It's hard to reduce legendary band Split Enz down to a single sound or image. Soon after forming in 1973, they began dressing like oddball circus performers, and their music straddled folk, vaudeville and art rock. Later the songs got shorter, poppier and — some say —better, and the visuals were toned down...but you could never accuse the Enz of looking biege. With Split Enz co-founder Tim Finn turning 65 in June 2017, this collection looks back at one of Aotearoa's most successful and eclectic bands. Writer Michael Higgins unravels the evolution of the Enz here.
This simple but very effectively choreographed clip is one of the few pieces of music footage shot for 70s rock show The Grunt Machine that has been preserved. The extended instrumental intro allows Phil Judd nearly two minutes of pacing and hovering in the Avalon Studio shadows before he confronts the camera at his malevolent best. The soon to depart Wally Wilkinson is on guitar; time in Australia has cemented the band's stage personas, Noel Crombie's black and white costumes are a visual treat, and the result is a perfect document of Mental Notes-era Enz.
Sam Hunt is New Zealand’s best known and most visible contemporary poet; and, in an archive excerpt from this feature length documentary, Ginette McDonald calls him “the most impersonated man in New Zealand”. Director Tim Rose, who has known Hunt since he was a boy, decided too little was known about him beyond his flamboyant, public persona. So Rose spent four years making this documentary — mixing a wealth of archive material with interviews with Hunt, and those who know him best, and new footage of him reading his work and performing with David Kilgour.
'Bold as Brass', from the third Split Enz album Dizrythmia, finds the band moving on from the departure of founder member Phil Judd (replaced by a teenaged Neil Finn) and leaving behind their earlier, more complex art rock. This punchy, melodic Tim Finn/Rob Gillies composition is part off-kilter dance number, part call to arms. The video (directed by Gillies and Noel Crombie) matches the song's directness with sharp black suits and Tim Finn's combative approach to the camera — while allowing a nod to the band’s more theatrical past.
Evoking nostalgia for summer holidays, Crowded House lark around at the beach with partners, kids and Lester the dog. Shot in the Bellarine Peninsula near Melbourne, the music video features bassist Nick Seymour's 1961 T-Bird convertible, plus a brief shot of the police who pulled him over for driving it unregistered, then took it around the carpark. American record executives were unimpressed with the video, which won more favour in the UK. The first fruit of a writing session by Neil and Tim Finn, the song was one of eight Finn brothers compositions on third Crowded House album Woodface.
After hit song 'I Got You' proved definitively that art rockers Split Enz could be chart-topping pop stars, their 1980 album True Colours yielded a second classic single. This time it showcased Tim Finn's vocal range. The music video is set in some stately mansion after the last champagne of the night. Finn wanders into the back garden as he mourns the pain of being "haunted by the things that you feel", while the rest of the Enz stand around as part of the tableau. Annie Crummer later covered the track for Eddie Rayner-led project ENZSO.
After Neil Finn-penned single ‘I Got You’ took Split Enz to number one, another Neil Finn song was chosen to announce follow-up album Waiata (aka Corroboree). The video — which screened in the early days of music channel MTV — is surprisingly understated, while retaining touches of familiar Enz weirdness. After walking past coloured silhouettes of the rest of the band, Neil arrives on a set designed on a theme of black, etched with lines of colour. Tim mimes enthusiasm while sitting on the floor, keyboardist Eddie Rayner moonwalks, and the Enz step on out of there.
This Neil Finn number finally turned Split Enz into chart-toppers in Australasia, and gave them an entree to the vital North American market. It was graced with Noel Crombie's most ambitious video to date and became an MTV favourite. Curtains on the outside? Just one of the many innovative design elements in a clip, which explored Neil's inner torment as he withered under the scrutiny of giant eyes, an Orwellian flat screen television, and his creative paranoia at being shunned by the rest of the band — unable to infiltrate the clique. Heavy stuff!
‘Message to My Girl’ finds Split Enz in a time of transition — foreshadowed here when the Finn brothers walk past each other in opposite directions. Tim has just completed his solo album and will shortly leave, while Neil is coming into his own as the band’s new leader. The track is an unabashed love song to his wife. The accompanying video was shot in two extended takes, with the only edit obscured halfway through — and staged in what looks like a theatre set storage area. New drummer Paul Hester makes his debut but no Noel Crombie suits this time, just civvies.
A classic music video for a classic song (from the Waiata album) that is very much of its time. Features Noel Crombie's art school-infused clothes, make-up and surreal sets, giant beach balls, a hula hoop, and a young and endearingly-geeky Neil Finn out front. The video was one of the first (the 12th!) broadcast on US MTV after it launched in August 1981.