would not come until 1981, when Hay was living in an apartment complex in St Kilda, Victoria. He lived next to drug dealers, and people would often confuse Hay's apartment for the dealers'. The number of people that would knock on his door unnerved him to the point where he was scared to open his door, regardless of who was there. At the time, Hay was also anxious about his music career, which had yet to take off. In a 2015 interview, Hay explained: "I was trying to get out of the situation I was in, which is that I didn’t really have any money...It seemed at that particular time everyone who knocked on my door wanted something from me that I either didn't have or didn’t want to give them. That could be money, or it could simply be time that I didn’t want to give them."[9]

Men at Work began recording their debut album Business as Usual, which featured "Who Can It Be Now", in 1981 with producer Peter McIan. The song opens with a saxophone hook by Greg Ham; Hay had originally written the saxophone section later in the song, but McIan suggested moving the hook to the introduction. While recording the song, McIan wanted a saxophone solo and told Ham to play anything just to get the sound. McIan used Ham's improvised composition as the solo in the song.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

David Fricke of Rolling Stone commended it by noting "Ham's blowsy sax and the rousing chorus of voices raised in alcoholic harmony spark the rugged boogie of 'Who Can It Be Now?'"[10] AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the song an "excellent single that merged straight-ahead pop/rock hooks with a quirky new wave production and an offbeat sense of humor."[11] Heather Phares reviewed the song specifically and summed up by saying "In keeping with current trends but just quirky enough to be instantly memorable, the song seems custom-built for repeated play; it's easy to see why it became one of 1982's biggest hits, as well as a definitive new wave single."[4] By contrast, Barney Hoskyns of NME called it an "abomination".[12]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[6] Gold 50,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kent Music Catalogue Service – New Listings: 25 May 1981". Kent Music Report. Retrieved 20 January 2023 – via Imgur.com.
  2. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Men at Work". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Archived from the original on 13 May 2003.
  3. ^ Reed, Ryan (2 March 2011). "Colin Hay Is Still at Work, 25 Years After 'Down Under'". Metro Pulse. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Who Can It Be Now? – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  5. ^ a b Kent, David (2007). Australian Top 20 Book 1940–2006. Turramurra, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 978-0-646-47665-0.
  6. ^ a b "Kent Music Report Issue 393". Kent Music Report. No. 393. 4 January 1982.
  7. ^ "Australian Music Awards". Ron Jeff. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  8. ^ a b Kawashima, Dale (15 February 2017). "Special Interview with Colin Hay, Renowned Singer/Songwriter and Former Leader of Men at Work". Songwriter Universe. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  9. ^ Partridge, Kenneth (6 January 2015). "Men at Work's 'Who Can It Be Now?' blurs the line between private and crazy". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  10. ^ Fricke, David (22 July 1982). "Men at Work – Business As Usual". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  11. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Men at Work – Business as Usual". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  12. ^ Gimarc, George (2005). Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 662. ISBN 978-0-8793-0848-3.
  13. ^ a b "National Top 100 Singles for 1981". Kent Music Report. 4 January 1982. p. 7. Retrieved 11 January 2022 – via Imgur.
  14. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6557." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  15. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Select "Men at Work" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Who Can It Be Now". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  17. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 94, no. 47. 27 November 1982. p. 66. ISSN 0006-2510.
  18. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Men At Work".
  19. ^ "Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now?" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  20. ^ "Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now?". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  21. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (M)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  23. ^ "Men at Work Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  24. ^ a b "Business as Usual – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  25. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending OCTOBER 23, 1982". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012.
  26. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now?". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  27. ^ [americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Billboard/80s/1982/BB-1982-12-25.pdf "Top Pop Singles"] (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 94, no. 51. 25 December 1982. p. TIA-20. ISSN 0006-2510. {{cite magazine}}: Check |url= value (help)