Tracks

  1. Don’t Preach To Me
  2. I Can See It In Your Eyes
  3. I Changed My Mind
  4. Touching The Untouchables
  5. Down By The Sea
  6. Overkill
  7. Down Under
  8. Helpless Automaton
  9. Underground
  10. Till The Money Runs Out
  11. It’s a Mistake
  12. Who Can It Be Now
  13. Mr Entertainer
  14. Be Good Johnny

The Band

Colin Hay
vocals, guitar.
Jerry Speiser
drums, vocals.
Greg Ham
sax, keys, vocals, flute, harmonica.
John Rees
bass, vocals.

The Crew

Mark Woods
audio

“Hi all, Colin Hay here,

This is a Men At Work desk tape recording from a live show in Christchurch in 1982. It was on cassette. I loved cassettes. Nice hiss. The monetary proceeds of however you consume this music, great or small, will go to help those in our industry who need it the most.

In 1978, Ron Strykert and I started playing acoustic shows together, and writing songs. Not always together, but I found Ron to be a totally unique and inspiring person to play with, so he brought out the best in me. We played meandering, exploratory music often in open tunings, and my mind was exploding.

We worked together as an acoustic duo for quite a while, a year or so, before one day Jerry Speiser, a great drummer friend of mine, appeared and said he was joining forces with us. We were now a band. A three piece, but a band nonetheless.

I had been watching Greg practice the sax and flute for the better part of the 70s. He had what all great musicians crave, he had a sound, and it was his own. I asked him to join the band. He hesitated for a minute, he was still at college, finishing a music degree. A few weeks later he came to see me. He wanted in. Bless his sweet heart.

Ron was playing bass, myself on guitar. Although Ron was a inventive bass player, he really needed to get back to playing guitar, he was a much better guitarist than I was. More than that, his playing gave everything a beautiful unpredictable quality, which I treasured.

Jerry being a drummer, knew a guy, John Rees, predominantly a brilliant jazz bass player, but also an excellent all-round musician. That was it. Off we went. It was a fertile period. It is an amazing feeling coming up with a song in the morning, rehearsing it in the afternoon, and playing it the same night in front of an audience. That happened often.

As with many bands, there were always disparate energies within Men At Work. Over the next two years or so, we played lots and lots of shows. We were somewhat of a hippie jam band really with songs, which were becoming more and more defined. We were unhip, we were never going to be the darlings of the rock press. I didn’t care, I knew what we had, it just had to be brought into focus.

Peter McIan was the American record producer who did just that. CBS Records had offered us a deal. A bad deal, but it was a deal, and we wanted to make a record.

One night, Peter Karpin brought McIan to see us at the Manzil Room. He immediately knew what we had, and what he could do with us. I think he captured the best we had to offer. Just listen to Ron’s guitar solo in “It’s A Mistake”. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Or Jerry’s drums on “Down By The Sea”, it’s a more than inspired performance.

So the record was done in a few weeks, and we were on the road. We hadn’t been off the road in two years, but now we had a record behind us, and we were empowered, to say the least.

I started to notice something about the audiences during ’81, going into ’82. They were becoming incredibly energized at the shows, fiercely responsive. It was like a mutual, deep recognition of the electric beauty and pure energy that music can create. It was one of the happiest, most creative and exciting periods of my life. It stays with you. Always.

This tape was recorded during this period. I hope you enjoy it.

In Peace and Love,

Colin

Men At Work came together bound by creativity, strong musicianship and consisted of :

Colin Hay – vocals, guitar.
Jerry Speiser – drums, vocals.
Greg Ham – saxophone, keyboards, vocals, flute, harmonica.
John Rees – bass, vocals.

Jerry Speiser remembers: “There was a rapport between us and the humour was an important part of it all. We could be tight but also be loose within that. The arrangements were very strong, we all had good voices, Colin’s was unique, and I always regarded him as a genius songwriter.

When I listen to the Christchurch tape, what strikes me most was that the band was happy, we were having fun.”

By the time Men At Work played New Zealand, they’d repeated their Australian success, with ‘Who Can It Be Now? and ‘Down ‘Under’ storming the charts and their first album Business As Usual perched at #1.

On the tour, they broke attendance figures at every venue, were given the rock star treatment, and the Christchurch show was broadcast nationally on a radio network.

Men At Work’s Christchurch show before 2,500 fans, recorded by long time friend and front-of-house operator Mark Woods, follows successful issues by ARCA of rare desk tapes by Redgum in 1985, TISM in 1988, The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band in 2010, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons in 1976 and Australian Crawl in 1981.

Mark Woods explains: “The American producer Peter McIan massaged songs, and turned them into radio hits. Men At Work’s rise to success was so quick. Within six months they moved from the tiny pub, the Cricketers’ Arms in Richmond, to playing to tens of thousands at beachside concerts.”

Live At Christchurch Town Hall 1982 abounds with hits like ‘Who Can It Be Now?` which began life by Hay on a treetop house in NSW and finished off in the seedy suburb of St. Kilda in Melbourne where residents feared being mistaken for criminals and drug dealers.

‘Down Under`is credited to Hay and guitarist Ron Strykert. But they never sat in the same room to write it. Strykert came up with the riff as part of a cassette tape of soundscapes. Hay listened endlessly to the tape and one day while driving around Melbourne, the phrase “I come from the land down under” popped in his head. Says Hay, “It was a marriage of two totally different approaches. But it wouldn’t have become a song if not for that tape that Ron made.”

‘Overkill’ captures Men At Work’s anticipation of their massive success, “of stepping into the unknown where you have no control and having a certain amount of steel about that.”

All in all, this live recording captures an incredible moment in time and a piece of historical Australian music.