Men at Work lead singer Colin Hay wrote this song with the band's keyboard player Greg Ham. In our interview with Hay, he said: "It was a song written from the standpoint of a 9-year-old boy. His parents are constantly telling him to be good and he feels like he understands some things but is completely misunderstood by the adult world, which I think a lot of people feel."
This was one of the first releases from Men at Work. A #8 hit in their native Australia, it showed up as a promotional single in America in 1981, but there wasn't much to promote, since the Business As Usual album didn't appear until 1982. "Who Can It Be Now?" and "Down Under" became huge hits, but "Be Good Johnny" wasn't released as a commercial single, so it didn't chart.
Like most Men at Work videos, "Be Good Johnny" was done on the cheap and kept quirky. This one follows Johnny on a series of adventures as he causes mischief to varying degrees. It did well on MTV, even though American audiences were a little baffled by the type of football Johnny's father asks him to play.
Phiilp from Beer Town, Withe harmony of the drums, keyboards and singing on this song are great. as one who daydreamed in school and passed on football despite my talent, i can relate to the lyrics.
Saff from Melbourne, AustraliaHe's gay? So the explanation from the song writer himself is not enough for you that you have to decide that the song is about a boy who is gay. I think sometimes people read waaaaay too much in song lyrics, probably more than the song writers ever meant them to mean.
Joshua from Houston, TxI think the subtext of this song obviously is that our boy Johnny is not like most of the other boys in that he's gay. Think about it--"Are you going to play football this year, John?" "No!" and "So, tell me, what kind of boy are you, John?" "You sure are a funny kid, John, but I like you!"
Dave from Liverpool, United Kingdom"Are you going to play football this year, John?" "No!" "Oh, well you must be going to play cricket this year then, are you Johnny?"