Colin Hay, the singer, songwriter and frontman of beloved Australian rock group Men At Work, and the late trailblazing tour promoter Colleen Ironside are this year’s recipients of the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.
The prestigious honor will be presented at the 2023 APRA Music Awards, to be held April 27 at ICC Sydney, on Gadigal land.
Hay will be on hand to receive his circular trophy, recognition for a stellar career that launched in the early ‘80s with Men At Work’s hit debut album Business As Usual, and its standout single “Down Under.”
It was a dream breakthrough, the type few acts have done before or since, as the single and its parent topped simultaneously topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and the group went on to win the Grammy Award for best new artist.
“Who Can It Be Now” logged a single week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982, and “Down Under” would climb the summit later that year, holding top spot for four weeks. Today, the latter song has passed more than one billion streams across all platforms, and is treasured as Australia’s unofficial anthem.
“Overkill” and “It’s a Mistake” both hit the top 10 on the Hot 100, “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive” cracked the top 40 (at No. 28). Followup LP Cargo peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The band called it quits in 1985, but the music lives on. Career record sales top 30 million, according to APRA.
This award is “for outstanding services to Australian Music,” notes Hay in a statement. “I think services is the key word here. It’s important to realise at some point in your life that it is a valuable thing to be of service. To be of some use.”
Hay’s music would be introduced to new generations through Scrubs and Garden State, and he continues to tour, both as a solo artist and as a guitarist in Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band. “Down Under” has been revisited in recent years with a hit drum ‘n’ bass cut by DJ Luude, and by award-winning Yolŋu surf rockers King Stingray.
Speaking to Billboard over Zoom from Sacramento, CA, Hay admits “Down Under” is “very dear to me. When I wrote the song, I had a lot of fear and trepidation about Australia becoming overdeveloped, like you know, Florida or something,” the Scottish-born artist notes, “and on the other side of the coin, there was this beautiful uniqueness and incredible — a kind of awesomeness — of the country which I thought, ‘we don’t want to lose that’. We have to nurture, it’s a precious thing we have.”
Also at the APRAs, Ironside will be posthumously saluted for a career during which she set the groundwork for a pan-Asian touring network and producing scores of tours in the region.
Ironside, who died in 2022, is equally remembered for her force-of-nature personality.
The concerts giant cut her teeth as a booking agent for the Harbour Premier Agency in Sydney, Australia. She went out on her own, establishing and running APA Booking Agency, which booked INXS, Ratcat, James Reyne, Jenny Morris, Wendy Matthews and Def FX for Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
In 1994, Frontier Touring recruited Ironside as head of its Asia division, where she managed tours by Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Tom Jones and others. In 1999, she established Live Limited and toured the Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, Sting and other titans of rock and pop music.
Later, in 2005, she began a five-year stint with Live Nation as senior VP of bookings in Pan-Asia, before reviving Live Limited, through which she promoted Janet Jackson in Hong Kong, Bruno Mars in Malaysia and Bob Dylan in Hong Kong and Vietnam.
“Colleen championed Australian songwriters and artists and created live music pathways into Asia with a business acumen that was years ahead of her peers,” comments Dean Ormston, CEO, APRA AMCOS.
And Hay “is a songwriter of the highest level and with the biggest heart, whose songs continue to connect and hit No. 1 on the charts. We look forward to honoring them with the Ted Albert Award at this year’s APRA Music Awards”.
The Ted Albert Award is one of the Australian music industry’s highest accolades, and is decided by the APRA board of writer and publisher directors.
In other APRA Music Awards news, the most performed international work has been awarded to global smash “As It Was” by Harry Styles, with co-writers Thomas Hull and Tyler Johnson). Universal Music Publishing and Concord Music Publishing are publishers.
Established in 1982, the Australasian Performing Right Association’s annual songwriters’ ceremony is one of the Australian music industry’s favorite events, a worthy counterpart to Britain’s Ivor Novello Awards.
The special moments in the APRAs program includes the performance of those song of the year nominees, often completely reimagined by another star from Australia’s music scene.
For more information visit the APRA website.