Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Split Enz was a successful New Zealand band during the late 1970s and early 1980s featuring brothers Tim and Neil Finn. Their musical style is eclectic and original, incorporating influences from art rock, vaudeville, swing, punk, rock and pop.
The band started life in 1971 at the Auckland University, where Tim met up with (old friend) Mike Chunn, Robert Gillies , Philip Judd and Noel Crombie. From 1972 the band became a full-time occupation for the friends, and they called the band Split Ends. The spelling was later changed to Split Enz when they went on their first trip to Australia, to signify their New Zealand roots.
They were widely known for their unique visual presentation. Their costumes and hair were like nothing else, wild and colourful and inventive. The costumes were designed by Noel Crombie, who also designed most of the group's other visual material, such as stage sets, posters, stickers and album covers, as well as directing many of the band's music videos.
The group's career falls into two distinct phases. The first was was firmly rooted in the progressive rock scene of the early 1970s. The Enz started out as an adventurous, flamboyant art-rock band -- although their music was generally far more accessible than some of their more grandiose European 'prog-rock' counterparts. This first incarnation lasted about five years, through their move to Australia and the early part of their stay in England, and closed with the departure of co-founder Philip Judd in 1977. During the transitional period of 1978-79, a new line-up consolidated behind Tim Finn, and though they struggled to survive, they gradually reined in the more extreme aspects of their music and presentation without sacrificing their individuality. In 1980 Split Enz (Mark II) scored major successes with a superb trio of early 80's albums -- True Colours, Waiata (released as Corroboree in Australia) and Time & Tide -- which made them one of the most successful and popular Australasian groups, a position they held until their final split in 1984.
It is also notable that Split Enz only recorded original material; every song on every Enz album and single was written by members of the group.
New Zealand, 1971-74
The origins of Split Enz lay in the friendships that developed amongst a group of young students in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After finishing primary school Tim Finn attended Sacred Heart College boarding school, where he met Jonathan Michael Chunn . They wrote songs and played music together there over the next five years. In 1971 Tim and Mike went to Auckland University, and there they met befriended a group of art students including Phil Judd, Noel Crombie and Rob Gillies.
The close friendship between Tim and Phil became the core of Split Enz; they quickly became fast friends and soon started writing together with Phil working out the basic form and lyrics and Tim (who was strongly influenced by classic British pop like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Move) providing melodies.
As the partnership developed, they began stockpiling songs and decided to form a group as an outlet for their compositions; the material they wrote together in this original burst of creativity provided the bulk of the Enz repertoire for several years. They approached classical trained violinist Miles Golding , reed player Mike Howard and together with Tim's old friend Mike Chunn they formed a five-piece acoustic group called Split Ends in October 1972.
Golding's musical skills helped Tim and Phil to build complex and impressive neo-classical structures and arrangements for their material. After months of rehearsals, and with financial backing provided by their friend and fan Barry Coburn (who became their first manager) Split Ends issued its debut single, "Split Ends/For You", in April 1973. In March, just before the single came out, Golding left the group to study in London, although they would meet again years later.
At Chunn's urging the band "went electric" and expanded, adding drums, lead guitar and brass. When the single was released in April, the band started a small tour of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, supporting John Mayall. Mike Chunn's brother Geoff was called in for the tour replacing original drummer Div Vercoe. The other new permanent members were lead guitarist Paul Wally Wilkinson and their university friend Rob Gillies who joined part-time on sax and trumpet. By this time, the band had become a full-time preoccupation for Tim, and he dropped out of university.
In late 1973 Split Enz entered the New Faces TV talent contest, and in preparation for their performance they recorded "129" and "Home Sweet Home". Soon after, they also recorded "Sweet Talking Spoon Song", which would become the second single. To their dismay, they finished second-last in the contest, but their performance secured them a 30-minute concert special for Television New Zealand, which was recorded soon after. It was at this time that their original name was altered to the patriotic Split Enz.
