Split Enz

Split Enz were a New Zealander art-rock band from Auckland, formed in late 1972 and active through several iterations over a 12-year period. In 1973, the band released a pair of singles on Vertigo and EMI, followed by nine albums on Mushroom between 1975 and 1984.

Their first album, Mental Notes, includes the popular early showpieces “Stranger than Fiction” and “Under the Wheel,” both from the frontal team of singer Tim Finn and guitarist Phil Judd. In 1976, they remade the album with select new cuts as Second Thoughts, produced by Phil Manzanera. Their live act consisted of mime gestures, cone hairdos, harlequin outfits, and kabuki makeup.

In 1977, a revised lineup of Split Enz issued Dizrythmia, featuring the singles “Bold as Brass,” “My Mistake,” and the live favorites “Charlie” and “Jamboree.” While the band were between contracts, they cut numerous demos during 1978, some of them re-cut for 1979’s Frenzy, including the popular ballad “Stuff and Nonsense” and “Carried Away,” the songwriting debut of Tim’s younger brother, Neil Finn.

Split Enz scored their global breakthrough in 1980 with Neil’s “I Got You,” included on True Colours with Tim’s ballad “I Hope I Never.” The following Corroboree (Waiata outside Oceania) produced the hits “One Step Ahead” and “History Never Repeats,” both staples of the fledgling US cable music network MTV. Their 1982 release, Time and Tide, contains “Six Months In a Leaky Boat,” about the early English settlers of New Zealand.

In 1983, as Tim eyed a solo career, Split Enz scored with the Neil ballad “Message to My Girl,” included on Conflicting Emotions. Tim left later that year, leaving Neil to helm 1984’s See Ya ‘Round. That December, Tim returned for a farewell tour. Neil proceeded with a new band, Crowded House.

Members: Tim Finn (vocals, keyboards, 1977-83, 1984), Phil Judd (vocals, guitar, 1972-77, 1978), Mike Chunn (bass, 1972-77), Miles Golding (violin, 1972-73), Michael Howard (flute, 1972-73), Wally Wilkinson (guitar, 1973-75), Rob Gillies (saxophone, 1973-74, 1975-77), Geoff Chunn (drums, 1973-74), Eddie Rayner (keyboards, 1974-84), Noel Crombie (percussion, drums, 1974-84), Paul Crowther (drums, 1974-76), Malcolm Green (drums, 1976-81), Neil Finn (vocals, guitar, 1977-84), Nigel Griggs (bass, 1977-84), Paul Hester (drums, 1983-84)

In the fall of 1972, University of Auckland friends Tim Finn and Phil Judd, who both sang and respectively played piano and guitar, decided to form a band. With a shared affinity for English music-hall/pop-rock (The Move, The Kinks), surrealist art, and Mervyn Peake novels, the pair moved into Room 129 in the boarding house Malmsbury Villa and began writing songs. They assembled Split Ends with classical violinist Miles Golding, flautist Mike Howard, and bassist Mike Chunn, a longtime friend of Finn.

In April 1973, Split Ends released their first single, “For You” (b/w “Split Ends”) on the New Zealand branch of Vertigo. That month, they toured as an opening act for John Mayall. Mike Chunn’s brother Geoff joined as their first proper drummer. Soon after, Miles Golding departed to the U.K. to further his classical career and Howard was dropped from the lineup. In a move away from the folk-pop style of their first single, the band enlisted guitarist Wally Wilkinson.

Later that year, Split Ends made their first TVNZ appearance as contestants on the talent program New Faces, where they mimed to two new Judd originals: “129” (about their boarding room) and “Home Sweet Home.” The former was issued as the b-side to their second single, “The Sweet Talkin’ Spoon Song,” released on EMI NZ in November 1973. Three other recordings from this period — “No Bother to Me,” “Malmsbury Villa,” and “Spellbound” — were used during a 30-minute miming segment on TVNZ. They expanded to a six-piece with saxophonist Rob Gillies.

During 1974, Split Ends became a popular draw on the North Island. Artist Noel Crombie, a longtime friend of Judd, began designing costumes and stage sets for the band. They were joined that February by Space Waltz keyboardist Eddie Rayner, who added a symphonic element to the band’s sound. Drummer Paul Emlyn Crowther stepped in for a departing Geoff Chunn.

In April–May 1974, Split Ends partook in a series of theater concerts dubbed “Buck-a-Head” ($1 entry per-head). This allowed them to add theatrical routines to select numbers. At one show, Rayner’s aunt tap danced during a break in one song. To replicate the sound of tap dancing at other shows, Crombie performed a spoon solo and edged himself in as a full band member. Gillies departed later that year.

In early 1975, Split Ends set off for Australia. As an ode to their national identity, they respelled their last name “Enz.” Their third single, “No Bother To Me” (b/w “Home Sweet Home”), was issued that March on NZ small-press White Cloud.

Split Enz toured the Australian pub circuit and gained a cult following with their elaborate numbers and colorfull attire. At one of these shows, they were spotted by Melbourne music mogul Michael Gudinski, who signed them to his upstart label Mushroom Records, which had just scored big with local costumed rockers Skyhooks.



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