Chances are if grew up during the 1980’s, Men at Work were part of your album collection. Off their first-rate Business As Usual debut came my favorite single, Who Can It Be Now. Truthfully, it’s of the most entertainingly senseless tunes ever recorded. Lyrically it’s no masterpiece. It took many years and air-sax practice to come that conclusion but I’m at peace with it.
I was 11-years old when the single came out and it instantaneously felt rooted into my DNA. I was hooked the first time I heard it—loved the sax playing and unique singing voice I was hearing. Playing Who Can It Be Now became part of my daily routine, such as my morning bagel and glass of chocolate milk.
Everything about this song was is gratifying, from the aforesaid impressive sax playing to the broad rock feel with a marriage to the new wave sound. I’m too young to know if karaoke was a thing in the 80’s but if it were I’d wager this would be one its most popular selections. As a group Men at Work were the Cinderella story of the new wave movement, and by Cinderella I’m talking glass slipper not authors of heavy metal jams like Don’t Know What You Got Til It’s Gone. They came out of Australia and seemingly overnight broke down the walls of American pop music, becoming the top-selling group of 1982.
Their ambush on the Billboard charts was led by Who Can It Be Now (and also Down Under), both soaring to number-one. The former was their first single.
Their success was significantly abetted by MTV, who had their quirky video about a paranoid man alone in his house in heavy rotation.
Who Can It Be Now signified a stimulating time of my pop music/new wave education as a youth back in 1981, and it’s a standard on my IPod playlist during social gatherings to this day.
Chart Success: Who Can It Be Now reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week, sandwiched before Joe Cocker/Jennifer Warnes (Up Where We Belong) and after John Cougar (Jack and Diane). It stayed on the charts for a whopping 27 weeks and finished 1982 ranked 30th on the year-end Billboard Hot 100.
Great Lyrics: They lyrics were inspired by lead singer Colin Hay being hunted down by debt collectors. Dude just wanted to be left alone.
“Who can it be knocking at my door?
Go ‘way, don’t come ’round here no more.
Can’t you see that it’s late at night?
I’m very tired, and I’m not feeling right.
All I wish is to be alone;
Stay away, don’t you invade my home.
Best off if you hang outside,
Don’t come in, I’ll only run and hide.”
Fun Facts: Business As Usual album spent 15 weeks at number-one on the U.S. Billboard charts, a record at the time for a debut album. Down Under also gave the album a lot of support, joining Who Can It Be Now as chart topper Billboard singles. Unfortunately the band didn’t exactly have staying power. They put out two more albums before the band bottomed out and broke up: Cargo (1983) and Two Hearts (1985).
100. Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
99. Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgetting
97. The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Does Is Magic
96. Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
94. Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time
93. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
92. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
89. Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
87. Debbie Gibson – Foolish Beat
86. Glen Mederios – Nothing’s Going To Change My Love For You
85. John Cougar – Jack and Diane
81. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
79. Shelia E. – The Glamorous Life
77. Whitney Houston – Greatest Love Of All
76. Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – Say Say Say
75. Flock of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
74. Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It
73. Musical Youth – Pass The Dutchie
72. The Police – Every Breathe You Take
71. Survivor – The Search Is Over
70. REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You
68. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel
67. Kenny Loggins – Meet Me Halfway
66. Irene Cara – Flashdance…What A Feeling
65. Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
64. Phil Collins – One More Night
63. Europe – The Final Countdown
62. Patrick Swazye – She’s Like The Wind
61. Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
60. Men Without Hats – Safety Dance
59. Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
58. Huey Lewis & The News – Power Of Love
55. Styx – Too Much Time On My Hands
53. Olivia Newton John – Physical
49. Marvin Gaye- Sexual Healing
48. Huey Lewis & The News – Do You Believe In Love
44. New Edition – Mr. Telephone Man
43. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
42. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World
41. Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody
39. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark
38. Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
37. Christopher Cross – Sailing
34. Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is
33. Pat Benatar – Love Is A Battlefield
32. USA For Africa- We Are The World
30. Kenny Loggins – I’m Free (Heaven Helps The Man)
29. Dexys Midnite Runners – Come On Eileen
28. J. Geils Band – Centerfold
27. Hall & Oates – Private Eyes