When Neil Finn joined brother Tim’s band, Split Enz, at the age of 18, the place of the Finn family in New Zealand music history was secured – as was the pride of Te Awamutu. Chock-full of music videos, including songs from a new generation of Finn offspring, this spotlight also features television programmes that have captured the musical genius and genes of the Finns: from early Split Enz appearances on New Faces and Grunt Machine, to shadowing Neil Finn on tour with an ever-changing line-up in Finn for a Day.
In 1983, Split Enz, NZ's most successful rock group to date, celebrated 10 years together. TVNZ's flagship arts show Kaleidoscope marked the occasion by following the band on their 'Enz of an Era' tour as they reunited with former members (including Mike Chunn) for a concert at Auckland's His Majesty's Theatre (where they first made a major impact) and played the Sweetwaters Festival. Members talk frankly to reporter Ian Fraser about a decade of highs and lows, and there's priceless Dylan Taite-filmed tomfoolery from the band's early days in England.
Creating New Zealand's first local hit involved a lot of trial and error, as a company best known for making radios grappled with how to make records. Sixty-six years later Neil Finn visited musician Jim Carter, whose Hawaiian-style guitar is part of the magic of the original 'Blue Smoke' track. Finn "gently persuaded" Carter to help him record a new version on a laptop in just a few hours. Alongside newsreel shots of WWII soldiers, this evocative clip features footage of two musicians from different generations sharing memories, and making music about saying goodbye.
Reflecting the nautical themes found on chart-topping album Time and Tide, the classic 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat' demonstrated that Tim Finn was far from out of good ideas, even though he was soon to leave the band he had sailed with for so long. Opening with scene-setting Eddie Rayner instrumental 'Pioneer' and images of boats at sea, the video soon reveals Tim Finn and band below deck, in sailor's garb. Finn's much-loved line about refusing to be overcome by "the tyranny of distance" was likely inspired by the 1966 book by Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey.
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.
This 1993 award-winner was the first Crowded House video made in New Zealand. Director Kerry Brown and producer Bruce Sheridan wanted to emphasise the surreal, fantasy elements of the song, using distinctly Kiwi imagery. Locations included beaches and dense bush on the West Coast, the plains of Central Otago and the Victorian architecture of Oamaru. Scenes of an Anzac Day ceremony and marching girls also highlight the homeland setting. Brown took inspiration from Salvador Dali paintings for the psychedelic effects that were added in post-production.
This documentary follows a 2001 Neil Finn tour of his bottom-of-the-world homeland. Finn challenged his perfectionist instincts by playing with a changing local line-up at each gig: mostly unknown fans offered a chance to “glisten like a pearl”. The performers ranged from veterans to teen guitarist-singer Jon Hume (four years away from the Australian Top 20 with band Evermore). In Dunedin the performance survives drinking rituals and uninvited stage guests; in another moment, a shy 14-year-old piano prodigy segues from Mozart into Split Enz classic 'I Got You'.
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.
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.
Another all in one shot beauty from director Joe Lonie, this gorgeously-crafted video was filmed in and around the historic St Stephen's Chapel above Auckland's Judges Bay and Parnell Baths. The camera floats through pohutukawa trees and Auckland pioneer gravestones as an ubiquitous Liam Finn exhorts everyone to gather by the chapel. The tiny, elegant church in question was built by Bishop Selwyn, and as it turns out, just around the corner from where Finn grew up. 'Gather to the Chapel' appears on his first solo album, 2007's I'll Be Lightning.
Neil Finn has described the lyric to this song as "on the one hand, feeling kind of lost and, on the other hand, sort of urging myself on". The wistful single was Crowded House's breakthrough, hitting number two in the US (and the top spot in Aotearoa, after local radio earlier showed little interest). Australian director Alex Proyas (The Crow) based his video on locations from the band members' childhoods. As Finn walks from room to room, the video also neatly reinforces the band's name. 'Don't Dream It’s Over' remains one of the biggest international hits penned by a Kiwi.
With 2011 single 'Tell Me What You Want', Pajama Club first announced they were venturing out of the bedroom. The foregrounding of bass and drums echoes the band's beginnings during jim jam-clad late night jams — with Neil Finn trying out drums for a change, and wife Sharon playing bass. The stylish, graphics heavy music video echoes the look and stripped back feel of Pajama Club's self-titled album — which The Guardian praised as a compelling and welcome surprise, with "sparseness and restraint always the watchwords".
'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.
Australian music video maestro Richard Lowenstein (INXS, U2, cult film Dogs in Space) directed this bouncy city-life clip for the song when Tim Finn first flew solo from Split Enz. Bright colours, video scratching, an animated sausage dog — what more could you want? Finn walks along carrying a ghettoblaster in Wayfarer sunglasses; it must be the 80s. 'Fraction too Much Friction' got to number two on the Kiwi singles charts in 1983, and number eight in Australia. That year Finn recorded a last album with Split Enz, before leaving the band he co-founded roughly a decade before.