In November 1973, EMI NZ issued the band's second single, "129"/ "Sweet Talking Spoon Song". The next eighteen months saw Split Ends refining their material and performances. The TV special spawned a concert tour, albeit without Phil Judd, who decided he didn't like performing live -- he was discouraged by negative reactions to the band, and felt that their music was too complex for successful stage presentation. He initially opted stayed at home to write and record new material while the rest of the band toured, although he made occasional appearances and eventually rejoined full-time.
In early 1974 Tim acquired a prized Mellotron keyboard and in February they made a vital addition to the lineup, recruiting Anthony Edward (Eddie) Rayner on keyboards. Rayner, nicknamed "The Prof", would remain with the Enz all for the rest of their career, and he was crucial to the development of their sound. A prodigiously talented self-taught musician, his ability to realise and enhance their arrangements added tremendous depth and polish to the already strong material, and in many respects his playing became the defining element of their sound. Combined with Tim's own ability on piano, the two guitars, bass, drums, percussion and assorted other instruments including trumpet and saxophone, they were able to encompass a huge ranges of styles and sounds, and they were always a force to be reckoned with on stage, as even their early live recordings attest.
Phil and Tim decided that, rather than slogging it out on the traditional pub circuit, they would play only theatres and concert halls, which enabled them to stage a full theatrical presentation, and they began to develop elaborate sets, costumes, hairstyles and makeup. After seeing one of these superb live performances, Judd decided to return to the band as and began making occasional appearances, as as did their old Auckland Uni pal, Noel Crombie. In June 1974 Geoff Chunn and Rob Gillies both left the band. Paul Emlyn Crowther joined on drums in July; Gillies was not replaced.
Their music at this time was in a broadly similar vein to British progressive bands of the time, albeit rather "poppier" and more melodic than many such bands. Family and Traffic were almost certainly important influences and though they always balked at the frequent comparisons to Genesis, there was a 'English-ness', and a definite eccentricity that was common to both groups, and which set the Enz apart from almost every other local act.
The band might have made considerably less impact had it not been for the unique visual identity they developed. In the autumn of 1974 their old university friend Noel Crombie became a full-time member. He performed on percussion -- and spoons -- and sang occasionally, but his primary role soon proved to be as Art Director for the band. His wide-ranging talents enabled Split Enz to present a complete audio-visual experience, showcasing their accomplished performances of the intricate Judd-Finn compositions in a unique live show, complete with wild, colourful matching costumes, bizarre hairstyles and makeup, sets and special effects. Their "look" -- a mixture of the weird and the whimsical -- drew on influences like the circus, music hall, gothic horror, Expressionist cinema, pantomime, psychedelia, surrealism and modern art -- all filtered through the band's bizarre demeanour and crazed on-stage antics. The costumes and stage personae also proved to be a useful facade for a group of young men who were, essentially, rather shy personalities.
Like Rayner, Noel was a crucial addition to the band, and in many ways he became the 'heart and soul' of Split Enz. His designs crystallised the band's image, and spanned the entire range of their visual material -- stage costumes, hair styles, sets and stage designs, posters, buttons, badges, handbills, promotional photos, tour programmes and album and single covers. He also directed almost all of their music videos (some co-directed with Rob Gillies). Some of Noel's finest costumes are now part of the collection of the Victorian Museum of Performing Arts.
Crombie's lugubrious stage presence endeared him to audiences and his trademark spoon solos became a favourite feature of Enz shows. His regular 'spot' grew out of one of the typical random events that marked their early shows -- they brought Rayner's aunt on stage to perform an impromptu tap dance during one of the songs. It was a roaring success, but they quickly realised that they couldn't really take her on tour with them, so it Noel's spoon playing routine was substituted and soon became an essential part of each show.
In concert, the band was already in league of its own and their live performances from this era soon became the stuff of legend. An early NZ TV performance had a "desert island" theme; they brought in a load of sand and created a miniature indoor beach, complete with palm trees and a wading pool, with band members dressed as hankie-hatted tourists, reclining on deck chairs and sipping drinks. For a now-legendary live performance of their live epic "Stranger Than Fiction", a woman friend was recruited to crawl across the stage during the song, under pulsing strobe lights, with a bloodied axe apparently embedded in her skull.
