By 1978 the band was broke and hadn’t filed tax returns for years, they had failed to find a commercial niche for their arty, quirky, idiosyncratic songs, and as an ensemble who rejected standard pop star looks and sounds for something more flamboyant and whimsical, they had failed to build a strong fan base here or overseas.
Tim Finn had been the undisputed leader, front man, and creative force within the band since its inception, but with the arrival of his younger brother Neil “Ant” Finn, a gifted songwriter with natural commercial instincts, there was a gradual power shift within the Enz towards the younger sibling, much to the chagrin of the increasingly insecure Tim Finn.At this time the brothers were house-sharing with their respective partners, Tim’s Liz Malam and Neil’s Sharon (Dawn) Johnson (above) at New South Head Rd. in Rose Bay (Syd). While the girls went to work to support the brothers, Tim and Neil threw song titles and snatches of lyrics at one another. Tim came up with “I Got You”, Neil with “What’s the Matter With You”, and the songs that would become the True Colours album gradually evolved. David Tickle (below) who had produced I See Red, was Aussie Mike Chapman’s sound engineer and had worked with producer Chapman on the classic Blondie album Eat to the Beat as well as the debut smash hit by the Knack, Get the Knack, he was the only producer that the Enz wanted to work with on their new album.In 1979 the band with producer Tickle assembled in Armstrong’s Studios (South Melbourne) to record their fifth album. During pre-production at the Play Room on Queensland’s Gold Coast, I Got You had continued to evolve, Neil riffed on several guitar chords, Mal Green liked what he heard and chimed in with his kick drum, Neil recalled a chorus he had written for another song “ I don’t know why sometimes I get frightened” but admitted that he didn’t have a bridge, “Oh yes you do” chipped in Eddie Rayner reminding him of something they had already written and shelved, the strange alchemy that produces a hit record, had just been conjured.The influence of the Beatles was evident, Lennon could be heard in Neil’s neurotic, anxious, paranoid lyrics, and McCartney in its instantly memorable melody, the main protagonist in the song wrestles with the complexities of a troubled relationship, all driven along on the back of synth-laden chords, and an insistent chorus, which Neil didn’t originally like, but sounds as fresh today as it did over fifty years ago. The strange and rather eerie promo clip featured Neil as a twitchy new lead singer, with thick caterpillar-like eyebrows and greasepaint slathered over his face, he stands and sings in a darkened room, Crombie’s camera pursues him like a stalker, the rest of the band appears in a picture frame behind him, until Neil simultaneously appears with the band in the frame, and cowers as he watches himself perform in the foreground, at the end of the clip.
I Got You became the band’s breakthrough single, it charted #1 in Aust and NZ, top 20 in the UK, Ireland and Canada and #53 in the US, to became the biggest selling single of the year locally, clocking up global sales in excess of 300,000 copies. The album True Colours was also a genuine international hit, charting #1 in Aust and NZ, and top 40 in the UK and USA, and selling over 700,000 copies. The Enz were now starting to cross the bridge from cult status to genuine new wave commercial success, and not before time, if True Colours had failed they would have disbanded.