“Best-known for their early-'80s new wave pop hits, particularly I Got You, Split Enz — after surviving a dizzying array of image and personnel changes and a full decade without any recognition outside of their homeland — became the first New Zealand band to achieve worldwide success…Split Enz's output always seemed slightly outside of the times and often frustratingly obscure, but in the end, they left behind a body of work that was always interesting and often reached pure pop brilliance” (Woodstra).
“The band started life in 1971 at the Auckland University, where Tim [Finn] met up with (old friend) Mike Chunn, Robert Gillies, Philip Judd and Noel Crombie. From 1972 the band became a full-time occupation for the friends” (NationMaster.com) and they formed “a light acoustic combo called Split Ends…Finn and Judd were the main songwriting force of the band's early years…Judd working out the basic song with lyrics and Finn providing the melodies” (Woodstra). ”The musical style is best described as new wave - eclectic and wildly original, incorporating influences from art rock, vaudeville, swing, punk, rock and pop. Their costumes and hair were like nothing else, wild and colourful” (NationMaster.com). “Judd drew his inspiration from a wild variety of often non-musical sources while Finn's tastes leaned toward the British pop of the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Move” (Woodstra).
First Single and a Name Change:
“The group…record[ed] their first single, For You/Split Ends, in February of 1973. At Chunn's urging, the band went for a new, electric sound…and they changed their name to Split Enz…The group's shows took on a theatrical tone, as the band members wore wild, colorful costumes and sported a variety of odd hairdos. Finn acted as master of ceremonies, giving odd spoken soliloquies” (Woodstra).
“In March of 1975, the group travelled to Australia…they eventually earned a small cult following and secured a contract with Mushroom Records. Their debut album, Mental Notes, was recorded in two weeks. While their inexperience in the studio combined with an unsympathetic producer led to a less than satisfying result in the band's eyes, the album encapsulated the band at its artiest and most ambitious. The album made a brief appearance on both the Australian and New Zealand charts” (Woodstra).
New Single, New Producer, New Album…Sort Of:
“Split Enz had caught the attention of Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera who offered to help the band with their next album; they arranged to meet him in England to redo Mental Notes. Before leaving, they recorded a new single, Late Last Night. Despite the complex song-structure, the single showed the band moving toward a pop direction; nevertheless, it failed to have much impact. ‘Late Last Night’ was accompanied by a video clip, which was an uncommon practice in 1976; the band would continue to make conceptual clips from that point on…Second Thoughts, essentially a reworked Mental Notes, was released toward the end of 1976” (Woodstra).
Little Brother Neil:
“Between 1972 and 1977 Tim shared leader duties with Phil…When the latter left the band for good, younger brother Neil Finn joined at 17 years of age, and he went on to write most of the major hits the band had" (NationMaster.com). “The group began to move away from its arty, theatrical tendencies on…1977's Dizrhythmia. In Australia, the album went gold and the single My Mistake became their first Top 20 hit. In England, the group fared far worse. Though their odd looks and new, leaner material wasn't so far removed from post-punk styles, their earlier reputation seemed more in line with the progressive rock the punks sought to destroy” (Woodstra).
“By early 1978, Split Enz had been dropped by Chrysalis…They continued writing new material at a feverish pace and rehearsing constantly…they recorded a new single with producer David Tickle — a straight-ahead rocker called I See Red – which charted respectably in Australia. Split Enz returned to Australia to make … 1978's Frenzy” (Woodstra).
“The band teamed up again with Tickle for…True Colours in 1979. The album lacked the excesses of their previous albums and showcased their new pure pop direction. With Neil Finn's seductive I Got You, the band finally broke through – the single and album hit number one in Australia and New Zealand, eventually selling 200,000 albums in Australia, the equivalent of one in every 10 homes in that country. The success led to an international deal with A&M Records. The band quickly recorded a follow-up during a mid-year break in touring. The result — called Corroborree in Australia and Waiata internationally – was released in April of 1981. The record was somewhat disappointing…but it did manage two hit singles, One Step Ahead and History Never Repeats” (Woodstra).
“By late 1981, after many months of intensive touring, the band retreated to the studio to record their most personal and creatively satisfying album to date, Time & Tide. Released in 1982, it immediately topped the Australian and New Zealand charts. The advent of MTV and the channel’s commitment to new wave acts helped the band's growing cult status in America – both Dirty Creature and Six Months in a Leaky Boat (as well as earlier videos) saw heavy airplay on the channel — but the album failed to see much chart action” (Woodstra).
Tim Goes Solo:
“Early in 1983, Tim took a break…to work on a solo album, Escapade. The album was a big success in Australia, spawning several hits singles including the Top Ten ‘Fraction Too Much Friction.’ For all of its success, though, the album distracted Tim…and effectively ending the momentum Split Enz had built over the previous three albums. Conflicting Emotions was finally finished by the fall of 1983…For this effort, [Tim] was overshadowed by brother Neil who had written a considerable majority of songs for the first time. The album, while predictably successful in Australia/New Zealand, saw a delayed release in the States and failed to make much impact” (Woodstra).
“Before work was begun on the next album, Tim announced that he was leaving the band. With Neil as the leader, the band carried on for one more album – 1984's See Ya Round, an uneven album…released only in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Neil decided to fold the band following a farewell tour…for which Tim rejoined the group” (Woodstra).
The End of Enz:
“Neil and Hester went on to form the internationally successful Crowded House, Tim continued a sporadic solo career, joining Crowded House for the Woodface album in 1991. Griggs, Crombie, and Judd formed Schnell Fenster, releasing two albums before disbanding” (Woodstra). “Eddie Rayner joined Schnell Fenster, but soon after decided to form his own band called The Makers. They released two albums. His ENZSO project saw some of the members sing the old Split Enz songs in an orchestral setting with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and two albums were released with live recordings” (NationMaster.com). “Tim and Neil Finn reunited for a Finn Brothers album in 1995” (Woodstra) and released another set together in 2004. In between, both recorded solo albums.