Split Enz

 Split Enz

 Tim Finn – circa 1980

 “Even if they listened to what I had to say / Nobody’d take me seriously anyway” – ‘Nobody Takes Me Seriously Anyway’ (Tim Finn)

This is weird.  As guitarist Phil Judd strums away, his hair flies off, revealing his head is shaved clean.  Although Judd is singing lead on this song, the act’s more familiar frontman, Tim Finn, stands to the side, tapping a tambourine.  His face has been painted white on the right side only.  Finn’s hair is sculpted into a sort of triple-spiked crown effect.  Next to Finn stands percussionist Noel Crombie, wearing a doleful expression, his own dark locks defying gravity in an upswept plume.  Crombie’s face is made up in alternating horizontal stripes of grey and white.  The band as a whole is decked out in clashing garments of glaring black and white.  The group is notorious for its extreme looks, but at this time those characteristics may be at their height (or should that be depth?).  The year is 1976.  New Zealand band Split Enz is performing a song called ‘Sweet Dreams’.  Despite this arresting promotional video, the song is not a hit.  1976 is not a good year for Split Enz.  “We’d lost a lot of spirit,” comments bass player Mike Chunn.

Brian Timothy Finn is born 25 June 1952 in the small town of Te Awamutu on the north island of New Zealand.  He is the son of Richard ‘Dick’ Finn and Mary Finn (nee Mullane).  Dick Finn is a farmer’s accountant.  Mary Finn emigrated from Ireland to New Zealand when she was 2.  They have three other children: two daughters – Carolyn and Judy – and a younger son, Neil Mullane Finn, born 27 May 1958 in Te Awamutu.  It is a Catholic household and, as a boy, Tim has vague ambitions to become a priest.  There are ‘parties in the family home, complete with wine and song and a Catholic priest in attendance.’  Mary Finn plays piano and sings but Dick Finn, although a music enthusiast, is tone deaf.  Tim receives piano lessons from a Catholic nun, but soon both Tim and Neil are taking piano lessons.  Neil begins playing guitar when he is 8.  Both boys attend a Catholic boarding school, Sacred Heart College in Auckland, the New Zealand capital (which is also on the north island).  Since Tim is older, he, of course, completes his time at Sacred Heart first.  Tim’s interest in music has expanded to British pop groups like The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Move.  In 1971 Tim Finn begins studying philosophy and politics for a Bachelor of Arts degree at Auckland University.

At Auckland University, Tim Finn becomes part of a circle of aspiring artists and musicians.  His friends include Mike Chunn (born Michael Jonathan Chunn on 8 June 1952 in London, England) and Phil Judd (born 20 March 1953 in Hastings, New Zealand).  “Phil and I already had an idea that we could work together,” explains Tim Finn.  “We’d done just a little bit of jamming.  It felt exciting…He came and moved into the flat and that was it.  We started writing.”

Tim Finn drops out of Auckland University in mid-1972.  Almost concurrently, he founds Split Ends (as it is originally spelled) in 1972.  The first line-up is: Tim Finn (vocals, piano), Phil Judd (guitar, vocals), Miles Golding (violin) (born 1951, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), Mike Howard (flute and wind instruments) and Mike Chunn (bass).  If the instruments played by this line-up sounds like an odd combination, it’s true.  The original Split Ends is ‘a light acoustic combo.’  Miles Golding has a background in classical music and influences the eccentric direction of the act.  It may be original, but it has rather limited appeal.  After adding drummer Div Vercoe in 1973, the group releases their first single, ‘For You’ backed with ‘Split Ends’, in February 1973 (though Vercoe only plays on the A side).  The single is issued on the Vertigo label.

After a short tour, Split Ends undergoes a membership reshuffle.  The revised 1973 line-up is: Tim Finn (vocals), Paul ‘Wally’ Wilkinson (guitar), Mike Chunn (bass) and Mike’s younger brother, Geoff Chunn (drums).  Phil Judd (guitar) temporarily drops out of the touring line-up, but soon resumes his place.  Rob Gillies (saxophone) is a more long-term part-time member of the band (1973-1974, 1976-1978).

Split Ends appears on ‘New Faces’, a New Zealand television talent quest, in 1973.  Mike Chunn suggests the program is “a means to get through to the public en masse.”  Split Ends places second last in the order of merit.  Watching at home in Te Awamutu, 14 year old Neil Finn is amazed at the poor result.  “To me, it seemed so obvious [how good they were].  I was going, ‘Am I alone here?’”

Another single follows in 1973, ‘Sweet Talkin’ Spoon Song’ (with Phil Judd playing spoons) b/w ‘129’ (a song the group will later rerecord as ‘Matinee Idyll (129)’).  Note: ‘129’ is Phil Judd and Rob Gillies’ room number at O’Rourke Hostel.

In 1974 Split Ends modify the name of the group to Split Enz.  This variant spelling may be to emphasise their zany qualities, but it also confirms their homeland loyalty since NZ is an abbreviation for New Zealand.