By the end of 1974 their following in New Zealand was strong and very dedicated, but the chances of further progress there were obviously limited -- the only logical place to go was Australia. In March 1975, the band issued its third single, "No Bother To Me", on the independent White Cloud label, and a few weeks later, Split Enz left for Sydney. The initial response from Australian audiences was mixed, and it's fair to say that their music and image was at first simply too "out there" for many people.
At the time, Skyhooks and Kush were probably Australia's most overtly theatrical rock bands, and the influence of the "glam" period could also be seen in acts like Hush, who used costumes and makeup. Even Sherbet and AC/DC had briefly toyed with glam rock stylings, but they had dropped the idea before long. But Split Enz were in a league of their own, and most Australian audiences had seen nothing like them before. They got a frosty reception in Sydney, although they had a slightly warmer welcome in Melbourne, where local bands and other performing groups had more of a history of blending experimental and theatrical elements with rock music.
The Enz soldiered for nine difficult months although, as at home, they quickly amassed a small fiercely loyal cult following. Their immediate future was assured when they were spotted by Michael Gudinski , who recognised their potential and signed them to a management and publishing deal and a recording contract with his Mushroom Records label. Their reputation as a top-notch live act and their association with Gudinski gained them several very important support slots to local bands like Skyhooks and with major overseas acts in 1974-75 including Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Flo & Eddie and Leo Sayer.
The association with Mushroom was fortuitous. The company had struggled to survive for its first few year but had recently hit the big time with the record-breaking Living In The Seventies album by Skyhooks and the company was now on their way to being a major player. Mushroom's staff were young, keen, aggressive and willing to take risks -- exactly the kind of company Split Enz needed. Although he is often criticised (with some justification) for the treatment of other artists on the Mushroom roster, it is to Gudinski's credit that he stuck by the Enz through thick and thin, and in the long run his faith in them was richly rewarded.
In two weeks during May/June 1975 they recorded their debut album Mental Notes at Festival's Studio 24 in Sydney. It was produced by David Russell, who was also their tour manager in 1975-76. Russell had been the bass player with legendary NZ rockers Ray Columbus & The Invaders (1962-65), and went on to play with Ray Brown & The Whispers (1966) and Max Merritt & The Meteors (1971-74). The engineer was Festival staffer Richard Batchens , whose credits include The Cleves , Lobby Loyde , Chain, Blackfeather and Sherbet. The Enz were reportedly unhappy with the result at the time, and Tim still regards the album as "deeply flawed" although he acknowledges that time has revealed its unique qualities.
It was a moderate success on its release in July, selling a respectable 12,000 copies in Australia, reaching #19 on the album chart for one week, and peaking at #7 in New Zealand. It was also a critical breakthrough and along with a handful of other '70s Australian classics, like The Dingoes' debut LP and Madder Lake 's Stillpoint, it remains one of the most original and accomplished Australasian debut albums of the period.
Much of the material derived from Tim and Phil's fascination with the work of the renowned English writer and artist Mervyn Peake -- notably Spellbound, the epic track "Stranger Than Fiction" (their concert centrepiece) and "Titus", named after the hero of Peake's Gormenghast trilogy.
In September they released their first Australian single, Maybe, but by this time plans were being made to relocate to the UK. In November 1975 Wally Wilkinson was sacked and Rob Gillies was brought back in on sax and trumpet as a permanent member. They returned to New Zealand briefly before embarking on their "Enz Of The Earth" national Australian tour, which wound up in February 1976. In March, Mushroom issued the band's second Mushroom single, Late Last Night, accompanied by a promotional video (directed by Crombie) which gave them their first major Australian TV exposure.
The decision to try moving to England stemmed from their support slot on Roxy Music's first Australian tour in 1974. The Enz caught the attention of the visiting musicians, who were only just becoming known in Australia but were already one of the most successful 'art rock' bands in the UK. Roxy's guitarist Phil Manzanera was particularly impressed, and offered to produce their next album for them in London. They managed to secure a UK record deal with Chrysalis Records, and in April 1976, they flew to the UK to cut their second album.
