by Stephen Thomas ErlewineMen at Work were one of the more surprising success stories of the new wave era, rocketing out of Australia in 1982 to become the most successful artist of the year. With its Police-styled rhythms, catchy guitar hooks, wailing saxophones, and off-kilter sense of humor, the bands debut album Business as Usual became an international blockbuster, breaking the American record for the most weeks a debut spent at the top of the charts. Their funny, irreverent videos became MTV favorites, helping send Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under to number one. Men at Works momentum sustained them through their second album, 1983s Cargo, before the bottom fell out of the bands popularity. After releasing Two Hearts in 1985, Men at Work broke up, becoming one of the better-remembered phenomenons of new wave.Colin Hay (lead vocals, guitar), a native of Scotland who moved to Australia at the age of 14, formed Men at Work as an acoustic duo with Ron Strykert (guitar, vocals) in Melbourne in 1979. Within a few months, the duo had expanded to a full group with the addition of John Rees (bass), Greg Ham (saxophone, flute, keyboards), and Jerry Speiser (drums). Over the next two years, the band became regulars at the Cricketers Arms Hotel bar and on Australias pub circuit, eventually becoming the highest-paid unsigned band in the country. By 1981, they had landed a contract with Australian Columbia, who released Who Can It Be Now? by the end of the year. The single became an huge hit, as did their debut album, Business as Usual, upon its spring 1982 release. Featuring contributions by Hay, Strykert, and Ham, Business as Usual spent ten weeks at the top of the Australian charts, beating a record held by Split Enzs True Colours. The album was released in America in the summer, and within a few weeks Who Can It Be Now? began its climb to the top of the U.S. charts. In November, Business as Usual hit the top of the charts, where it would stay for 15 weeks. Down Under became the groups second American number one early in 1983 and it became the bands first British hit single; the song reached number one in both countries simultaneously. In February, the band was named the Best New Artist of 1982 at the Grammys.Men at Works second album, Cargo, had been recorded during the summer of 1982, but its release was delayed because of the remarkable success of the debut. Largely written by Hay, Cargo reached number three in the U.S. and generated the Top Ten singles Overkill and Its a Mistake. Following an extensive tour, during which the group co-headlined the US Festival with the Clash and the Stray Cats, Men at Work took an extended break in 1984, which caused Spesier and Rees to leave the band. They were replaced by session musicians for the groups third album, 1985s Two Hearts. Though the record went gold in the U.S., it was a considerable commercial disappointment, failing to generate one Top 40 single. Following the release of Two Hearts, the band broke up. Out of the remaining members, Hay was the only one to pursue a solo career, but neither of his two American solo albums — Looking for Jack (1987) and Wayfaring Sons (1990) — were successes. Hay continued to release albums in Australia during the 90s; he also began an acting career. He and Ham re-formed Men at Work in 1998, issuing the live hits collection Brazil.