Saturday, April 21, 2012

Men At Work: Be Good Johnny / RIP Greg Ham

You may not know his name, but you know his work – the saxophone riff on “Who Can it Be Now” and the flute solos on “Down Under” as well as his other iconic contributions to Men At Work’s compositions. As I found out on Thursday, multi-instrumentalist Greg Ham was found dead in his Melbourne, Australia home. Although his death was not ruled as suspicious, details its cause have not been released at the time of this writing.

I came to know Greg Ham’s music during summer 1982 when I was invited to a Columbia Records listening party at the Charleston Marriott Hotel. Columbia was pushing two artists: Larry Lee (formerly of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils) and Men At Work. Lee was actually at the function which was coordinated by Cincinnati District Columbia Promotions Director, Al Stann. I went home that evening with copies of both artists’ albums.

I loved Men At Work’s “Business As Usual” LP and one cut in particular, “Be Good Johnny” was my favorite. In the next week, Columbia issued “Who Can It Be Now” as the first single of the album and I added it out of the box at WCIR-FM – being one of the first three or four music directors to do so. The single was a #1 record and proved a solid hit with an unusual video aired on MTV to prompt upward chart movement.

The second single, “Down Under” performed as well climbing to the top position on the American charts. The album spent 15 weeks at the #1 slot – quite the feat for a new artist and in total the album sold over 6 million copies. Two additional promotional singles, “Underground” and “Be Good Johnny” were issued, but neither charted.

I don’t believe either was available commercially. “Be Good Johnny,” which failed to break the Hot 100, charted at 3 on the Rock Charts and due to an earlier release of a 12 inch single to album radio hurt the single’s chances at charting on CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) stations. It is for that reason that I present “Be Good Johnny” as our Saturday bubbling under hit. Greg Ham provided the keyboards and speaking parts on this cut, while Colin Hay sang the lead.

For my early action on “Business As Usual,” Columbia Records awarded me with a platinum album.  This remains one of my most prized possessions and hangs on my office wall.  Thanks to Men At Work and Greg Ham for some excellent music - may he rest in peace. 

Stereo Version

Office Music Video

No comments:

Post a Comment