Recorded at the Basing Street Studios in London, Second Thoughts was issued in Australia in July 1976, and issued in the UK as Mental Notes in September. It consisted of "Late Last Night", four re-arranged and re-recorded tracks from the Australian Mental Notes, three new songs, and a new version of one of the earliest Judd-Finn compositions, "129", retitled "Matinee Idyll (129)". This song was released, backed by "Lovey Dovey", as a single in December 1976. During the recording they met original member Miles Golding, who was then living in London, and attended a recital he gave at the Australian Embassy.
The band's bizarre appearance and crazed on-stage antics at first baffled the UK press and audiences, and critical reactions were far from favourable, but as in new Zealand and Australia, their musical excellence, originality and enthusiasm again won them a cult following, from which the fan-club Frenz of the Enz began to develop. But even with the patronage of Manzanera, it proved to be hard going, and pressures mounted within the formerly close-knit group. In November Emlyn Crowther was sacked and replaced by their first non-Kiwi member, English drummer Malcolm Green (ex-Love Affair, The Honeycombs, Jimmy James & the Vagabonds) who answered an advertisement in Melody Maker, and began rehearsing with the Enz in December 1976.
The Enz kicked off 1977 with a new (non-album) single "Another Great Divide", coinciding with their return to Australia/New Zealand in January 1977 for the "Courting the Act" tour. Chrysalis issued Mental Notes (the American title for Second Thoughts) in the USA, and at the end of February they set off for the US to support the album. The 23 day, 40 show tour was a hopeful first attempt to establish themselves in America but it marked the end of an era in the band and proved to be the last tour with founding members Phil Judd and Mike Chunn.
Mike decided to leave at the end of the US tour, partly because he wanted to spend more time with his family but also because he suffered from agoraphobia (apparently exacerbated by his experimentation with psychedelic drugs). Tensions were also running high between Phil and Tim and although they received a standing ovation in San Francisco, audience reactions in more remote areas ranged from bemusement to outright hostility. Unfortunately Phil was extremely sensitive to such negative feedback. and like Mike, he had a young family back in New Zealand and was tired of the endless grind of touring. Things came to a head after one infamous concert when Phil had trouble with an out-of-tune guitar; he stormed off before the end of the set and when Tim challenged him backstage about what had happened, blows were exchange. The tour ended in April, and Phil left the band.
The Enz were due to begin their third English tour later that month, so Tim now took charge and hastily reorganised the group. On 4 April English bassist Nigel Griggs (ex-Octopus) replaced the departing Mike Chunn. Before leaving, however, Chunn gave a crucial piece of parting advice, suggesting that the replacement for Phil Judd should be Tim Finn's younger brother Neil, who officially joined on 7 April 1977.
Although Neil didn't contribute much during his first six months with the band (he was still mastering the guitar) he made up for his lack of musical skill with plenty of onstage enthusiasm. Although fresh out of high school and almost totally inexperienced as a performer, he adapted quickly, and from Frenzy onwards he began to develop a strong presence within the group. It was also fortuitous that Neil was not an accomplished player and this effectively forced the group to simplify the music and the arrangements and helped steer them in a new direction.
The line-up changes created renewed drive and enthusiasm in a band that was by then teetering on the brink of collapse. They had been touring for years on the same basic repertoire, most of it written or co-written by the departed Phil Judd, and much of it dating back to the band's formative days. The pressure was on, but Tim rose to the challenge and began turning out great new material that would form the basis of the next two albums.
Neil soon began contributing his own material, and he also became the second lead vocalist, thus taking some of the performing and writing pressure off Tim as well as broadening their repertoire. Neil proved to be a superb singer whose voice was the perfect complement to his brother's. Most importantly, he was totally immersed in the spirit of the band, having watched it begin and grow from its earliest days. Over the next three years his singing, playing and especially his writing skills increased exponentially, and although Tim remained the leader, Neil was playing a vital role in the band by 1980.
