Sunday, 3 May 2015

Colin Hay (Men at Work)

Colin Hay (lead vocals, guitar), was born in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire in 1953 and emigrated with the family to Australia when he was 14 in 1967. In 1979 he formed an acoustic duo with Ron Strykert (guitar, vocals). Soon others joined: Jerry Speiser (drums), and keyboard player Greg Sneddon, but Sneddon left and was replaced by Greg Ham (saxophone, flute, keyboards). The lineup was complete with John Rees (bass). They built their reputation as an Australian pub band but incorporated reggae rhythms which were very new wave. Men at Work became regulars at Melbourne’s Cricketer's Arms Hotel bar and financed their first single in 1980. “Keypunch Operator” had a B side which was an early version of "Down Under" but neither attracted much attention.

A year later the band was signed by Australian Columbia and a single "Who Can It Be Now?" produced by Peter McIan, became a huge hit.

Men at Work played reggae rhythms, catchy guitar hooks, with wailing saxophones, hit a chord and in 1982. Business as Usual, their first album featured contributions by Colin Hay, Ron Strykert, and Greg Ham, and was every bit as good as Police. Men down Under increased their international appeal with irreverent and funny videos shown on MTV and their massive appeal in the US ensured the album became an international success.

"Down Under" became the group's second American number one early in 1983 and simultaneously topped the UK charts. "Down Under" was used as the unofficial anthem for Australia's successful challenge for the 1983 America’s Cup.

Their second album Cargo was written in the main by Colin Hay. It sold well in the US and reached number three in the U.S., generating four successful singles, "Overkill", "Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive", "High Wire", "It's A Mistake".

The following year the band took a long break and individual members pursued other interests. Just before they regrouped to record their third album the management told Jerry Speiser and John Rees they were no longer members of the band. Colin, Greg and Ron along with studio musicians completed the third album, Two Hearts. Colin and Greg produced the album and despite critical acclaim it was not a commercial success but did contain one single "Everything I Need" reached the Top 30.

After the disappointment of Two Hearts, Greg and Ron left the band, but Colin stayed and toured with other musicians. After the tour, Men at Work were over in 1985, the band broke up. Colin Hay pursued a solo and acting career. In 1988, he and Greg Ham re-formed Men at Work in 1998 for a tour in South America. Men at Work enjoyed a strong fan support in South America during their heyday and the concerts in Brazil resulted in Men at Work's fourth album, the live Brazil '96 was released in 1997, but only for South America. Men at Work went back in studio and recorded "The Longest Night", composed by Greg Ham.

At the Ending Ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics Sydney, Men at Work played ‘Down Under’ live. In 2003 Colin Hay toured with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. Greg Ham died in 2012 but surviving original band members continue to work in the music business. Colin Hay has made a successful solo career.

Worth a listen:
Who can be now? (1981)
Down under (1981)
Be good Johnny
Dr Heckyll and Mr Jive (1985)
High Wire (1985)
Overkill (1985)
It’s a mistake (1985)

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Dougie McLean

The Scottish singer-songwriter was born in Dunblane in 1954. He joined the Paisley based Scottish folk group, the Tannahill Weavers in the mid seventies and toured extensively in the UK and Europe playing fiddle, mandolin and sharing vocals. The group recorded their first album “Are Ye Sleeping Maggie?” in 1976.

Dougie left the Tannahills and teamed up with German born Scot, Alan Roberts and recorded the album Caledonia in 1978. The album met with great critical acclaim and the song Caledonia would be later recorded by many other artists.

Later the duo joined Alex Campbell and recorded the album CRM which contained traditional Scottish songs.

In 1980 Dougie MacLean joined SillyWizard for six months and toured with them in the USA, Holland and Germany before forming a duo with Edinburgh guitarist, Donald MacDougall. They performed in US, Canada and Europe and McLean (on foddle) contributed to Silly Wizard's fourth album, Wild and Beautiful (1981) before returning to the Tannahill Weavers.

During this time Dougie’s recorded his first solo album, Snaigow in 1980.

The singer now based himself in Perthshire but continued to tour worldwide. His follow up was Wing and a prayer and was released on Plant Life in 1981.

He later built a recording studio near Dunkled and he and his wife, artist Jennifer MacLean, launched their own record label, Dunkeld Records. The debut album Craigie Dhu (1982) proved a commercial success and this was followed by Fiddle (1984) and Singing Land (1986) .

Over the years Dunkeld Records became one of Scotland's most respected independent record labels featuring not only Dougie MacLean but also Hamish Moore, Sheena Wellington, Frieda Morrison, Gordon Duncan, David Allison and Blackeyed Biddy. Throughout the decade Dougie MacLean's reputation grew and became a popular performer at festivals and concerts where ever Scottish music featured. The album Real Estate was released in 1988.

Dougie MacLean has built an international reputation as songwriter, composer and extraordinary performer on his own terms. His songs have been covered by hosts of artists including Scottish stars Paolo Nutini & Amy MacDonald, Ronan Keating, Mary & Frances Black, Dolores Keane, Deanta and Cara Dillon, and Grammy award winning US country singer Kathy Mattea. His music has been used in the Hollywood movies: Trevor Jones adapted the music from the Search album as the main theme to The Last of the Mohicans in 1992; Angel Eyes also featured music from Dougie Mclean as well as A Mugs Game (BBC).

To date his greatest success has been “Caledonia” which has become one of Scotland’s most popular contemporary songs. The song was written in less than 10 minutes on a beach in Brittany, France when the singer was busking overseas and feeling homesick. The song featured in a Tennent’s Lager beer advert in 1991 with a cover interpretation sung by Frankie Miller.

The public response was immediate and so enormous Miller re-recorded the whole song and released it as an independent single. The song reached number 45 in UK Singles Chart but topped the Scottish charts in 1992. The song has been covered by many other artists.