1974 brings two new members to the group: Eddie Rayner (keyboards) (born Anthony Edward Rayner, 19 November 1952) and Noel Crombie (percussion, costume design) (born Geoffrey Noel Crombie, 17 April 1953).  Eddie says of Split Enz, “I just thought it was mental (i.e. crazy) and I loved it.  And that was the end of me doing Yes and Genesis covers (a reference to a pair of British prog rock acts).”  Noel Crombie was a postal assistant and artist before joining Split Enz.  The addition of Noel Crombie accelerates the band’s move towards a more garishly theatrical presentation.  Mike Chunn recalls that, “Noel had a reputation even before I knew him [for] flowing suits of pink and white checks.”  “I just kind of saw the whole stage as a picture in a way,” says Crombie, “and it was good to have different focuses on the stage.  You’re not just watching the singer.”  Phil Judd expresses his consent for the costumes this way: “It was the appropriate sort of mask to hide behind, I guess.  It did seem to suit everybody.”  “He came in with this big, bulky suit-carrier and, like Pandora’s Box, all these suits flowed out,” is Mike Chunn’s description.  “We put them on and all fell about laughing.”

Split Enz embarks on a New Zealand tour of theatres, rather than pubs.  These ‘buck-a-head’ shows, sponsored by a radio station, are stagey exhibitions of the band’s exaggerated, harlequin-like showmanship.  The hairdos and make-up take on a larger-than-life dimension as well.  “Eddie [Rayner’s] Aunty did a tap dance routine [on stage with us],” Noel Crombie says, but it is impractical to take her everywhere with them.  “So that’s when the spoons came into it,” as Noel becomes famous (notorious?) for his spoon solo.

Drummer Geoff Chunn leaves Split Enz in June 1974.  His replacement in July 1974 is Emlyn Crowther (born Paul Emlyn Crowther, 2 October 1949, Dunedin, New Zealand).

In 1975 Split Enz release a new single, ‘No Bother To Me’ b/w ‘Home Sweet Home’.  Raewynn Turner becomes the lighting operator for Split Enz from 1975 to 1983.  She also becomes the romantic partner of keyboardist Eddie Rayner during that time.

In March 1975 Split Enz cross the Tasman Sea and set up a new base of operations in Australia.  They are somewhat misrepresented by a publicist’s claims that they are ‘New Zealand’s raunchiest rock ‘n’ roll band.’  “The whole theatrical thing seemed to not be acceptable in that environment [in Australia].  They were after a rock performance,” says Wally Wilkinson.  A nonplussed Eddie Rayner notes, “When we went on stage, we got booed off…That never happened in New Zealand.”  Still, the band’s self-confidence remains strong.  “Split Enz was always a complete obsession for me,” testifies Tim Finn.  “I knew we were going to be famous: There was this little voice in my head telling me.  We had complete arrogance.”

The bonds within Split Enz grow stronger.  Instead of going home to their individual abodes as they did in New Zealand, in Australia they are cramped into two hotel rooms.  This prompts an odd bonding ritual: Professionally, everyone in the group (except Phil Judd and Mike Chunn) uses their middle names instead of their first names.  The band’s drummer remembers it started when he shared his middle name and got this reaction: “Emlyn?  That’s unusual…ha, ha.”  Eddie Rayner says, “It’s the sort of thing you do when you’re in a very select club of people.  You change your name.”  So, it’s farewell to Brian Finn, Paul Wilkinson, Anthony Rayner, Geoffrey Crombie and Paul Crowther, and ‘hello’ to Tim Finn, Wally Wilkinson, Eddie Rayner, Noel Crombie and Emlyn Crowther.

After some initial confusion, “We developed a cult following [in Australia] almost immediately,” boasts Tim Finn.  The Australian band Skyhooks – who are not strangers to outrageous costumes – are early supporters.  Skyhooks are signed to Australia’s Mushroom Records and they help influence their manager (and Mushroom’s boss) Michael Gudinski to offer a recording contract to Split Enz.  “That was a big break for us,” says Tim Finn, “to be associated with Mushroom Records who, at the time, were just so strong, so cocky.”  Split Enz perform as a supporting act for international visitors Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Leo Sayer, Frank Zappa and Santana around this time – and most of them are reflected in the musical styles of the Kiwis.

In this early phase of their career Split Enz could be characterised as an art rock combo.  That’s the same sort of music practiced by acts like Genesis and Yes – the same bands whose music Eddie Rayner gave up when he joined Split Enz.  Obviously, the members of The Enz are a bit more individualistic, but they do share the same predilection for complex, semi-avant-garde time signatures and ambitious, poetic lyrics.  The art rock acts also have a fondness for costumes, albeit more like medieval minstrels than Split Enz’s unhinged circus clowns.

Most of the early Split Enz output is co-written by the team of Tim Finn and Phil Judd.  “I started out as the sort of songwriter that uses very obscure imagery,” admits Finn.  “I had no musical education,” says Judd, “no hang-ups about trying different things.”

