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April 28, 2011 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Split Enz were to New Zealand what the Beatles were to the UK, and like the fabs their legacy is impressive: an endlessly entertaining back-catalogue and some inspiring solo and band offshoots. One of these, Crowded House, captured more of the world's attention, but few in New Zealand would question the priority of the Enz. Which must be why, in 2007, Radio New Zealand made an eight-hour documentary series split over ten podcasts about their fascinating journey from art-folk-classical-prog to New Wave pop mastery: Enzology is essential listening for any Split Enz fan, featuring "excerpts from all the hits and numerous album tracks, plus previously unreleased demos, live recordings and studio out-takes gathered from the band members' personal archives and elsewhere".

Bonus Enz history: Mike Chunn's band biography Stranger Than Fiction, online in its entirety with the author's blessing (via the fount of all Enzdom, frenz.com).
posted by rory (63 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
omigodomigodomigodomigod!!!! *swoons* *passes out* *revives*

Neil Finn is my all-time longest-standing crush (beating Paul Weller by about a year) and Split Enz is on the short list of bands that quite literally changed my life. Thank you so much for the Enzology link. This is AWESOME.
posted by scody at 5:25 PM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a casual fan, I had no idea the documentary was out there. Thanks for the pointer!
posted by immlass at 5:26 PM on April 28, 2011


This was the sound track to one memorable 80's romance...what a hook...sigh.
posted by telstar at 5:28 PM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Split Enz were to New Zealand what the Beatles were to the UK

I like Split Enz, but that's pushing it.
posted by jonmc at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The first time I heard 'Six Months In A Leaky Boat' was on a Ted Leo album. I assumed it was a song he'd written about the Bush administration.

I've seen Crowded House and the various Finns at festivals. Marvelous songwriters.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:37 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


~Drags-out his laser-etched copy of True Colors. Smiles.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:40 PM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sorry...Colours...
posted by Thorzdad at 5:41 PM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


jonmc: "Split Enz were to New Zealand what the Beatles were to the UK

I like Split Enz, but that's pushing it.
"

Well, they were a hard act to follow.
posted by bwg at 5:41 PM on April 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


Advice for listening on a Mac? They're encoded in this barbaric .asf format.
posted by Scoo at 5:53 PM on April 28, 2011


Well, they were a hard act to follow.

bwg beat me to it.

If you ever find yourself in Te Awamutu, you can go to the Finn Brothers exhibit at the local museum and see where Neil himself, at the age of about 8, wrote in a school essay that his favorite Beatle was Paul and he wanted to grow up to be a musician just like him.

And yes, I did fall to my knees squealing when I saw that, why do you ask? (And yes, the ladies supervising the exhibit and my friends who accompanied me on my pilgrimage did laugh hysterically at my near-constant state of hysteria throughout the whole thing. "LOOK! Neil's costume from 'History Never Repeats'! LOOK! Tim's report from his piano teacher! LOOK! Neil's homesick letters from the states to his mum! EEEEEEEEEEE!")
posted by scody at 5:53 PM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanx, rory, great post.

And there go my plans for serious housework and study for the day...
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2011


OK scratch that, found the podcast link.
posted by Scoo at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2011


I like Split Enz, but that's pushing it.

Only if you're from a country that thinks of them as a one-hit wonder. (You'll notice I didn't link to that one hit.)

This general NZ history website calls them "something akin to New Zealand rock royalty", which is true (with some of the local backlash that implies). They're not far short of it in Australia, either.

The post title, by the way, is from the beginning of episode 3 of the podcast. A radio interviewer in 1975-76 asks Tim Finn "how would you describe your music?" and he replies...
posted by rory at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2011


Podcast link full of delicious mp3 files, for those who want them.
posted by hippybear at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2011


Oh, awesome. True Colours was my first ever album. Man, I love Split Enz.
posted by gaspode at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fantastic. I've seen the Finn brothers in various iterations more times than I can count; this is terrific. Hours of goodness ahead!
posted by OolooKitty at 6:14 PM on April 28, 2011


Neil Finn is a genius and very possbily McCartney-level good.

And if you disagree, you are a butthole.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:22 PM on April 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


gaspode, me too! And yes, the laser etched version. I loves me some Finns.
posted by Malla at 6:35 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neil Finn is a genius and very possbily McCartney-level good.

