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Collection

Split Enz

Curated by NZ On Screen team

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.

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Split Enz - Spellbound

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

Sam Neill narrates this documentary plotting the career of one of Aotearoa's most successful bands: from formation by Mike Chunn, Phil Judd and Tim Finn at Auckland University in 1971 to their demise in 1984, when Neil Finn walked away. The major players talk freely about good times and bad — art rock, the wayward genius of Judd (including a rare interview), Noel Crombie’s spoon playing and costume design, hard times in England and the punk backlash, the big pop hits after Neil joined, Tim’s solo album, an obsession with paper darts, and the pre-gig ritual of One For One.

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Ten Guitars

Television, 1996 (Full Length)

This full-length documentary gives warm-spirited context to the song that has been the soundtrack to countless back lawn crate parties and freezing works chains (watch the credits). It was released as the B-side of singer Engelbert Humperdinck's Please Release Me, and became an unlikely hit in Aotearoa with fans who have done the "dance, dance, dance ...": including Dalvanius (who discusses its "pop-schlock" charms), Bunny Walters, The Topp Twins, and a special group of ten guitarists. The documentary also explores why "the national anthem of Patea" is so appealing to Māori.

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Radio with Pictures - Sweetwaters

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

The legendary Dylan Taite hosts this RWP special on the first Sweetwaters music festival. The event took 12 months and half a million dollars to set up. Headliner Elvis Costello proved media-shy; some heavy-handed attempts to keep the cameras away are seen. Meanwhile, Taite muses on the impact of late 70s bands on the future of festivals. Sweetwaters would go on, although financial problems in 1999 led to the jailing of organiser Daniel Keighley. But, as this doco shows, for 45,000 concert goers the Ngaruawahia edition touched the youth culture node of the time. 

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Split Enz - New Faces

Television, 1973 (Full Length)

New Zealand’s first global pop success story made one of its earliest screen appearances on this TV talent quest. The episodes are no longer preserved, but a family friend of the Finns pointed his Super 8 camera at the television screen. The clips are combined with the band’s memories from 2005 radio documentary Enzology. Split Ends (the ‘z’ came later) competed in the 18 November heat with ‘129’, and a week later in the final, miming ‘Sweet Talking Spoon Song’. They lost to Wellington's Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, with a pre-Simon Cowell Phil Warren judging the lads “too clever”.

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Th' Dudes - Right Second Time

Television, 2007 (Full Length)

In 2006, Th’ Dudes reformed after 26 years. This documentary follows them on a national tour as members Peter Urlich, Dave Dobbyn, Ian Morris, Lez White and Bruce Hambling reflect on their former lives as late 70s pop stars. Encouraged to behave like stars, they didn’t disappoint. There are frank discussions about sex, drugs, an obscene t-shirt, on-stage nudity and other bad behaviour — but also the stories behind classic songs like ‘Bliss’, ‘Right First Time’ and ‘Be Mine Tonight’, which still captivate adoring, if aging, audiences a quarter of a century later.

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Grunt Machine - Split Enz (Spellbound)

Television, 1975 (Excerpts)

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.

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Series

Showcase

Television, 1996–1998

From 1996 to 1998 broadcaster Ian Fraser took time out from hosting current affairs, to MC this popular musical talent quest (Fraser, a trained pianist, also tinkled the ivories himself during the series). There were two finals: one assessed by studio judges, and one from viewers' votes. The performers ranged from covers bands to opera singers, from country and western to soul. Future Opshop members Jason Kerrison and Shay Muddle were judged runners-up in 1996 (as Akustik Fungi). Other contestants included Lisa Tomlins, opera tenor Shaun Dixon and actor Stig Eldred. 

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Long White Cloud

AttitudeLive, Music Video, 2015

Made for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, this video mixes Kiwi landscapes with images of disabled athletes and performers, showing what they are capable of. The song’s lead vocalists, Natalie Te Paa and Cam Dawson, are both blind. Helping out behind the scenes are Callum Martin (The Checks), Leza Corban (Strawpeople) and ex-Split Enz members Eddie Rayner and Mike Chunn. As well as being an unofficial anthem for the Rio Olympics, the song aims to raise awareness of the 25% of New Zealanders who live with some form of disability.

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The Secret Life of John Rowles

Television, 2008 (Full Length)

The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.