The Finn family, Dick, an accountant, Mary, a housewife, pianist and devout Catholic, daughters Carolyn and Judy, brothers Brian Timothy (1952), and Neil Mullane (1958), resided at 78 Teasdale Rd. Te Awamutu, a sleepy rural community in the Waikato Region of New Zealand’s North Island, 150 kms south of Auckland. They were a solid middle-class family who enjoyed family sing-a-longs and vocal harmonising, both boys attended St. Joseph’s Convent primary school for boys, and enjoyed swimming, rugby, athletics, tennis, and surfing, in 1995 Tim described their childhood home as “ a place of fecundity, and life, and youth.”(see below)But musically New Zealand was a sterile environment in the 1950’s, dominated by the conservative NZBC (the local equivalent of the ABC) which monopolised the airwaves and refused to play rock ‘n’ roll music, the local stars were hillbilly performer Tex Morton, the family-friendly Howard Morrison Quartet, Pat McMinn (below) and Bill Langsford with their local novelty hit Opo the Crazy Dolphin, and emerging rocker Johnny “The Satin Satan” Devlin (below) and his group The Devils, from Wanganui.Things started to change after September 1966 when local journalist/DJ David Gapes (below) set up the pirate radio station Radio Harauki on the ship Tiri (see further below), moored outside the country’s three-mile limit off the coast of Auckland. Despite fierce opposition from the authorities, and the the fact that several “pirate radio ships” sank, the demand for popular music was ignited and commercial radio stations began to proliferate after 1970, playing the current hits of the day. Tim (below centre) and Neil Finn both attended Sacred Heart College, Tim as a boarder from 1966 where he met fellow student Mike Chunn, both were musically-inclined and between them they played piano, guitar and after recruiting Mike’s brother as drummer, they performed at school concerts and even cut several records at the Stebbing Recording Studios in Auckland – the songs Take It Green and Near Hosts became footnotes to their shared musical history. Tim Finn and Mike Chunn (piano) perform at Sacred Heart College in 1970.In 1971 both Finn and Chunn enrolled at Auckland University, Finn in Arts and Chunn in Theoretical and Applied Mathematics, they shared a love of the Beatles, Jethro Tull, and the Bee Gees, and readily embraced the undergraduate lifestyle of drinking, partying, and drug-taking. They became part of a coterie of like-minded students who would gather in Student Hostel Room No. 129, where they would meet fellow students and future Split Enz bandmates Noel Crombie and guitarist/artist Philip Judd.Meanwhile Neil (above) had followed his older brother into Sacred Heart College, but he was even more rebellious than his older sibling, and bridled at being reminded of Tim’s sporting and academic achievements at the school. Neil departed Sacred Heart College and enrolled in the Te Awamutu College in 1972, in the same year Tim and Phil Judd dropped out of university and formed a duo known as Mellodrone. They focused on song writing and performing, Noel Crombie would ultimately contribute stage costumes and props, Eddie Rayner (keyboards) would subsequently leave his band Orb and join the group, violinist Tony Golding was recruited, and finally Mike Chunn (bassist) came on board and completed the line-up of a band that was then known as, Split Ends. In the picture below – Front Row: Tim Finn, Mike Chunn, Wally Wilkinson, and Phil Judd, Back Row :Emlyn Crowther, Noel Crombie., and Eddie Rayner.
Their debut performance was on Sunday Dec 10 1972 at Auckland’s Wynyard Tavern (Symonds St), quickly followed the same night by a gig at Levi’s Saloon (Customs St), their most ardent fan attended that night, Tim’s younger brother Neil was transfixed by the performance of his brother and his band, and saw his own musical future writ large. The group’s future manger Barry Coburn (below) was also present and immediately offered to manage the band and to feature them in the upcoming NZ version of Woodstock – the Great Ngaruawahia Festival, they were on their way, or so they thought. The beery, boisterous, 18,000 rock fans wanted to see British heavy rock act Black Sabbath, and local guitar hero Kevin Borich and his band the La De Das, not a group of oddball, ex-uni fops dressed in op shop clothes, spouting arch commentary and smart-arse poetry; completely lacking stagecraft and singing unknown original songs, they were heartily booed off stage, Judd was so distraught that his appetite for live performances was irrevocably soured.The band recorded several songs but all failed to chart, Golding departed the band along with drummer David Vercoe, Geoff Chunn became his replacement and Sacred Heart old boy and guitarist Wally Wilkinson was recruited to form a new line-up that would play support on a John Mayall tour of NZ, and they would all be playing electric instruments for the first time! By early 1974 keyboard whiz Eddie Rayner had joined the group, a subtle change in the spelling of Ends to Enz was a parochial nod to their home country and was catchy when used in such expressions as “Enz of the Earth”, “Enz with a Bang” and Frenz of the Enz”, while Noel Crombie became the band’s official art director, costume designer, occasional vocalist, and spoon soloist.Personnel would continue to change, and the band would experience hard times in the UK, where many antipodean bands had gone before and perished, Neil Finn would join the Enz in 1977 and in 1980 he would pen their breakthrough international hit, I Got You, lifted from the stunningly successful True Colours album which would sell 700,000 copies globally. This band of eccentric misfits would perform around the world, led initially by the intellectually acute, socially aware, slightly pretentious, and emotionally fragile older brother Tim, and finally by his younger brother Neil, a more focused, commercially savvy, wary, and controlling person who would lead Crowded House to great international success. The combined catalogues of the Enz and the House would confirm the status of the Finn brothers from Te Awamutu as the most important figures in the history of New Zealand contemporary music, and after sheep, mountains, the All Blacks, Dame Kiri, sauvignon blanc, and swallowed vowels, Split Enz and Crowded House remain two of the country’s most recognisable icons.