I don't know either of them except via their work, but it's always seemed an odd dynamic between those two brothers, and I've often wondered what is going on.

I've always imagined it as Neil is the creative but cautious genius, but Tim has a smambolic wild energy that the physically smaller Neil doesn't feel he has. That on his own Neil writes beautiful gentle songs, but aspires to create wild electrifying rock, and to do this he turns to his brother for help, but that more often than not it just results in a sludge that simply doesn't compare to the work Neil does without Tim.
posted by compound eye at 6:54 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


As someone who finds that particular band from Liverpool quite overrated, I'm finding their intrusion into this Split Enz thread fairly tedious. Of course it was the OP who unfortunately first mentioned them via comparison, right at the start of his intro.

Let's just celebrate the Enz by themselves, without tedious shallow comparisons.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 6:56 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great post, thank you! Split Enz gave me the best angry song ever.

Worth checking out: orchestral versions of Split Enz songs on the album Enzso (e.g. Stuff and Nonsense)

Neil Finn also had a set of funny cameos on the BBC Radio version of Flight of the Conchords. Murray keeps phoning him up to get advice on managing the band - and Neil has no idea how he got the number and becomes increasingly annoyed at the constant intrusions.
posted by Paragon at 6:57 PM on April 28, 2011


You'd better not listen to the first episode of the podcast, Pranksome, because the Enz themselves worshipped them. The comparison was just to indicate how large Split Enz loomed in NZ music history. There are other parallels between them, of course, but the differences are just as fascinating.
posted by rory at 7:05 PM on April 28, 2011


A great story from a previous thread:
My favourite Finn story happens when Neil has to call Tom York about an industry event a few years ago. The record company gives Neil Tom's mobile number. Neil calls Tom hesistantly, OK Computer had just broken and Radiohead were world famous. Tom answers the call and Neil introduces himself; then Tom can be heard in the background saying "holy fuck, it's Neil Finn".
posted by Paragon at 7:12 PM on April 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Best Split Enz cover ever, featuring Tim Finn himself.

My kid wonders why this was my favorite Wiggles track.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:18 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I first saw Split Enz doing "One Step Ahead" on American Bandstand (?) around 1980.

Tim Finn's cameo and Coca-Cola jingle from The Coca-Cola Kid (with Paul Hester on drums). "You got life by the throat when you're drinkin' Coke." And according to Wikipedia, "after becoming romantically involved with the movie's leading lady, Greta Scacchi, [Tim] left the band and went solo." OMG! Greta Scacchi's the Yoko of Split Enz!
Also, Hottest. Santa. Ever.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:19 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


In college (which was about 10 years ago at this point) one of my hallmates came into my room and glanced at my CDs and said mockingly "You have the Crowded House CD!"

I didn't look up from what I was doing and said "I have all the Crowded House CDs."

I like plenty of Split Enz (I was listening to them today) and some Tim Finn, but Neil Finn and I will always be one.

(I have enjoyed Liam Finn's music -- I've also seen him perform live and he's great.)

Both Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and Rhys Darby have given their children the name of "Finn" (in Maines' case, it was a middle name. In Darby's case, it was his son's first name. Clearly, if you're so awesome that people are naming their kids after you ...)

I love the Finns. I always will.
posted by darksong at 7:50 PM on April 28, 2011


who were new zealand's rolling stones?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The last word in dazzle laser-etched vinyl.
posted by ovvl at 8:55 PM on April 28, 2011


I didn't get a chance to see Split Enz live, but in my opinion, Neil Finn is hands down one of the best live performers out there.
posted by davidng at 8:57 PM on April 28, 2011


who were new zealand's rolling stones?
Hello Sailor would be in the mix for that honour.
posted by vac2003 at 8:58 PM on April 28, 2011


who were new zealand's rolling stones?

The Clean.
posted by mykescipark at 9:20 PM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, some of the most beautiful music ever recorded, by Rhett Davies and Phil Manzanera.