‘Mental Notes’ (1975) (AUS no. 35) is the debut album by Split Enz.  It is released in July.  The cover painting, an exaggerated portrait of the band, is the work of guitarist Phil Judd.  The recording is co-produced by David Russell and Split Enz.  It includes their first Australian single, ‘Maybe’, as well as ‘Spellbound’.  Tim Finn describes ‘Mental Notes’ as “extremely flawed [but sounding] more and more unique [as time passes]…We’d made the record we wanted to make but I remember there was a lot of tension, a lot of nerves.”  ‘Mental Notes’ represents Split Enz ‘at its artiest and most ambitious.’

Split Enz gain a manager, John (Hoppy) Hopkins in 1975.  “Not long after Hopkins joined, the opportunity came up to travel to England,” says Wally Wilkinson.  Phil Manzanera, the guitarist from British group Roxy Music whom Split Enz supported on tour in Australia, takes a shine to the Kiwis and offers to produce their second album.  In November 1975 Wally Wilkinson is dismissed because, in his words, “The guys decided they’d like another guitarist.”  They don’t immediately hire anyone though.  Phil Judd becomes sole guitarist.

In April 1976 Split Enz arrive in the U.K.  Phil Manzanera arranges an overseas record deal, with their records to be distributed by Chrysalis.  However, things don’t go so well for the group in England.  “The punk thing just pretty much overnight went bang,” notes percussionist Noel Crombie.  The ‘punk thing’ is punk rock, the snarling aggression of bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash.  The punks view art rock as a scourge and reviews for Split Enz in England characterise them as the ‘dying gasp of art rock.’

‘Second Thoughts’ (1976) (AUS no. 25) is released in August.  Produced by Phil Manzanera, the disc includes reworkings of some earlier material.  For instance, ‘129’ resurfaces as ‘Matinee Idyll (129)’.  Amidst theatrical, swooping strings, Tim Finn’s quavering voice pipes, “The matinee idols / They all fall to their knees / It’s not all first nights at all / There’s nothing more dull than a curtain call.”  The Phil Judd solo composition ‘Late Last Night’ (AUS no. 93) was recorded in Australia before Split Enz departed.  “Read like a book / Surprised that you took / Your time / Dig that rhyme,” sings Tim Finn in the self-consciously clever lyrics to ‘Late Last Night’, a song that ‘shows the band moving toward a pop direction.’  The album also includes ‘Sweet Dreams’, the song with the bizarre video of the band in glaring black and white costumes.

In November 1976 drummer Emlyn Crowther exits Split Enz.  His replacement is Malcolm Green (born 25 January 1953 in England).

Early in 1977 Split Enz releases the one-off single ‘Another Great Divide’.  Produced by Phil Manzanera, this is co-written by Tim Finn, Eddie Rayner, Rob Gillies and Phil Judd.  Accompanied by lumbering synthesisers, the lyric asks, “How can I figure this equation / If multiplication’s the rule? / You keep on subtracting me from you / And it just doesn’t add up at all.”

“There was no writing going on,” admits Tim Finn.  “Phil and I were drifting apart.”  Early in 1977 Split Enz hazard a tour of the United States.  “It was hell,” is Phil Judd’s assessment.  “And of course that’s why I ended up scarpering.  I just couldn’t take anymore.”  “Phil lashed out and socked Tim on the jaw,” reports bassist Mike Chunn.  “In essence, [it was] a very sad sort of night.”  Tim’s view of the Finn-Judd partnership is that, “It was dangerously close to breaking up for a long time, but neither of us had articulated it.”  Phil Judd is not the only person leaving the band; Mike Chunn also calls it quits.  ‘I’d dabbled, unfortunately, with hallucinogenic drugs in the past.  I came out with an agoraphobia problem,” Chunn reveals.  “I needed to have a home and I never had one.  It was always a hotel room.”

Split Enz needs two new members.  Phil Judd’s replacement is Tim Finn’s younger brother, Neil Finn.  Neil is working as a hospital orderly and playing in a band called After Hours when he is asked to be part of his brother’s group.  He joins Split Enz on 7 April 1977.  The new bass player for Split Enz is, like drummer Malcolm Green, another Englishman:  Nigel Griggs (born 18 August 1949 in Hatfield, England).  Neil Finn arrives for a rehearsal at Chalk Farm in England and finds only Nigel.  The rest of the band is late so the two new boys bond in their mutual nervousness.

The creative balance of power within Split Enz shifts with the revised line-up.  Without Phil Judd, Tim Finn writes the bulk of the band’s material alone, taking greater creative control.  “Songs to me are like children,” says Tim.  “You write them and send them out to the world.  They are dear to you.”  Although Tim Finn is the primary songwriter, Neil Finn becomes the secondary songwriter for the band.  As time passes, Neil’s role in Split Enz expands.  He says, “I am very, very ambitious for my songs to be as great as they can be.”  Although Tim may be the nominal leader, he has to come to terms with his younger brother’s maturity and talent.

