In We’re No. 1, The A.V. Club examines one album that checked out No. 1 top top the Billboard charts to get to the love of what it method to be well-known in popular music music, and also how that ide has changed over the years. In this installment, we cover men At Work’s “Who deserve to It it is in Now,” which checked out No. 1 top top the hot 100 ~ above October 30, 1982.

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From a cynic’s perspective, American background is the story of civilization who simply want to it is in left the hell alone. That’s partially what brought colonists right here in the first place, and to part extent, that what drove your descendants to the frontier, then to the Pacific, climate to the suburbs and also ultimately the moon. “Don’t tread on me” begat “Westward ho” begat “Stay turn off my lawn.”

Or, as guys At occupational put the on the band’s 1982 debut single, “Who can it it is in knocking in ~ my door? go away. Don’t come ’round below no more.”

The band wasn’t American, however its home country of Australia has actually its very own reputation because that attracting adventuresome lone-wolf types, and also that can explain why “Who deserve to It it is in Now?” captured fire in both nations. A usually hit transparent Europe, it reached No. 2 under under and topped the Billboard hot 100 in the States, helping to propel the album Business together Usual to No. 1 and earn the quirky new-wave band a Grammy for Best new Artist.

Colin Hay, the now-defunct group’s singer and also primary songwriter, isn’t immune to cynicism. Don’t obtain him started on the Republican win in the last midterm elections. However speaking come The A.V. Club through phone from his home in Los Angeles, that says everything morally dubious frontier soul America and Australia share had nothing to carry out with the lyrics.


Rather, “Who can It it is in Now?” is around a guy wishing because that a small peace and quiet, and also when Hay penned the song in 1981, before Men At work-related were famous, it is what the was.

“I was living in a place called St. Kilda, which is a good part of Melbourne,” Hay says. “It’s together close to a red-light district as you could get in Melbourne at that time. There to be a good rock ’n’ role community, and the nightlife was rather alive. There to be a huge Jewish populace as well. I was in an apartment, and there were most police sirens and also drug dealers. It was a wonderful place to live.”

It wasn’t, however, a great place because that chilling the end in her living room.

“There to be some human being living next door who were moving a little of product,” Hay says. “Mistakes were made, and people would certainly knock on our door trying to find some type of stimulant, and we didn’t have actually it. Friend were always hearing world banging on other people’s doors. We had actually one the those little spy holes, and also I was always creeping toward the door once someone to be knocking, to see who the was. I was never sure I want to open up the door.”

That’s all an extremely reasonable—when there room drug dealers following door, the peephole’s your friend—but the still doesn’t account for what provides “Who have the right to It it is in Now?” together a strange affecting song. If it doesn’t appeal to Horatio Algers, Crocodile Dundees, and also Ron Swanson-types lurking in ~ Yanks and also Aussies, why does the tune proceed to resonate?

Maybe that creep appeal. There’s something unsettling around Hay’s narrator, particularly in the 2nd verse, when he sings, “I like it here with my childhood girlfriend / below they come, those feeling again.” He’s appears paranoid, if not straight-up delusional, and also the saxophone line that offers the song’s hook has actually sleazy, late-night urgency that befits a man who’s chain-smoking and also chugging black color coffee, wondering even if it is those footsteps in the hall are “the men concerned take me away.”

So, this narrator: raving loon or constant guy? Hay thoughtfully deflects the question.

“I don’t really understand what a regular guy is,” he says. “I think people are every mad in their own way. There space just different levels the madness, and levels of insanity that are seemingly acceptable to society. And if you overcome the line, they’re walking to placed you far somewhere and also keep you away from other people.”

At the time, Hay admits, he was feeling “a the majority of fear and trepidation,” as his music career had yet to take it off.

“I to be trying to obtain out that the case I was in, which is that ns didn’t yes, really have any money,” that says. “I to be trying to obtain by. It seemed at that details time everyone that knocked on mine door wanted something native me that i either didn’t have or didn’t desire to give them. That could be money, or it can simply be time that i didn’t want to provide them.”

In other words, “Who can It be Now?” isn’t meant as a commentary on the American or Australian nationwide character, and also it’s not explicitly around mental illness. It’s a tune for anyone that likes a tiny privacy, and also actually, that renders sense. Libertarians, backwater militiamen, survivalists, Soldier the Fortune subscribers, and other fringe-dwelling members of society wouldn’t have been sufficient to push the song to the top of the charts. Those world use your money because that ammo and canned goods, no records.

If, in the at an early stage ’80s, the wackadoos the the human being weren’t buying guys At work albums, lock were most likely the just ones. The team scored three an ext Top 40 hits through its 1983 sophomore effort, Cargo, and by the time males At Work separation up during the making of the modestly success of Two Hearts, the team had transcended one-, two- and even three-hit-wonder status.

In the virtually three years since, Hay has forged a effective solo career, publication 11 albums and also building a loyal team of fans that includes Zach Braff, who featured Hay’s music on his 2004 Garden State soundtrack and also in several episodes that Scrubs. Hay tourism the nation regularly, and from his vantage point, over there is a pervasive go-it-alone perspective in America, but it’s not the admirable pioneer variety.

“You have a country that’s one incredible location to live, and also yet for this reason many human being just take it for granted and don’t take duty for us or the people they live through by walk out and voting,” the says. “I don’t really subscribe to the reality there’s a good sense the community. Ns don’t yes, really witness that in mine travels. Ns think human being are pretty self-motivated, because that the many part. I see a many apathy here; I watch a most apathy in Australia together well.”

Hay isn’t part hopeless curmudgeon. He is an affable chatter and also a large fan of chairman Obama, who he feels has actually done a great job, given the circumstances. But hearing the talk national politics in the wake of the Republican take over is enough to make you dry in a ball and retreat from humanity.

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Of course, law so might turn you into someone choose the male Hay wrote around in “Me and My imagine Friend,” a funny little gem native his 2007 album Are you Lookin’ in ~ Me? “We understand what is real, and what is pretend,” Hay sings on the one. “Together till the bitter end, me and also my imagine friend.”

It’s not exactly a sequel to “Who can It it is in Now?” yet as Hay says, yes sir an autobiographical aspect to every one of his songs. On part level, the characters may it is in connected.

“I choose that guy in <“Imaginary Friend”>, since in a sense, he’s established how to resolve the reality he’s alone,” Hay says. “I remember sitting in a movie theater. The movie was around to start. A male walked up to where ns was sitting, and he said, ‘Excuse me—are those two seats taken?’ I said no. That said, ‘Thank you. One because that me, and also one because that my imagine friend.’ and he sat the entirety night just by himself. I assumed that was quite funny.”