At the Great Ngarauawahia Music Festival when they were Split Ends. I was fourteen and like most people there to see Black Sabbath but I do remember they were interesting. Dressed pretty much like everybody else there – a much different spectacle than what they would become. Something about Phil Judd’s voice though and the peculiar songs…
They were a revelation when they showed up on TV in New Faces almost fully realised a few months later. There were several creepy television performances – Spellbound was like David Lynch.
Second Thoughts was the album I used to listen to. Prog rock yet both punk and new wave as well before either existed. Gothic too – the songs had an epic quality. Produced by Phil Manzara the album had a Roxy Music vibe and was a re-write of Mental Notes.
At the Founder’s Theatre in Hamilton they were supported by a kid my age – young Neil Finn singing Beatles songs. They were great live at this time – the really dark strange element was there to balance the jaunty side. They had very unusual songs – it was always about the songs. Thinking now about that gig – there were three of our greatest songwriters singing that night
They left for overseas and went through that major line-up change. Back in New Zealand, I was getting more and more into music growing up and they were a part of it – getting mentioned in NME and all their woes of that period. It made me feel closer to the big world of music to know that they were out there paving the way.
I got Dizrythmia when it came out. It starts with a hiss and a roar with Bold as Brass then My Mistake and signals the next phase. Yet there are a couple of Phil Judd songs still on there and as yet no Neil Finn tunes.
The Dizrythmia Tour in Hamilton was the first time I saw them without Phil Judd. Tim Finn was electric and everyone was hoping Neil would do well. Wake Up Charlie was sublime and the new English rhythm section was at least as good as Chunn/Crowther. It was a great homecoming performance.
At the big Nambassa they played with borrowed gear. In a kind of novelty song period – Hermit MacDermitt, Famous People – I think they were trying too hard. They still had that disjointed thing but it didn’t work without Judd. Tim’s ballads held it all together for me – Betty, Semi-Detached.
True Colours tour Wellington Town Hall. When they played I Got You and lifted the roof off the place I got a surprise – I’d heard it on the radio but not connected it to Split Enz. .And there was Neill Finn fully formed and sweeping the Enz up into a new decade.
The Swingers live at the St James Theatre. I did some roadie work on the gig and got to see it up close. I guess it would have been Ian Gilroy on drums by this stage and Bones did all the talking but it was Phil Judd I wanted to see. His Rickenbacker, bunch of foot pedals and the same strange intensity I’d seen all those years before. Songs like One Good Reason, Counting The Beat…just fantastic live.
Tim Finn at the James Cabaret – I got to meet him backstage through Ross Burge who was drumming on that tour. He was really friendly and seemed to be a man who wore his talent well but was still restless. I asked him about a couple of his songs.
Neil Finn soundcheck, Kent Terrace – he played History Never Repeats out in front of the Embassy Theatre warming up for The Hobbit premiere. I was right up close. I could see his fingers fret those chords and riffs. That was pretty special too.