Men Without Hats is a Canadian new wave group from Montreal, Quebec. Their music is characterized by the distinctive baritone voice of their lead singer Ivan Doroschuk as well as their elaborate use of synthesizers and electronic processing. They achieved their greatest popularity in the early to mid-1980s with their most successful single, "The Safety Dance", a Top 10 hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as other countries including South Africa. Their other big success was the 1987 hit, "Pop Goes the World".
Men Without Hats initially consisted of Ivan Doroschuk (vocals, keyboards) and Jeremie Arrobas (keyboards & electronics), as well as Ivan's brother Stefan (guitars), with various other members joining and leaving the group, including a third Doroschuk brother, Colin (electronics). The band was founded in 1977 in Montreal and would undergo numerous personnel changes through the rest of the decade with Stefan, Colin, and Arrobas as the only relative constants joining Ivan. The name came about because Ivan and his two brothers, following the self-described principle of "style before comfort", refused to wear hats during Montreal's cold winters, calling themselves "the men without hats." (A popular but apocryphal tale is that an announcer at an early gig misread the band's name as "Men Without Pants.")
Their first release was the EP Folk of the 80's, released in 1980. At this point, the band officially consisted of Ivan Doroschuk and Jeremie Arrobas; also appearing on the EP were auxiliary members Stefan Doroschuk (bass), Roman Martyn (guitars) and Lynne Thibodeau (backing vocals).
Shortly after the release of the EP, Martyn left and was replaced by Jean-Marc Pisapia, who would later found The Box. Pisapia stayed only a short time before leaving; he was replaced briefly by Tracy Howe, who also left in short order, co-founding Rational Youth shortly after his departure. Howe was around at just the right time to be credited on a reprint of Folk of the 80's, but didn't actually play on it.
Howe's interim replacement, Daniel Wheeler, spent a short time as the group's percussionist, before departing for a brief, but successful, career in United States state politics after being elected to the State of South Dakota School Board. Mike Gabriel also joined Men Without Hats around this time of constant membership turnover and by 1982 both Arrobas and Gabriel would leave to work with Pisapia in a new (pre-The Box) band, before eventually forming their own group, Isinglass.
Ivan and Stefan Doroschuk (now promoted to full membership status) subsequently recruited Allan McCarthy (percussion, electronics) to join the group, and recorded their 1982 debut album Rhythm of Youth. The band subsequently enjoyed a hit in Canada with "The Safety Dance", which peaked at No. 11 in May 1983. Soon after, the trio erupted onto the international scene when "The Safety Dance" spent four weeks at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also a major hit in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 6, and reached the top ten in various European countries. The song also peaked at No. 2 in New Zealand, and was rated the eleventh biggest selling single of the year in South Africa in 1983.
Adding Colin Doroschuk (who had guested on Rhythm Of Youth) as an official fourth member, Men Without Hats released the album Folk of the 80's (Part III) in 1984. While lead single "Where Do The Boys Go?" was a top 40 hit in Canada, the album failed to match the international success of Rhythm of Youth.
In 1985, the band released the EP Freeways, consisting of multiple (and multi-lingual) remixes of one of their earliest efforts, Ivan Doroschuk and Jeremie Arrobas's 1980 "Freeways". To support the EP, the group undertook a related tour, footage from which would later (in 2006) be released on DVD as Live Hats.
Reshuffling the line-up again, the band released the album Pop Goes the World in 1987 with Ivan, Stefan and Lenny Pinkas. The album's title track reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 2 on the Canadian Singles Chart, and was No. 1 in Austria. The song was also featured in the 1987 film Date with an Angel and became the fifteenth biggest selling single in South Africa for 1988. The touring band added Bruce Murphy on keyboards and guitar, Marika Tjelios on bass, Richard Sampson on drums, and Heidi Garcia on vocals and keyboards.
Their next album, The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century, released in 1989, featured a cover of ABBA's song "SOS". The musicians on the album were essentially the touring band from Pop Goes the World. Their 1991 album Sideways, dominated by processed electric guitars instead of keyboards, revealed a dramatically different sound for the band due to synthpop falling out of style. The album failed to attract an American label, despite the group's efforts to convince their own record label. Soon after this career setback, the band officially disbanded, although Ivan Doroschuk and keyboardist Bruce Murphy would record several demos in 1993, for a concept album tentatively titled 'UFO's are Real', which was never released.
Break-up and reformation
In 1995, former band member Allan McCarthy died due to AIDS complications. Lead singer Ivan Doroschuk released a solo album, The Spell, in 2000. Stefan and Mack MacKenzie (of 3 O'Clock Train) released Ride of Glory, a post-modern Western-themed CD. Stefan and Ivan Doroschuk later regrouped in 2003 to release the album No Hats Beyond This Point.
On September 24, 2010, Ivan reformed Men Without Hats, with three hired backup musicians, and appeared at the Rifflandia Music Festival in Victoria, British Columbia, performing ten songs from the Men Without Hats back catalogue. The Ivan-fronted band (described by the Austin American-Statesman as "simply singer Ivan Doroschuk and some hired guns" and by Stefan as a "tribute band") began the "Dance If You Want Tour 2011" with a well-attended and positively received performance at Austin's South by Southwest event in March, 2011. At the North by Northeast festival in Toronto on June 18, Ivan announced that Men Without Hats would be releasing a new studio album, and that it would be entitled "Folk of the 80s: Part IV". On June 19, 2011 he played at the Festival "Sound of Music" in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. On March 6, 2012, the band announced via Facebook that their album would be called Love in the Age of War and be released in May of that year. The album was released in June 2012 and received mostly favorable reviews.
In 2013, Men Without Hats toured around the U.S. as part of the 80's themed Regeneration Tour with other acts such as Howard Jones, Andy Bell of Erasure, and Berlin.
Rhythm of Youth (1982)
Folk of the 80's (Part III) (1984)
Pop Goes the World (1987)
The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century (1989)
No Hats Beyond This Point (2003)
Love in the Age of War (2012)
Folk of the 80's (1980)
Greatest Hats (1997)
The Very Best of Men Without Hats (1998)
My Hats Collection (2006)
The Silver Collection (plus bonus DVD) (2008)
"The Safety Dance"
"Where Do the Boys Go?"
"Pop Goes the World"
"In the 21st Century"
Live Hats (2006)
The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century featured a cover of ABBA's "SOS"
Sideways featured a cover of The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" (subtitled "'No You're Not', Said Little Nicola").
The Collection and Greatest Hats compilations featured a cover of Roxy Music's "Editions of You"
The Montreal-based punk band, The Nils, performed a cover of "Pop Goes The World" on their compilation release, Green Fields in Daylight.
Culture of Quebec
List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
List of number-one dance hits (United States)
List of Quebec musicians
Music of Quebec
Lazlo's Discography Machine: Men Without Hats
Jeremie Arrobas official site
2012 interview for Innerviews