Things are changing in Tim Finn’s personal life as well.  In 1977 he begins dating English dancer Liz Malam.

‘Dizrhythmia’ (1977) (AUS no. 18) in August is the first album to feature Neil Finn, Nigel Griggs and Malcolm Green.  It is co-produced by Geoff Emerick and Split Enz.  The album title comes from the medical term for jet-lag, circadian dysrhythmia.  ‘My Mistake’ (AUS no. 15) is co-written by Tim Finn and Eddie Rayner.  “I went out to see if I could fall in love again / That was my mistake,” sings Tim Finn as though he is auditioning for a vaudeville show, an impression compounded by Eddie Rayner’s wandering, eccentric keyboards.  Rob Gillies co-writes the woozy ‘Bold As Brass’ with Tim and, appropriately, contributes saxophone and trumpet to the song.  Tim Finn’s ‘Charlie’ is also on this album.  The album ‘fails to make any significant impact in any market.’  Chrysalis drops Split Enz from their roster.

“We spent 1978 in England, getting nowhere and selling very few records,” notes Neil Finn.  “That dragged on for a whole year.  We ended up at the end of the year recording the ‘Frenzy’ album.”

By the start of 1979 Split Enz part ways with manager John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins and return to New Zealand.  “We sort of plunged into this void where we had no management, no record company, etc. etc,” sighs Tim Finn.  Phil Judd briefly rejoins Split Enz before deciding he just doesn’t fit with them anymore and departs for good.

‘Frenzy’ (1979) (AUS no. 24), released in February, is co-produced by Mallory Earl and Split Enz.  The surprising cover painting of the band in ordinary civilian clothes, standing in front of a tin shed, is the work of Raewynn Turner, Split Enz’s lighting director (and keyboardist Eddie Rayner’s partner).  Many of the songs on this album were worked out at a studio in Luton, England, in what the band and their fans refer to as the ‘rootin’, tootin’, Luton tapes.’  ‘Give It A Whirl’ is co-written by Tim and Neil Finn and features Neil Finn on lead vocals.  Neil’s voice has a similar range and tone to Tim.  The differences in their vocals are marked by the following characteristics.  Tim more often employs a higher, vibrato-laden voice and there is a certain artificial, intellectualised, stagey quality to his performance.  Neil’s voice is a bit grainier and more emotionally direct.  In their individual ways they are equally impressive.  ‘Give It A Whirl’ also displays Neil’s guitar playing to good effect, sounding like a wound-up spring.  This album is home to ‘Hermit McDermitt’ and ‘She Got Body, She Got Soul’, the latter covered by Jo Kennedy to good effect in the Australian movie ‘Starstruck’ (1982).  However, the most important song on ‘Frenzy’ is ‘I See Red’ (AUS no. 15).  Split Enz executes the number at a berserk speed, Neil Finn and Eddie Rayner contributing solos that barely avoid tipping into chaos.  The song’s author, Tim Finn, still manages to be witty as he sings, “Green before you met me / In the pink, would you let me love you? / I was blue when you let me down / Black and blue.”  ‘I See Red’ alone is produced by David Tickle.

A change in attitude is percolating through Split Enz.  “People had been calling us zany, wacky, weird for years,” says Tim Finn through gritted teeth,” and although I could see why they had, it annoyed me.  Those tags annoyed me because in our hearts we were songwriters and we wanted to be known as songwriters…We were deliberately stripping things back.  We were sick of the excesses of time changes, colour changes and all that.”  Originally, Split Enz was an art rock band in the vein of Roxy Music or Genesis.  When punk came along, they were clearly out of step with The Sex Pistols or The Clash.  Yet now, as new wave supplants punk, bringing with it quirkier and more individualistic acts, the resurgent, pared-down Split Enz sits comfortably alongside Devo or The B-52’s.  New manager Nathan Brenner also helps Split Enz achieve their goals.

