In early March 2020, the leader of Men at Work Colin Hay There were a few dates in his extensive solo tour before pandemic lockdowns forced him to cancel it. He returned home to Los Angeles. It was, as he puts it, “better than death”.
Prior to this tour, Hay was working on a new batch of original songs for his upcoming album, Now and Evermore, which will be released early next year, in time for this rescheduled tour. Hay largely completed this album earlier this year. At home in quarantine, he began scratching Gerry & the Pacemakers’ hit song “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” shortly after the death of Merseybeat frontman Gerry Marsden. Hay recorded the song and sent it to his collaborator and frequent producer Chad Fischer, who liked it and asked Hay to send him another and another until they had done ten songs, some of which have lush string arrangements.
They dubbed the album I don’t know what to do with myself, a nod to the Dusty Springfield track that Hay covered, and released it last month via Compass records. The hay stops at Arvada Center Wednesday September 1; he will play extracts from the cover album, some of Now and Evermore, Men at work hits and songs from other solo records.
Most of the ten covers on I don’t know what to do with myself were songs Hay grew up working in his parents’ record store in the 1960s, including “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flyn)” by The Beatles.
“For me there was the Beatles and then there was everyone,” says Hay. “The sound they had was just from another world. I don’t know how they did it – still don’t. But they did, and I’m glad they did. “
Hay also recorded “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks which was playing on the Southampton Docks in June 1967 when, at the age of fourteen, Hay and his family were about to board a ship to move to Australia.
Once in Australia, Hay would hear most of the other songs on I don’t know what to do with myself, including “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb and made famous by Glen Campbell, which Hay hails as one of the greatest songs ever written, using it as a benchmark when writing his own material.
“You have that as an inspiration and try to find something that comes close to it,” says Hay.
Hay also covered “Across the Universe” by The Beatles, “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith – something he could relate to while dealing with alcoholism in the 80s – and “Many Rivers to Cross ”by Jimmy Cliff, which explores wrestling.
“Everyone fights in their own way, and obviously some more than others,” says Hay. “I didn’t have much of a struggle. I was very lucky to grow up with the parents and the family that I had. But the struggle that I had and will always have … once you’re an alcoholic, you’re still an alcoholic. You are either recovering or you are not. But it was a struggle that I had, that doesn’t really care if you’re rich or poor or who you are. It’s just an addiction. You take care of it. It level the playing field. ”
Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” also appears on the soundtrack for The more they come, a 1972 film in which Cliff stars and Hay Says has resonated with many in Australia.
“Reggae music [delves into] that particular experience, the hardships, the poverty and obviously the racism and the overcoming … just trying to get noticed, trying to sing or play your way out of where you are … just trying to break free, this that’s still happening in so many parts of the world, ”he says. There are people who are not free. It was an example of the immense talent of someone who just showed up on the screen, and we ate it because we wanted to hear and see what that part of the world was like and what was happening. was going on with that.
About five years later The more they come came out, Hay formed the rock band Men at Work, which achieved worldwide success with hits like “Who Can It Be Now?” and downstairs. Hay says other British citizens who immigrated to Australia have also formed groups, such as the Bee Gees and AC / DC.
“They were trained in youth hostels,” says Hay. “And it was a great breeding ground for groups in Australia.”
While I don’t know what to do with myself consisting mostly of songs released in the 60s, Hay recorded the Scottish band Del Amitri’s 1995 hit “Driving With the Brakes On” which he considers another of the best songs ever written.
Hay says that when the tour in support of I don’t know what to do with myself was being planned, the number of COVID cases was declining, and the Delta variant hadn’t really done much in the United States.
“It wasn’t really sweeping the United States like it is now,” Hay said. “It was safer. We said, ‘Okay, we’ll go on tour.’ Then the numbers started to rise again with the variant, but it was too late to stop, so we continued and we are as careful as possible.
Colin Hay performs with Althea Grace, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 1, at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada. Tickets are $ 40 to $ 65 and available at Arvada Center website.