In the past, I once went by a record shop in a suburban mall in Canada that had a dozen copies of pink-edition 'Mental Notes' for sale.... I should have bought them all, in retrospect...
posted by ovvl at 9:20 PM on April 28, 2011


Split Enz is New Zealand's Kinks; Crowded House is New Zealand's Beatles.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:38 PM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that both Australia and New Zealand fervently lay claim to Crowded House. Not that I blame them.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:08 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always imagined it as Neil is the creative but cautious genius, but Tim has a smambolic wild energy that the physically smaller Neil doesn't feel he has. That on his own Neil writes beautiful gentle songs, but aspires to create wild electrifying rock, and to do this he turns to his brother for help, but that more often than not it just results in a sludge that simply doesn't compare to the work Neil does without Tim.

Yep. That's pretty much it.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:26 PM on April 28, 2011


It's interesting to see so many comparisons to The Beatles, and McCartney in particular, especially in light of this (possibly apocryphal) story:

McCartney, when asked by an interviewer "What's it like to be the world's greatest pop song writer?" replied:

"I don't know, you'd better ask Neil Finn."

I had the pleasure of seeing a Neil Finn solo gig here in L.A. a few weeks ago, and he was terrific. (as a matter of fact, my housemate spent most of February in NZ producing a new Crowded House project which is being shopped, so there may be more goodness ahead)
posted by ShutterBun at 10:41 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had the pleasure of seeing a Neil Finn solo gig here in L.A. a few weeks ago, and he was terrific. (as a matter of fact, my housemate spent most of February in NZ producing a new Crowded House project which is being shopped, so there may be more goodness ahead)

at the El Rey? I was there! Great show. Neil's marvelous in any incarnation, of course (not to get all rainbows and unicorns about it, but I think he's basically magical), but it was such a treat to get to see him solo -- I hadn't seen him just on his own for ages.

Also, please come to an L.A. meetup and bring your housemate so that I may touch the hem of his garment.

posted by scody at 11:16 PM on April 28, 2011


Squee!

That is all.
posted by desuetude at 11:27 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, please come to an L.A. meetup and bring your housemate so that I may touch the hem of his garment

Haha! I just passed this along, and he's having his garment re-hemmed just for the occasion.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:46 PM on April 28, 2011


who were new zealand's rolling stones?

Hello Sailor would be in the mix for that honour.



Nah, they were too good for that. Snotty middle-class kids who think they're better than they are? Gotta be Dragon.
posted by rodgerd at 11:53 PM on April 28, 2011


So who were NZ's Small Faces? (I keep wanting to say the Swingers, but they don't really quite fit...)
posted by scody at 11:59 PM on April 28, 2011


Metafilter Never Ceases To Amaze Me!
posted by kimota at 11:59 PM on April 28, 2011


Tim's hair never ceases to amaze me...
posted by scody at 12:02 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Clean aren't New Zealand's anybody; it's the other way round: Pavement are the USA's Clean...

If I'm pushed then the Clean are the Velvet Underground. Chris Knox (slightly confusingly) is Lou Reed.

In this model, who were DD Smash?
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:34 AM on April 29, 2011


Oh wow, this is fantastic. I remember seeing Split Enz at one of the Sunday afternoon gigs at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm in about 1977 and have been a fan for half my lifetime.
posted by essexjan at 1:27 AM on April 29, 2011


I dunno about all this 'Split Enz are the Beatles of NZ' business. I mean I'm sure the Beatles were very good in their own way, but to put them up against 'I Got You' or 'Six Months in A Leaky Boat' or 'One Step Ahead' let alone 'Message to My Girl' or 'History Never Repeats' just isn't fair to the Liverpool Lads.

On a good day, John and Paul were England's Finn brothers. On a *good* day.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:25 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Squee!

That is all.


This. The Finns are awesomely talented, the Enz were one of my favourite bands (as were Crowded House) - a band as popular with the squee-ers as with the serious musicians...what a great, great post!
posted by biscotti at 4:00 AM on April 29, 2011


smambolic blah shambolic
posted by compound eye at 4:42 AM on April 29, 2011


Neil Finn is one of my favorite 80s/90s songwriters, right up there with Andy Partridge of XTC.
posted by tommasz at 5:07 AM on April 29, 2011


Whose New Zealand's Damon Albarn?

Do they have a Glenn Beck there who cries wolf?
posted by juiceCake at 5:37 AM on April 29, 2011


It's not entirely illegitimate for Australia to claim Crowded House. Formed in Melbourne, two-thirds aussie (Nick Seymour, Paul Hester) ... not that this matters at all.