‘True Colours’ (1980) (AUS no. 1, US no. 40, UK no. 41) in June is the best Split Enz album.  David Tickle produces this disc and imparts a clean, pop edge to the band’s sound.  It is still recognisably Split Enz, but the focus seems tighter and sharper.  Noel Crombie designs the album cover which spells out ‘ENZ’ from simple geometric shapes, accurately conveying the simplified approach at work within.  Initially, ‘True Colours’ is available in four colour schemes: yellow & blue, red & green, purple & yellow or blue & orange.  A black & white variant is produced for review copies given to the music press.  Later, an additional four colour combos are printed: lime green & pink, hot purple & burnt orange, gold & platinum (representing the levels of sales success) and blue & red.  ‘True Colours’ contains the greatest Split Enz song: Neil Finn’s ‘I Got You’ (AUS no. 1, US no. 53, UK no. 12).  A brooding, ticking, new wave verse bursts into a pure pop chorus that still has an uneasy, paranoid overtone: “I don’t’ know why sometimes I get frightened / You can see my eyes, you can tell that I’m not lyin’.”  ‘I Got You’ manages to balance experimentation with sturdy songwriting, pop with art, and so acts as an exemplar for Split Enz.  The fact that it comes from Neil Finn, rather than Tim Finn, has some consequential effects.  ‘Tim feels both happy and slightly jealous of Neil’s precociousness.’  The commercial success of the album and, in particular, ‘I Got You’ turns Neil into a pin-up for teenage girls.  “Neil does look very young and cute,” notes keyboardist Eddie Rayner.  Neil contributes two other songs to the album – ‘What’s The Matter With You?’ and ‘Missing Person’ – and Eddie Rayner offers the instrumental ‘Double Happy’.  The album closes with another instrumental, ‘The Choral Sea’, composed by the group.  The rest of the album belongs to Tim Finn.  ‘I Hope I Never’ (AUS no. 18) is a sad piano ballad, shaded by synthesisers.  ‘Shark Attack’, the album’s opener, is perhaps the quirkiest, the most like old school Split Enz, with Tim’s witty wordplay likening an unsuccessful romance to an oceanic predator: “There was slaughter in the water when I fought her / Shark attack!”  ‘Nobody Takes Me Seriously’ tackles the band’s zany image head on.  As Tim puts it in an interview, “With ‘True Colours’ we felt like we were being recognised purely for our ability to write good songs and that gave us the confidence to present ourselves more simply.  I mean, how can you communicate with an audience when you look like a parrot?”  ‘I Wouldn’t Dream Of It’ and ‘How Can I Resist Her’ are both new wave tunes sprinkled with ultra-modern keyboards.  Similar, but even better than this pair, is ‘Poor Boy’.  “My love is alien / I picked her up by chance / She speaks to me with ultra-high frequencies / A radio band of gold / Gonna listen till I grow old,” sings Tim in ‘Poor Boy’, the tale of “an interplanetary Romeo” accompanied by whooshing sci-fi sounds.  ‘True Colours’ is ‘without any doubt the best pop album they…had ever made.’  A & M Records picks up the option to release Split Enz’s work on the international market.

In January 1981 Tim Finn marries his girlfriend Liz Malam.

‘Waiata’ (1981) (AUS no. 1, US no. 45), in April, is the word for ‘celebration song’ used by the Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand.  The album is called ‘Waiata’ in every country except Australia where it is ‘Corroboree’, an Aboriginal word used by that land’s natives that has a similar meaning.  Noel Crombie’s cover design, with its earthy brown, black and white tones, causes some difficulty for Split Enz overseas.  Noel recalls the record executives saying, “Brown is the colour of s***.  You just can’t use brown,” so they change it to an ill-considered aquamarine.  David Tickle again acts as producer.  “It felt a bit like a formula,” claims Tim Finn.  “It’s always a temptation when you’ve had a successful record to go back and do the same thing again,” adds Neil Finn.  The Finn brothers’ assessment is a bit harsh.  Sure, as the opening track ‘Hard Act To Follow’ implies, creating a successor to ‘True Colours’ was always going to be a big ask, but ‘Waiata’ has its own charms.  Chief amongst its strengths are two Neil Finn songs, ‘One Step Ahead’ and ‘History Never Repeats’, titles that, again, hint of the strain involved in crafting this follow-up.  ‘One Step Ahead’ (AUS no. 5, US no. 104) is the more obvious attempt to recreate ‘I Got You’, but it’s still a high quality composition.  Over ominous clockwork, Neil sings in a hushed tone, “If I stop I could lose my head / So I’m losing you instead / Either way I’m confused.”  ‘History Never Repeats’ (AUS no. 4, UK no. 63) pairs a chiming, folk rock guitar figure with a wonky new wave sound to good effect.  “There was a girl I used to know / She dealt my love a savage blow / I was so young, too blind to see / But anyway, that’s history,” sings Neil with verve, optimism and self-confidence.  The best of Tim Finn’s offerings here is the sort of anti-disco of ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’ (AUS no. 65) and the quirkfest ‘Clumsy’.

Tim Finn’s marriage to Liz Malam collapses in October 1981 and the couple split after only nine months as husband and wife.  It’s been said that Tim then has a ‘nervous breakdown’.  That may be an exaggeration.  Certainly he experiences an understandable ‘period of depression.’

Drummer Malcolm Green bows out of Split Enz after the band’s performance at the Sweetwaters Festival in New Zealand in January 1982.  Percussionist Noel Crombie is asked to take over as drummer.  He says, “The finger was pointed and, ‘Oh, it’s your turn’ and I thought, ‘Ah (gasps), oh, okay’, so I just leapt into it.  I felt I could do it, but it was pretty scary.”  Bassist Nigel Griggs comments, “It was an extraordinary decision but we had this thing with Noel where whatever you give Noel to do, he does.  It doesn’t matter what it is.”