The Enz initially were at first scorned by the fashion-fixated UK music press, due to the polarising effect of punk on the English music scene. The Enz' theatrical trappings and complex music were suspiciously reminiscent of the "dinosaur" progressive rock bands so reviled by the new wave of music critics. Gradually though, as the Enz fine-tuned their image, and the punk scene gave way to the less strident, more stylish and more musically substantial 'New Wave' scene, Split Enz began to draw larger crowds in the UK.
For their band's next album they chose to record at London's prestigious AIR Studios with producer (and former Beatles engineer) Geoff Emerick. Dizrythmia (from the medical term for jet-lag, circadia disrhythmia, meaning 'upset body rhythm') made no appreciable impact in the UK, but was was very successful in Australasia, and gave them their first simultaneous hits on the Australian and New Zealand singles and album charts.
They returned to Australia in August, coinciding with the release of the album, and began a 28-date tour Australasian tour in October/November. The album reached #18 in Australia. The first single, the quirky "My Mistake" (August), peaked at #18 during October, bolstered by the national tour and aided by another great promotional video. In New Zealand Dizrhythmia reached #3, and "My Mistake" peaked at #21.The second single, Tim Finn's jaunty "Bold as Brass" (December) was a melodic pop gem, laden with hooks, with a strong and bouncy backbeat by the Green-Griggs rhythm section. It was perhaps even better than its predecessor, but sadly it failed to chart in Australia. The single was accompanied by another specially-made video, co-directed by Noel and Rob.
Between November 1977 and February 1978 Split Enz toured solidly throughout the UK and Europe. At the turn of the year Rob Gillies left and Phil Judd returned, briefly, in early 1978 after Tim and Eddie heard some of his new material, but he apparently found himself out of step with their changing direction, and left the band for good after about a month.
1978 was the band's toughest year. They lost their Chrysalis contract and spent most of the year without a record deal, a booking agent or a manager. Debts mounted and, unable to get gigs, they were forced to go on the dole. But they continued writing new material at a frantic pace and rehearsing constantly.
It was at this point that the New Zealand Arts Council came to the rescue with a five thousand dollar grant. They immediately booked a tiny 8-track studio in Luton and with the help of 18-year-old English engineer David Tickle they knocked out demo recordings of 28 new songs in less than five days. These legendary sessions -- the "Rootin', Tootin' Luton Tapes" -- displayed both a newfound edge and considerable commercial potential. Around the same time, they recorded a new single with Tickle, a frenetic new song by Tim called "I See Red".
With renewed purpose, Split Enz entered Manor Studios in November 1978 to record a new album with producer Mallory Earl. Even the cover of Frenzy marked the change in the group -- the crazy costumes and makeup of Dizrhythmia were gone, and the painting depicted them in casual clothes, standing in front of a farm shed in a bucolic New Zealand landscape. The album included re-recordings of many songs from the Luton tapes, but the band felt that Earl had failed to capture the magic and raw energy of the demos. Many of the other Luton songs were never re-recorded, and were left as demos, although some eventually surfaced on A&M's American version of Frenzy, released in North America in 1981. That same month, Mushroom issued I See Red as a single in Australia. It was a frantic chunk of power pop with buzzsaw guitar and manic farfisa organ, bearing the clear influence of English "New Wave" acts like XTC and The Buzzcocks, and marking a significant change in their musical style, away from the ethereal, densely arranged epics of yore, and back to Tim's first love -- simple, concise, accessible, high-energy guitar pop. It didn't chart in England but I See Red got a lot of attention and considerable airplay, and is credited as being the song that began the turn-around in their critical reputation in the UK.
Although they were still doing it tough, Split Enz had turned a corner and they knew it. Charged with new energy, they went home for Xmas 1978 but, before they headed back to the UK, they decided to play some local shows. Just after Xmas there was a serious setback when their equipment was destroyed in a suspicious fire at a rehearsal studio. But undeterred, and using borrowed equipment, Split Enz played what proved to be a pivotal show, stunning friends and fans alike with their towering performance at the second Nambassa Festival in January, an event still spoken of in reverent terms by those who witnessed it.
