Kiwi legends Split Enz broke moulds with their genrebending songs, onstage personas and zany art-school infused outfits. Among many other musicians, they introduced Phil Judd and Te Awamutu troubadours Tim and Neil Finn to the world. Formed in the early 70s, the band found mainstream success with 1980 album True Colours. Neil Finn-penned single 'I Got You' topped charts on both sides of the Tasman. True antipodean originals, the Enz delivered hits like 'I See Red' and the beloved 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat'. "Aotea-rooooa ... ". Many reunion performances have followed the band's 1984 breakup.
‘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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
'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.