On 13 February 1982 Neil Finn marries Sharon Johnson.  They go on to have two sons: Liam (born 24 September 1983) and Elroy (born 1989).

‘Time And Tide’ (1982) (AUS no. 1, US no. 58, UK no. 71) is released in April.  This disc is co-produced by Hugh Padgham and Split Enz.  In the songs on this album, Tim Finn deals with his marital break-up.  However, a recurrent nautical motif stops the proceedings dipping into indulgent self-pity and also provides the album with a thematic unity.  Neil Finn observes that, “Tim had a personal triumph on that record ‘cos he came through a fairly dark period in his life and came out with some fantastic exorcisms in his lyrics.  Some very personal and intimate stuff.”  The plunging and swerving ‘Dirty Creature’ (AUS no. 6), co-credited to Tim, Neil and bassist Nigel Griggs, is, “The funkiest we ever got,” according to Tim.  With shuddering dread, Tim sings in this song, “Taniwha is waiting for me just below the surface so bright.”  Taniwha are ‘supernatural creatures from Maori legend, fabulous monsters that live in the deep, whose forms and characteristics vary according to different tribal traditions.’  Tastefully preceded by Eddie Rayner’s instrumental ‘Pioneer’, Tim Finn’s ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat’ (AUS no. 2, US no. 83, UK no. 104) is a sea-shanty analogy of a failing romance.  Tim waves off his travails with a hearty, “Ah, come on, all you lads / Let’s forget and forgive / There’s a world to explore / Tales to tell back on shore / I just spent six months in a leaky boat.”  The song is banned in the U.K. through no fault on the part of Split Enz.  It is thought it might be too distressing for the British audience due to the sinking of ‘The Sheffield’ on 10 May 1982 in Britain’s Falklands war with Argentina.  ‘Haul Away’ is Tim Finn at his most autobiographical, referencing his hometown and his parents by name.  Neil Finn’s best effort on this album may be ‘Hello Sandy Allen’, a shout out to the world’s tallest woman (seven feet, seven inches) whom the band met when they appeared on the same U.S. television talk show as her, ‘Tomorrow with Tom Snyder’.  ‘Never Ceases To Amaze Me’ (AUS no. 50) also comes from this album.  ‘Time And Tide’ is viewed as ‘their most personal and creatively satisfying album.’

In late 1982 there is the one-off single ‘Next Exit’ (AUS no. 47).

Tim Finn next takes time out to record a solo album, ‘Escapade’ (1983) (AUS no. 8, US no. 161).  It proves quite successful and spawns the singles ‘Fraction Too Much Friction’ (AUS no. 8), ‘Made My Day’ (AUS no. 22) and ‘Staring At The Embers’ (AUS no. 34).  Tim’s newly buoyant state of mind coincides with his romance with actress Greta Scacchi from 1983 to 1989.

‘Conflicting Emotions’ (1983) (AUS no. 13, US no. 187) in November is the next Split Enz album.  The title accurately reflects the band’s attitude.  “It felt like Tim [Finn] was having a fling…and then came back to his marriage with the band,” says Eddie Rayner.  “Certainly we had a different sort of balance,” notes Nigel Griggs.  “Where Tim would normally have two-thirds of the songs, [on this album] Neil had all the songs.”  Hugh Padgham again serves as co-producer.  The best known songs from this set both belong to Neil Finn.  ‘Strait Old Line’ (AUS no. 42) is a brittle pop number, but the glowing “New Year’s resolution” of ‘Message To My Girl’ (AUS no. 6) is a heart-warming triumph.  Yet Neil says of ‘Conflicting Emotions’, “I don’t think it’s a very clear album, or a very definite album, and I think that’s why it hasn’t sold too well…It was my fault as much as anybody’s.  I had as little clue as anybody what we were doing on that album.”  Noel Crombie offers this summary: “We lost focus.”

Ironically, it is Noel Crombie who is the first to feel the band’s desire for change.  In 1984 he is restored to the role of percussionist and a new drummer is brought into Split Enz.  Paul Newell Hester (8 January 1959 – 26 March 2005) gets the gig.  “With Paul Hester coming in on drums, we’ll have much more power in the rhythm section,” predicts Neil Finn.  Hester previously worked in Australian band The Cheks.  “He injected something into [Split Enz] when it was almost dead really,” states Nigel Griggs.

A bigger change for Split Enz comes as work begins on their next album.  “We were rehearsing at Tim [Finn’s] place,” explains his brother Neil, “and Tim seemed really distracted, like he was not into it.”  Paul Hester recalls, “Eventually Tim said, ‘I don’t want to do this.  I want to go and do something else.’”  In June 1984 Tim Finn leaves Split Enz.

Split Enz carries on and records their ninth album.  “I think part of the reason we decided to stay together was we were just angry with Tim [Finn],” suggests Neil Finn.  “There was a certain stubbornness and perversity.”

