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 collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
The opening images of this video — the swinging guitar, fingers on the fretboard — make for a defining moment in Kiwi music video history. The clip was actually shot in Australia; by the time they recorded the song, The Swingers had relocated from Aotearoa to Melbourne. They would soon be history. Aussie cinematographer/ director Ray Argall ('World Where You Live') matches the beloved composition with colourful images, quirky humour, and an infectious dance finale. In 2001 music organisation APRA voted the chart topper fourth on their list of the top Kiwi songs to date.
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”.
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.
In this RWP interview, Karyn Hay gets Split Enz members Neil Finn and Nigel Griggs to explain some of the band's songs before a January 1983 performance at festival Sweetwaters. Both are tired of doing True Colours tracks; the album "has followed us around like a bad smell for a year and a half" says Finn. He also admits 'I Got You' was "probably only about the third lyric I'd ever written", and touches on the BBC banning of 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat'. Griggs admits he has no idea what Finn's 'History Never Repeats' is about; Finn praises Griggs' "incredibly good bass riff" on 'Lost for Words'.
This episode of C4's music series Homegrown Profiles looks at the long and distinguished musical careers of Kiwi music icons Tim and Neil Finn. The programme covers the early days of Split Enz, Neil joining the band at the age of 18, and Tim leaving in 1984; plus Neil forming Crowded House, Tim's short stint in his brother's band, the Finn's solo careers, and their two albums recording as the Finn Brothers. Jane Yee's interview with the brothers is revealing and fascinating, and includes great early Split Enz footage.
The Swingers have long been umbilically tied to one composition: 1981 chart-topper 'Counting the Beat’. But the band's debut single makes clear that their gift for percussive pop was there from the start. The accompanying video sees the trio getting down to it in their union jack-emblazoned shirts; the lyrics channel the same kind of sexual frustration as Stones classic ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’. The result is arguably in the same realm of catchy. After reaching number 19 in NZ, ‘One Good Reason’ featured in Aussie film Starstruck. Strawpeople later released a funked up version.
Solo is a story about three people on the edge of nowhere, struggling to decide how much of themselves to share with those they care about. Young Australian hitchhiker Judy romances solo Dad Paul, who finds peace flying fire patrol planes above the forest. Paul's precocious son reacts badly to losing pole position to Judy, and takes to the air. Inspired partly by the oft-painful times when we are "more acutely in touch” with our emotions, Tony Williams' romance helped launch the Kiwi movie renaissance. But as he writes in the backgrounder, there was no fun in filming it three times.
Set over a Christmas beach holiday in 1935, The End of the Golden Weather chronicles the friendship between a teenage boy and the wild-limbed Firpo, dreamer and social outcast. Writer/director Ian Mune spent more than 15 years "massaging" Bruce Mason's classic solo play into a movie, before assembling a dream team to bring it to the screen. The finished film captures the world view of a boy for whom fantasy, hope and disappointment intermingle. Among an impressive awards haul, 12-year-old star Stephen Fulford was recognised at America's Youth in Film Awards.