Australian quintet Men at Work formed in Melbourne in 1979. However, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that US audiences were introduced to the band’s sound and came to appreciate the group’s approach to pop-rock music.
Men at Work’s first album that introduced them to North American audiences was “Business as Usual.” One of the band’s most popular hits was “Down Under” from 1981’s “Business as Usual.” The album would ultimately yield two hits, “Who Can It Be Now?” being the other one.
While there is no denying the strength and likeability of the aforementioned songs, a track that seems relatively overlooked, is “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive,” which can be found on Men at Work’s second album, “Cargo.”
Men at Work’s early success
Both “Business as Usual” and “Cargo” performed well on Billboard charts around the world. The band earned a Grammy in 1983 and performed on “Saturday Night Live.” Besides the two songs already mentioned, Men at Work had a reputation for engaging and simple songs because of tunes like “Overkill,” and “Be Good Johnny.”
Their popularity soared as their videos were rotated heavily on Music Television. In addition, their songs were played all over the US in markets of various size, so that there was hardly a person who had not heard of them.
While big charters like “Down Under” and “Overkill” garnered a great deal of attention, it is the more moderately successful “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive” that has the memorable beat and lyrics that sets it apart from other hits by Men at Work.
“Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive” by Men at Work
While the premise of the song is simple, and other examples of popular culture have already covered the idea, still it is interesting when Men at Work releases a song about a mad scientist who creates and drinks a potion so that he can be a handsome Romeo, with a sort of ease around ladies.
The title is a version of the one for the novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.” The storyline for the song and video might remind some audiences of the original “Nutty Professor.”
The song’s lyrics are a mix of straightforward regarding the scientist and his efforts in the lab. But the chorus, when it slows down and states in part, ” this is the story of Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive/believes the underdog will eventually survive.”
Arguably, the chorus almost sounds as though it doesn’t fit the rest of the song. The up and down feel of the chorus emphasizes the odd word choices in the final section of the chorus. Put another way, randomly, the song becomes haunting.
The instrumentation in the chorus is brooding and bass-rich, while the verses are backed by happy-sounding guitar, keyboards, and drums. The verses are also faster-paced.
The almost eerie quality separates the song from other popular Men at Work songs, and from most other pop songs of the time.
Does the title character really feel as though he/they are an “underdog” without the potion he creates? Possibly.
Men at Work seems to have broken up for good in 2002. The first break up occurred in 1986. Lead singer Colin Hay continues to do solo work, and on occasion, performs one of Men at Work’s well-known hits on American television appearances.