Six weeks after Tim Finn leaves, Neil Finn also decides to call it quits.  “The idea of being in Split Enz without Tim, I just couldn’t face it, really,” says Neil.  “I’d watched him start the band with Phil [Judd}…It just seemed too weird…It didn’t seem right.”  Without either of the Finn brothers, it seems obvious that it’s the end of Split Enz.  “When Neil decided that he wanted to leave, reality hit home to me,” says Eddie Rayner.  “It took me quite a while to get over it.”

‘See Ya Round’ (1984) (AUS no. 24), released in November, is co-produced by Jim Barton and Split Enz.  It features Neil Finn’s prophetic ‘I Walk Away’ (AUS no. 45), a song of sadness, but also resolve.

Rather than go out with a whimper, a decision is made to undertake a final tour, ‘Enz with a Bang’.  Not only is Neil Finn on board, but Tim Finn is talked into joining them to properly bid farewell to their fans.  “A magnificent tour I felt,” is Tim’s assessment.

Spit Enz never reunite – at least, not on a permanent basis.  There are many reunion shows and tours, but they are always temporary arrangements.  Split Enz get together in 1986 (twice), 1989, 1989-1990, 1992 (twice), 1993, 1996, 1999 (twice), 2002 (three times – it’s the band’s thirtieth anniversary), 2005, and 2007-2008.  On the 2007-2008 tour Michael Barker (born 1966, Rotorua, New Zealand) plays drums.

After Split Enz, the various members keep busy with a number of projects that achieve varying levels of success.

Following ‘Escapade’ (1983) (AUS no. 8, US no. 161), Tim Finn records a series of solo albums: ‘Big Canoe’ (1986) (AUS no. 31), ‘Tim Finn’ (1989) (AUS no. 44), ‘Before & After’ (1993) (AUS no. 34, UK no. 29), ‘Say It Is So’ (1999), ‘Feeding The Gods’ (2001), ‘Imaginary Kingdom’ (2006), ‘The Conversation’ (2008) and ‘The View Is Worth The Climb’ (2011).  Perhaps the most notable single, aside from the trio on ‘Escapade’, is 1989’s ‘How’m I Gonna Sleep’ (AUS no. 24).  Tim Finn marries television presenter Marie Azcona in 1997.  They have two children: a son named Harper (born 24 February 1998) and a daughter named Elliott or ‘Ellie’ (born 2003).

The most successful of the post-Split Enz projects is probably Neil Finn’s new band, Crowded House.  After debuting in 1985 and briefly using the name The Mullanes, the act goes on to become Crowded House.  Joining Neil Finn is fellow Split Enz alumnus Paul Hester (from 1985 to 1996) and bassist Nick Seymour (from 1985).  Craig Hooper plays keyboards with The Mullanes in 1985, but Eddie Rayner (from Split Enz) serves as an unofficial fourth member circa 1987.  Other latter day Crowded House members are Tim Finn (1991), Mark Hart (guitar) (from 1993) and Matt Sherrod (drums) (from 2007).  Crowded House release the following albums: ‘Crowded House’ (1986) (AUS no. 1, US no. 12, UK no. 99), ‘Temple Of Low Men’ (1988) (AUS no. 1, US no. 40, UK no. 138), ‘Woodface’ (1991) (AUS no. 2, US no. 83, UK no. 6), ‘Together Alone’ (1993) (AUS no. 2, US no. 73), ‘Time On Earth’ (2007) (AUS no. 1, US no. 46, UK no. 3) and ‘Intriguer’ (2010) (AUS no. 1, US no. 50, UK no. 12).  Some of their most famous songs are 1986’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ (AUS no. 8, US no. 2, UK no. 27), 1988’s ‘Better Be Home Soon’ (AUS no. 2, US no. 42) and 1991’s ‘It’s Only Natural’ (AUS no. 15, UK no. 24).

Paul Hester commits suicide on 26 March 2005, hanging himself from a tree in a park.  He is survived by his estranged wife, Mardi Sommerfield, and their two daughters, Olive and Sunday, who were 4 and 10 at the time of his death.  Hester had been together with his new girlfriend, Kashan Vincent, for thirty-two months when he died.

Tim Finn and Neil Finn release two albums together as The Finn Brothers: ‘Finn’ (1995) (UK no. 15) and ‘Everyone Is Here’ (2004) (AUS no. 2, UK no. 8).

Neil Finn records a number of solo albums: ‘Try Whistling This’ (1998) (AUS no. 1, UK no. 5), ‘Sessions At West 54th’ (2000), ‘One Nil’ (2001) (AUS no. 9, UK no. 14), ‘7 Worlds Collide’ (2002) (UK no. 140), ‘The Sun Came Out’ (2009) (AUS no. 39, UK no. 58), ‘Goin’ Your Way’ (with Paul Kelly) (2013) (AUS no. 5) and ‘Dizzy Heights’ (2014) (AUS no. 6, UK no. 22).

Pajama Club in 2011 is a side-project for Neil Finn.  He collaborates with Sean Donnelly (vocals, guitar), Neil’s wife, Sharon Finn (bass) and Alana Skyring (drums).  Their only album is ‘Pajama Club’ (2011) (AUS no. 61).