I've quite enjoyed listening to She will have her way, followed up recently by the not quite as awesome He will have his way.
posted by wilful at 5:56 AM on April 29, 2011


Loved Split Enz from the first; Poor Boy was probably my favourite tune.

Was bummed to learn of Paul Hester's suicide in 2005.
posted by bwg at 6:25 AM on April 29, 2011


When I was in grade 8 there were a couple of boys who always used to taunt me by singing 'I see red I see red I see red!' (because I'm a redhead, right?) I hated them but loved the song so it just added to my adolescent confusion.

Love Split Enz. Always have, always will.
posted by h00py at 7:07 AM on April 29, 2011


One of my friends went to New Zealand as a graduation present to herself when she got out of art school, specifically to go to EVERY placename ever mentioned in a Crowded House song. (Te Awamutu, for example).

I like me some Crowded House/etc, but not THAT much.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:26 AM on April 29, 2011


"Man, I love Split Enz."
posted by gaspode


I love gaspode for giving me my first real introduction to Split Enz!
posted by Eideteker at 9:52 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the Ladyhawke cover of "Message to My Girl".
posted by Talez at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It will come as no surprise that I'm in love with this post. :D
posted by i feel possessed at 12:18 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great post, thanks! Reading this thread made me smile too. A lot.
Neil's a fucking genius.
posted by peacay at 1:48 PM on April 29, 2011


1980's pop New Zealand wasn't entirely Finn-land.

Case in point: Slice of Heaven.
posted by fairmettle at 3:47 PM on April 29, 2011


I loved the Enz back in the day and I love them still.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:42 PM on April 29, 2011


I forced my long-suffering partner (not a Crowdie) into driving me around New Zealand so I could visit all the Finn places as well. The Te Awamutu pub does a mighty fine steak!

It was a long time ago now, but the first time I saw Neil live remains my happiest memory. I was 15 and asked Neil to marry me. Very embarrassing in retrospect although (shh) the sentiment remains the same! He was extremely gracious and said he thought I might be a bit young for him, and he was already married, but he was very flattered. Then he gave me a hug. Squeee indeed.
posted by indienial at 10:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoops - turns out I was misled by that Enzology page about the date they were produced. They're actually a few years older:

Enzology first began airing in New Zealand on National Radio on New Year's Day 2005. Since then it's been broadcast on Concert FM and Radio National in Australia with repeat broadcasts on Radio New Zealand National which were streamed live and accessible globally. This is the first time that people have been able to legally download the series - and with much better sound quality. Enzology began production in 1997 with tape sourcing and auditioning. Interviews were mainly conducted in 2003. The programmes were compiled in 2004.

I'm up to the Frenzy episode myself - what a fantastic series it is.
posted by rory at 3:47 AM on April 30, 2011


I thought the folks who commented here might like this tip. As part of the Split Enz kick that inspired this post, I checked out a couple of the remastered versions of their albums that Eddie Rayner did in 2006, after reading online that Corroboree/Waiata and Frenzy were substantially different from the originals. The Corroboree one is good, although I always liked the original album and can take or leave some of the changes. Frenzy, meanwhile, was always an album that I considered had great songs but terrible production: notoriously, the band ended up having a "big name" overseas producer forced on them by their Australian label who turned out to be a no-name who blagged his way onto the job. The original production of Frenzy sounds like the whole thing was recorded through a thick woollen sock.

Well, the remaster is a revelation. Rayner has remixed the whole album from top to bottom, changing most of the songs substantially, and it now sounds fantastic. If you love True Colours you really must check this out. The band were on very top form, which makes the sabotage the original production did to their music even more of a crime. It makes you wonder how many other disappointing albums by other artists could be rescued by sympathetic remastering and remixing; the difference really is that great.

Even better, you can still pick up the one-disk version of The Rootin Tootin Luton Tapes released around the time of the remasters. These legendary 1978 demos were packed full of great songs that were never released, and the one-disk version collects the best of them, effectively making it an entire "lost" Split Enz album from 1978. (There's a fan-club-only version with a second disk full of the songs that ended up on Frenzy, but if you have the remasters of that it isn't as essential.)

Together, these two make the perfect bridge between early and later Split Enz, which previously had felt worlds apart to me. If you've enjoyed the Enzology podcast I suggest heading straight for these next.
posted by rory at 5:01 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


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