With Split Enz, Crowded House and time as a solo artist, Neil Finn is one of our most celebrated singer-songwriters. This Spotlight collection includes Finn's remake of 'Blue Smoke', breakthrough singles for Split Enz and Crowded House ('I Got You', 'Don't Dream it's Over'), a 2001 tour where the backing band changed on a near daily basis (Finn for a Day) — plus documentaries on the Enz and brothers Finn.
‘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.
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.
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.
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'.
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!
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.
Rain begins by evoking an idyllic kiwi summer. It's a 1970s beach holiday; Mum, Dad and the kids. Picture perfect. But, as the title hints, all is not sunny at the bach. Beneath still waters Mum is drowning in drink, Dad is defeated, and 13-year-old Janey is awakening to a new kind of power. An adaptation of the novel by Kirsty Gunn novel, Rain was director Christine Jeffs' widely acclaimed debut feature. The soundtrack was composed by Neil Finn and Edmund Cake. Kevin Thomas in the LA Times acclaimed Rain as “an important feature debut”.
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.
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.
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.
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.