Phil Judd forms The Swingers (1979-March 1982).  Phil is lead singer and guitarist for most of the band’s life.  Other members of The Swingers are: Dwayne ‘Bones’ Hillman (real name: Wayne Stevens) (bass) (1979-1982), Buster Stiggs (real name: Mark Hough) (drums) (1979-1980), Ian Gilroy (drums) (1980-1982) and Andrew Snoid (real name: Andrew McLennan) (vocals) (1981-1982).  The Swingers score a very successful hit with the addictive ‘Counting The Beat’ (AUS no. 1) in 1981 and follow it the same year with the less successful ‘It Ain’t What You Dance, It’s The Way That You Dance It’ (AUS no. 43).  The Swingers issue just one album, ‘Practical Jokers’ (1981) (AUS no. 70).

Phil Judd goes on to form a new outfit called Schnell Fenster (1986-1992).  The name means ‘fast window’ in German.  Three quarters of the band are former members of Split Enz.  Joining Judd is Michael Den Elzen (guitar, keyboards), Nigel Griggs (bass) and Noel Crombie (drums).  Schnell Fenster issue two albums: ‘The Sound Of Trees’ (1986) (AUS no. 70) and ‘OK Alright A Huh Oh Yeah’ (1990).

Phil Judd has an ex-wife and a son (born 2004).

Noel Crombie has a wife, Sally, and two daughters: Hedwig and Griselda.

The Makers (1988-1992) is a duo consisting of Brian Baker (vocals) and Eddie Rayner (keyboards).  They release two albums, ‘The Makers’ (1990) and ‘Hokey Pokey’ (1992), but fail to achieve any great success.

Citizen Band (1978-1982) is a project featuring the brothers Geoff Chunn (vocals, guitar) and Mike Chunn (bass).  Geoff played drums in Split Enz (1973-1974) while Mike played bass (1972-1977).  Citizen Band release the albums ‘Citizen Band’ (1978), ‘Just Drove Through Town’ (1979), ‘CB Bootleg (Live)’ (1980) and ‘Rust In My Car’ (1983) – but none of them make much headway.

When they formed in 1972, Split Enz looked like little more than long-haired University students.  With a mix of make-up, extreme hairstyles and gaudy garments, they quickly assumed a more distinctive appearance.  Their ever more outré ensembles were most startling around 1976…just in time for them to be out of synch with the punk movement that overturned the dominance of art rock, the genre through which the kooky Kiwis had ascended.  Subsequently, Split Enz’s costuming toned down just enough for them to meet the emergent new wave half-way.  By the time of the publicity photographs for ‘Time And Tide’, the members of the band looked like any average bunch of young men – even if, on stage, they still favoured a bit more colourful attire.  The outfits worn by Split Enz may have been fun, but they were only window-dressing for the solid songwriting skills underpinning the band’s recordings.  Early influences like The Beatles and The Kinks informed the compositions of Tim Finn, Neil Finn and the rest of the group.  Tim Finn concluded, “For all the ups and downs, there was a tremendous feeling from it always.”  This is a sentiment echoed by all Split Enz fans.  Split Enz was ‘a talented, multi-faceted group with a long-term commitment to growth and change.’  They ‘always seemed slightly outside of the times, but in the end, they left behind a body of work that was always interesting and often reached pure pop brilliance.’

Sources:

  1. lyricsfreak.com as at 21 April 2014
  2. wikipedia.org as at 10 March 2014
  3. youtube.com as at 24 April 2014
  4. ‘Spellbound’ video documentary directed by Kerry Brown & Bruce Sheridan, script and interviews by Bruce Sheridan, narration by Sam Neill (1993)
  5. Internet movie database imdb.com as at 26 April 2014
  6. ‘That’s What I Call Finn’ by Stefan Warnquist (October 2009) (reproduced on oocities.org/thatsfinn/timfinnbio.html)
  7. allmusic.com, ‘ Split Enz’ by Chris Woodstra as at 31 August 2001
  8. radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/enzology by Jeremy Ansell as at 24 April 2014
  9. ‘The Big Australian Rock Book’, ‘Split Enz’ by Bruce Elder, ‘Tim Finn’ by Ed St John (Megabooks, 1985) p. 62, 63, 104
  10. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 112, 152
  11. milesago.com as at 24 April 2014
  12. whosdatedwho.com as at 24 April 2014
  13. ‘Split Enz Story’ by Kerry Doole (1 April 2013) (reproduced on audioculture.co.nz)
  14. ‘Pink and Blue, What’s it to You?’ by Leah Morrigan (22 September 2011) (leahmorrigan.wordpress.com)
  15. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 201
  16. ‘The Encyclopedia of New Zealand’ by Basil Keane (22 September 2012) (teara.govt.nz)

Song lyrics copyright Aust.Comps. Mushroom

Last revised 18 May 2014

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