1972 in Auckland, New Zealand
Core '80s Band Members:
- Tim Finn (born Brian Timothy Finn on June 25, 1952 in Te Awamutu, New Zealand) - Lead vocals, backing vocals, piano, keyboards, guitar, primary songwriter
- Neil Finn (born Neil Mullane Finn on May 27, 1958 in Te Awamutu, New Zealand) - Lead vocals, backing vocals, guitar, songwriter
- Nigel Griggs (born August 18, 1949 in Hatfield, England) - Bass guitar, backing vocals
- Eddie Rayner (born Anthony Edward Charles Rayner on November 19, 1952) - Keyboards, synthesizer
- Noel Crombie (born Geoffrey Noel Crombie on April 17, 1953) - Percussion, drums
- Malcolm Green (born January 25, 1953 in England)- Drums (1976-1981)
Much like Genesis, another successful '80s band with two clear career phases, Split Enz had an entirely different and separate art rock phase during the '70s that seems utterly unlike the commercially viable pop music sound that brought fame and fortune. That latter period featured the combined talents of the brothers Finn and resulted in a melodic yet still challenging sound that brought considerable exposure for the band in both the U.K. and U.S. Neil Finn would later continue without brother Tim in the even more successful Crowded House, but Split Enz was there first, paving the way for New Zealand rock.
The genesis of Split Enz reaches back to the very early '70s at the University of Auckland, where college friends Tim Finn and Phil Judd joined forces creatively to start an experimental rock band. By 1972 the group became a full-time enterprise, and the original quintet worked hard to distinguish itself through outlandish costumes and an overall vibrant visual presentation. Initially the band's music went for a blend of neo-classical style and Beatles-inspired pop, but later the tight songwriting partnership of Finn and Judd explored broader styles with the aid of additional personnel Rayner and Crombie.
Theatrics, Broadening Horizons & Debut Album:
Armed with an array of talented musicians, the mid-'70s version of Split Enz worked hard to remain memorable to audiences, employing a spirited and sometimes bizarre live show to great effect. However, the group's success seemed isolated until an attempt to gain a footing in Australia helped lead to a record deal and a debut album in 1975 called Mental Notes. By this time Split Enz had become a renowned cult band, but further efforts to broaden the band's popularity base in both the U.S. and U.K. led to rising tensions between multiple founding members. In early 1977 Judd left the band after a difficult U.S. tour.
Addition of Neil Finn & Change in Sound:
In order to avoid erosion of the band's momentum, Tim Finn turned to his younger brother Neil as a replacement for Judd. Eager but inexperienced, Neil slowly began to take on a larger role in the band as both occasional lead vocalist and composer. The magical blend of the brothers' voices soon became more important than the band's still-theatrical approach, especially on the late 1978 single "I See Red." As new wave began to break, early-'80s tunes like "I Got You" and "One Step Ahead" (Neil's first solo compositions for Split Enz), "Poor Boy" and "Hard Act to Follow" struck a melodic chord with audiences.
Band Hiatus & Eventual Split:
Fresh off a rising tide of success from three consecutive well-received LPs (1980's True Colours, 1981's Waiata and 1982's Time and Tide), the band took a hiatus during 1983 that also made room for a Tim Finn solo outing. This may have stalled to a certain extent the American momentum of Split Enz built by tracks like "History Never Repeats" and "Six Months in a Leaky Boat." In addition, this absence of the band's long-time leader bled into the group's next release, which would turn out to be the last one with Tim Finn as member. One more album followed in 1984 with Neil as frontman, but the end was near.
Evolution into Crowded House & Occasional Reformations:
Along with recently added drummer Hester, Neil Finn set out to start a new band post-Split Enz. By 1986 the new band exploded onto the scene with its self-titled debut, which featured the younger Finn's soaring voice and exquisite melodic sense. As for Split Enz and its former members, all continued in the music business with other bands and projects. In 2005, the group reunited memorably at an Australian awards show, which led to further short-term reunions that have kept the Split Enz legacy alive and well. Underrated and thoroughly original, the band remains one of New Zealand's finest and most famous rock groups.