Born of a dispute between TVNZ and record companies over video payments, True Colours tended to feature New Zealand bands in a studio setting, plus the occasional video. This first episode sets the template. Former Radio with Pictures host Dick Driver and Phillipa Dann (from pop show Shazam!) introduce a magazine-style show of live music, news and interviews. Ardijah open proceedings here, with their mix of polynesian R&B and funk. Later Tim Finn gets the interview treatment. The dispute was eventually settled and True Colours ended after seven episodes.
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.
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.
This US-shot video from Liam Finn’s 2014 album The Nihilist sees Finn roll up in a land celebrating ‘Jubilancy Day’. When the video premiered on Noisey.com in February 2014, Finn said that the concept aimed to show the absurdity of human holiday rituals: “Like, if you weren’t from earth and you came and saw us worshipping an Easter bunny or a guy in a big red suit, you might think it’s quite strange.” The rat and tomato-centric family fun — directed by Brooklyn, NYC duo Anthony and Alex — includes cameos by Australian musos Kirin J Callinan and Eliza-Jane Barnes.
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.
Filmed in guitarist Chris Garland’s warehouse apartment, this video for the single from Betchadupa’s second EP dryly subverts the generic “band-rocks-the-party” template, with the addition of a jaded audience member doing a running commentary on Liam Finn and company’s efforts — his complaints subtitled over the punky, effervescent din of course. The clip marks an early directorial turn from Gerald Phillips, the reclusive figure behind legendary electronic act Phelps & Munro.
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.
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!
The non-violent action preached and practiced by Māori prophets Te Whiti and Tohu at Parihaka in Taranaki forms one of the most compelling episodes of New Zealand’s 19th century history, as they resisted Pākehā confiscation of their land and home. Tim Finn was inspired to write this paean to the pair after reading Dick Scott’s influential book Ask That Mountain. Band Herbs provide the accompaniment. Fane Flaws and cinematographer Alun Bollinger’s video was shot over a night at Auckland Art Gallery and takes Colin McCahon’s striking Parihaka triptych as its centrepiece.
Website AllMusic argued that the stripped back, "vagually rootsy" sounds of the Nashville-recorded Say It is So made for one of Tim Finn's finest albums to date. The mostly animated video for the opening track follows a depressed computer worker who goes stir crazy, before a serendipitious escape alongside the only woman in the office. Aside from romance, he soon discovers adventure can spring less welcome surprises. Directors Matt Heath and Chris Stapp (Back of the Y) get in an environmental message, once things get aquatic.
Kiwis are often accused of not being very good at expressing their feelings. This documentary (made for TV One's Work of Art programme) offers striking evidence to the contrary, using some of our favourite love songs as proof. A roll call of New Zealand's best-known musicians and songwriters talk here candidly about love, and play some of the songs inspired by their experiences. The result is a film that shines a light on love Kiwi-style, and provides a fascinating survey of New Zealand pop music from the last 30 years along the way.
‘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.
Although not the final Split Enz single, 'I Walk Away' is the song where the band say their goodbyes. Last album See 'Ya Round (1984) featured compositions by every member aside from the recently-departed Tim Finn. On this track brother Neil addresses the challenge of letting go of what you know. The opening shot echoes the image on the album cover, which features Split Enz poking their heads through a cutout illustration. The sun sets more than once, but the band play on; Noel Crombie and Paul Hester double up on drums, and the cathartic finale speaks of joy as much as sadness.
Split Enz are here caught at a pivotal moment in their career. They're just back from their first trip to Australia where they recorded acclaimed debut album Mental Notes, from which the 'Maybe' single is taken. But the album is yet to be released in New Zealand, where they've taken time out from a national tour to appear on the first Telethon. Within nine months they will be in the UK on the long path to becoming NZ's first international music success. The costumes are the "zootsuits" designed by Noel Crombie, who contents himself with being a lurking presence in pale blue.
With departed founder member Phil Judd back in NZ, this UK written Tim Finn rocker took Split Enz even further into pop territory and away from their art rock roots. Of a piece with the most energetic New Wave of the time, it was accompanied by a video with an appropriately frenzied performance which former member and Enz historian Mike Chunn rated as one of their most infectious. The band are wearing Noel Crombie’s art-school designed suits, Neil Finn looks ridiculously young and endings don’t come much more abruptly than this one.
'Spill The Light' kicked off a fruitful collaboration between Betchadupa and Gerald Phillips, with the recent design school graduate taking on the roles of director, animator, actor and cameraperson. The process involved filming himself, then drawing over the footage frame by frame. The result has our head-bopping protagonist sitting down and losing himself in this mellow single from Betchadupa's self-titled EP. The band appear in animated cameos, going about their daily routine, while our listener remains blissfully oblivious.