Monday, August 3, 2009

Men at Work -- "Who Can It Be Now?"

Who can it be knocking at my door? / Go away, don't come 'round here no more

Don't you even want to see who it is, Colin Hay? What if it's the ghost of Ed McMahon with a giant spectral check good for one thousand ghost-dollars? THEN WHAT?!?!

Can't you see that it's late at night? I'm very tired, and I'm not feeling right

Eminently reasonable argument for not wanting company. I'm sure if you just get the door and explain to your mystery visitor that you are a little under the weather they will gladly --

All I wish is to be alone / Stay away, don't you invade my home

Oh, I see. You're not just in a solitary mood, but are actually suffering from some kind of mental illness. My mistake.

Best off if you hang outside / Don't come in - I'll only run and hide

I'm having trouble deciding whether Colin Hay is trying to present a serious depiction of paranoid schizophrenia, or whether he is just trying to write a goofy song (remember, this is also the man who penned the eminently goofy "Down Under") that turns out more creepy than goofy.

More evidence for the "goofy" theory:
On the other hand, in the video, Colin seems to be doing his best to look insane, so I guess score one for "serious depiction of paranoid schizophrenia," although his insane face is kind of more clownish than actually mentally disturbed.

I actually searched around on the Internet a little for some kind of canonical interpretation of this song, and the closest thing I could find was a random message board post claiming that Colin Hay once said this song was about trying to avoid bill collectors who would come to his door. The other two predominant theories were "mental illness" and "excessive masturbation," which is probably just a subcategory of mental illness anyway.

Who can it be now?

People whom it could be:

The mailman
A friendly neighbor
"The man," come to take Colin Hay away (see lyric below)
Tony Danza
The friendly ghost of Ed McMahon
Colin Hay's mother
A kangaroo
The vengeful ghost of Ed McMahon, hungry for human flesh and/or great deals on quality publications such as "Boys' Life" and "Reader's Digest"*

* Apparently "Boys' Life" is meant for all boys, yet "Reader's Digest" is targeted at a specific reader, most likely Bob Burns of Windham, Conn.

Who can it be knocking at my door? / Make no sound, tip-toe across the floor

I'm bored.

If he hears, he'll knock all day / I'll be trapped, and here I'll have to stay

I thought it was late at night. Or did we skip ahead to a new visitor when we started the second verse? JUST ANSWER THE DOOR COLIN HAY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND --

I've done no harm, I keep to myself / There's nothing wrong with my state of mental health

I and this team of psychiatrists that I keep on call here at Awesomely Bad Lyrics (mostly for Lou Gramm-related purposes, but I find they are coming in handy more than I'd expected) would like to respectfully disagree.

I like it here with my childhood friend / Here they come, those feelings again!


Who can it be now?

In the one minute and thirty-two seconds since you started singing about this, whomever it was has almost certainly departed.

Is it the man come to take me away? / Why do they follow me? / It's not the future that I can see / It's just my fantasy

I think these lines combined with the whole "childhood friend" creep-xtravaganza offer fairly strong evidence that Colin Hay is (awkwardly and poorly) trying to write a song about someone who is suffering from serious mental illness.

On the other hand,


  1. At current exchange rates, 1 HGD (one ghost-dollar) = 1,000 USD, so it's actually quite a lot of money.

  2. too soon for Ed McMahon jokes?

  3. yup, just sitting here commenting on my own blog that nobody reads. tomorrow i'm going to go to a museum or something. seriously.

  4. Here's 1 reader. Good stuff.

  5. I always thought the line was "Here they come, those villains again" which is still ridic but makes slightly more sense (in the context of the song, at least).

  6. one of the proponents of the "excessive masturbation" theory mentioned supra posited that Colin Hay's "childhood friend" was actually his penis, which i found a bit farfetched. but then again this entire song is batshit insane, so who knows?

  7. I think you can overthink these things. That goes for everything in the '80's, pretty much.

  8. I'm of the opinion that most 80's songs have silly and/or incomprehensible lyrics. I listen to them not to hear something profound or logical but to cheer me up.

    Silly, weird or creepy lyrics aside - the music still kicks ass! And the hair, well, the hair speaks for itself.

  9. You are a funny analyzer of the bad songs, mister!