"I See Red" eventually peaked at #15 in February 1979, and Frenzy produced one more terrific single Give It A Whirl (May 1979) -- the first Enz single to be written by Neil Finn. Neither the LP nor the second single charted, but one album track, "She Got Body, She Got Soul", was later reworked for the soundtrack to the musical feature film Starstruck. A self-produced, non-album single "Things/Semi-Detached" was released in October but also failed to chart.
The combination of the dramatic changes in the English music scene, the relatively poor commercial performance of Frenzy and their precarious financial state forced the Enz to re-assess their music and image. The Luton tapes and the Nambassa show had proved to the band that the more melodic 'power-pop' side of their music was a winner, so they worked hard on making the songs for their fifth album much more commercial, melodic and accessible, while they reined in the more outre aspects of their image. The wild makeup and hairstyles were also toned down (well, sort of); Tim's performance persona (a demented cross between Harold Lloyd and an escaped lunatic) was shelved, and Neil began to emerge from behind the horn-rimmed glasses and painted-on freckles of his original "nerdy schoolboy" image.
The fact that both Neil and Tim were good looking, telegenic and natural TV performers was not lost on Mushroom's marketing staff, and their teen appeal was pushed hard in the videos for the new LP. Although the trademark Enz weirdness was never far from the surface, Neil's generally optimistic, upbeat songs provided an prefect counterpoint to Tim's edgier and more melancholic pieces. They now performed (more or less) as themselves, and Noel's emblematic new costume, album and stage designs were stripped back to simple, striking geometric patterns which were both timeless yet perfect for the period.
The album that broke them internationally was the 1979 production "True Colours" the Enz did with David Tickle. The straighforward, tight new wave rock/pop single "I Got You" brought the Enz to the top of the Australian charts and to #12 in Britain. Subsequent albums Corroboree and Time & Tide maintained the newfound commercial success.
After Tim decided to leave the band to pursue a solo-career in 1983, it became clear that the other major songwriter, Neil, did not think the band could go on without Tim. The band finally broke up in November 1984. Whatever tension there might have been between the band and Tim was resolved when they went on their final tour together, Enz with a Bang.
The group has occasionally reformed for one-off concerts in New Zealand.
After Split Enz
- Phil Judd released a solo album Private Lives, and formed The Swingers with Buster Stiggs and Bones Hillman.
- Phil Judd, Noel Crombie and Nigel Griggs got back together in a new band, called Schnell Fenster, who released two albums. The albums were moderately successful.
- Eddie Rayner joined Schnell Fenster, but soon after decided to form his own band called The Makers. They released two albums. His ENZSO project saw some of the members sing the old Split Enz songs in an orchestral setting with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra , and two albums were released with live recordings. He has released two solo albums. An instrumental solo album Horse, and another album Play it Straight.
- Neil (later joined by his brother Tim) went on to form Crowded House, which was also very successful worldwide. After the demise of Crowded House, he started a solo career.
- Tim Finn has a successful solo career, and was in Crowded House for their third album.
- Neil and Tim have also released two albums together as the Finn Brothers: Finn and Everyone is Here
- Geoff and Mike Chunn returned to New Zealand and formed Citizen Band
- 1975 Mental Notes
- 1976 Second Thoughts
- 1977 Dizrythmia
- 1979 Frenzy Mushroom version
- 1979 The Beginning Of The Enz
- 1980 True Colours
- 1981 Waiata/Corroboree
- 1981 Frenzy A&M US version
- 1982 Enz Of An Era
- 1982 Time And Tide
- 1983 Conflicting Emotions
- 1984 See Ya 'Round
- 1985 The Living Enz
- 1986 The Collection 1973-1984
- 1987 History Never Repeats
- 1993 Oddz And Enz
- 1993 Rear Enz
- 1993 The Best Of Split Enz
- 1994 Anniversary
- 1997 Anniversary Fuel (US) version
- 1997 The Gold Collection
- 1997 Spellbound
- 1997 Stranger Than Fiction
- 2002 History Never Repeats: The Best Of (30th year anniversary release)
- Excellent Biography
- Seven Worlds Collide
- Split Enz - Stranger than Fiction
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details