(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Colin Hay, renowned globally as the songwriter, lead vocalist/guitarist for Australian chart toppers Men at Work, has since proven himself as a solo artist, touring with his own group of L.A.-based musicians and as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. A lifelong music fan, his love for music was born in his native Scotland, working at his parents' record store where he heard all the hits of the day. This week Colin shares his cinematic version of Jimmy Webb's classic "Wichita Lineman," a hit for Glen Campbell, which premiered with The Bluegrass Situation.
Colin explained his love for the song to The Bluegrass Situation, "'Wichita Lineman’ was the first song where I realized the importance of the written song, in and of itself. Before that, I had always put artists and songs together, like Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, and many others, who all primarily wrote and performed their own songs. ‘Wichita Lineman’ spoke of things I could only wonder at. The geographical vastness of the land, the hopes and dreams of the man working the line, and indeed of all people who inhabit this country. And, a love story contained within achingly beautiful music and melody. I can’t think of a better song.”
The genesis for the album came during quarantine in early 2021, when Colin read that Gerry Marsden had died and found himself strumming the Gerry and the Pacemakers' Merseybeat hit, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.” He decided to turn on the tape machines and share with his frequent collaborator/producer, Chad Fischer, who asked for more of the same.
Thus followed the recording of I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF, a new studio album featuring 10 versions of some of ' particular favorites of songs by The Kinks, Blind Faith, The Beatles and more — songs tied to memories and eras in his life. These lushly arranged versions showcase Hay’s ability to interpret a song and remind one just how instantly recognizable his voice is. While most of the songs are from the ‘60s, Hay does a moving version of Scottish group Del Amitri’s heartbreaking “Driving With The Brakes On,” which he calls “simply one of the best songs ever written.”
FROM THE LINER NOTES — COLIN HAY, 2021. This record was unplanned, but I’m glad it came to be. Gerry Marsden sadly had just died, and I was sitting around in the basement, playing major 7th chords, as you do, and I started singing “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” to myself. So I switched on the machines with the pretty lights and recorded it. Just vocals and guitar. I sent it to my best man, Chad Fischer, and said, “See what you can do with this”, and he did. It sounded more than delightful to both of us. He said, “Send me another”. And so it went, until we had ten. Quite enough for the moment.
The song choices were simple. “Waterloo Sunset” was playing through the sound system at Southampton Docks in June 1967, when I was boarding the Fairstar with my family, heading for the New World. What a sendoff.
“Wichita Lineman” has fascinated me for many reasons. It was a hit for Glen Campbell, yet written by Jimmy Webb, a master songwriter. This was intriguing in and of itself. It contains one of the greatest lines in modern music. (You know which one I’m talking about.)
I worked in my parents record store in the 60’s in Saltcoats, Scotland, and it seemed Dusty Springfield always had a hit on the charts. “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” was produced by Johnny Franz, whose team created the closest thing Britain had to the Phil Spector ”wall of sound”. Dusty Springfield’s voice is divine.
There are so many Beatles songs one could choose to try and do justice to it’s ridiculous. “Norwegian Wood” contains a classic, simple and elegant melody, and I would occasionally perform it live in a DADGAD tuning, so that one sprang to mind.
Chad suggested “Ooh La La”, the Faces song, written by Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood and sung by Ronnie Wood. I loved Rod Stewart and the Faces, and was considering a few others. However, Brooke Fischer, Chad’s wife, fancied “Ooh La La”. I’m a big fan of Brooke, so on it went.
“Driving With The Brakes On” is simply one of the best songs ever written. I love Del Amitri, and Justin Currie’s songwriting. When I first came over to live in California in the early 90’s I would listen to this song driving home late at night.
“Across The Universe”... well what can you say? A staggering lyric, and equally beautiful music and melody.
That one BLIND FAITH album had a big impact on me in 1969. And “Can’t Find My Way Home” is one of those songs you could attempt on acoustic guitar. So that’s what I did.
And lastly, we all became obsessed with The Harder They Come in the early 70’s, when it was shown in the cinemas in Melbourne. The music and sound of Jimmy Cliff transcends time. Many people have sung “Many Rivers To Cross”; indeed dare I say, it is a singer’s song. My brief to myself was to simply deliver it and not get in the way of the brilliance of the song itself.
I hope you enjoy these versions of these songs half as much as we enjoyed creating them.
1. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (Burt Bacharach/Hal David)
2. Waterloo Sunset (Ray Davies)
3. Wichita Lineman (Jimmy Webb)
4. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
5. Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying (Gerard Marsden/Fred Marsden, Les Chadwick, Leo Mcguire)
6. Ooh La La (Ronnie Lane/Ron Wood)
7. Driving With The Brakes On (Justin Currie)
8. Across the Universe (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
9. Can’t Find My Way Home (Stevie Winwood)
10. Many Rivers to Cross (Jimmy Cliff)
Wed, 8/04 Cape Cod Melody Tent - Hyannis, MA
Thu, 8/05 South Shore Music Circus - Cohasset, MA
Fri, 8/06 Blue Ocean Music Hall - Salisbury, MA
Sat, 8/07 Boarding House Park - Lowell, MA
Sun, 8/08 Point of the Bluff Vineyards - Hammondsport, NY
Tue, 8/10 Ocean City Music Pier - Ocean City, NJ
Wed, 8/11 Wind Creek Steel Stage at PNC Plaza - Bethlehem, PA
Fri, 8/13 Ridgefield Playhouse - Ridgefield, CT
Sat, 8/14 City Winery - New York, NY
Sun, 8/15 City Winery - New York, NY
Tue, 8/17 Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
Wed, 8/18 Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
Thu, 8/19 Mcglohan Theater - Charlotte, NC
Fri, 8/20 City Winery - Atlanta, GA
Sat, 8/21 The Caverns - Pelham, TN
Thu, 8/26 Fred Meijer Gardens - Grand Rapids, MI
Sat, 8/28 Big Top Chautauqua - Washburn, WI
Sun, 8/29 Park West - Chicago, IL
Wed, 9/01 Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities- Arvada, CO
Thu, 9/02 Red Butte Garden - Salt Lake City, UT
Sat, 9/11 BeachLife Festival 2021 - Redondo Beach, CA