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Men At Work's virtual benefit concert, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Colin Hay has released more than a dozen albums since 1987 and has logged multiple tenures in Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.

He's a man at work, in other words. But Hay is mainly known for Men At Work.

Hay fronted the Australian band throughout its seven-year, three-album career, writing and lending voice to hits such as "Who Can It Be Now?," Down Under" and "Overkill." It was the first Australian band to have a simultaneous No. 1 single and album on the Billboard charts, and Men At Work on a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

The group broke up in 1986, though Hay and saxophonist Greg Ham rekindled it during 1996 and kept it going sometimes sporadically until Ham's death in 2012. Last year, however, Hay started playing under the Men At Work moniker once again and will be playing the group's favorites for a benefit streaming concert on Sunday, Nov. 1...

Hay, 67, says by phone that playing as Men At Work again grew out of playing the group's hits with the All-Starr Band. "The audience likes the old songs, so I asked a couple of the guys touring Ringo, the agency, if they thought I could tour in Europe with my band. They said, 'Well, you could do it much easier if you called it Men At Work. So it was exploratory to find out whether or not I had an audience in that part of the world, and it was pretty successful...and the audiences were very passionate about it. So I thought it was something I could do as well as my own thing."

Hay adds that he's fully reconciled with the idea of Men At Work as a nostalgia show. "It's a specific thing. It's a specific group of songs that were written and recorded at a specific time with a specific group of people. It's a snapshot, if you like. And it was a long time ago -- 40 years ago, and the original band was together for probably four years, tops. It's fun to play those songs 'cause they're good songs, and the band I have is a really cool band. I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but it's fun to do now and again."

Hay says he felt Men At Work really fell apart before its third album, 1985's "Two Hearts." "That's the death throes of the band, even though we didn't quite realize it. It was over by then, really. Jerry (Speiser) and John (Rees) got sacked, so it was just Greg and Ron (Strykert) and I, and it just wasn't happening. Ron just went home one day; He said, 'I'm done,' I said, 'Oh, you coming back?' and he said 'Nah' and he just never came back." (laughs) He just left. It was really funny. His time was up. And so was the band's."

Hay, who now resides in California and is a U.S. citizen, says that working with Starr -- and writing the title track for 2019's "What's My Name" album -- has been a highlight. "It's a thrill -- more than a thrill. It just makes me feel really happy. My parents had a music shop in Scotland from when I was five 'til I was 14, and after the shop closed my dad would sit there and be a DJ and play 45 singles, and he was always playing the Beatles. So me playing with Ringo also makes me connect with them in a strange way. It's kind of wistful, but it's very sweet."

Hay has been working on new music during the pandemic shutdown, taking advantage of enforced time off during what was supposed to be a busy year on the road. "I have a lot of songs written and recorded. Normally I would only have two or three weeks in the studio and then I'd have to go on tour again. Now I've been able to explore the studio and the potential of it, and that's been really exciting in an experimental way. I have these really great toys down there and nice equipment, and I finally have time to mess around and see what I can do."

Colin Hay performs a special Men At Work show at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1. Tickets via watch.mandolin.com. Proceeds benefit Headcount, the National Independent Venue Association and the National Independent Talent Association.

Web Site: watch.mandolin.com

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