SPLIT ENZ & CROWDED HOUSE – PART 1

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Fraction Too Much Friction (T Finn) – Tim Finn 1983

 After ten years with Split Enz, former front man Tim Finn took time out to explore new musical directions outside the Enz bubble. He contributed vocals to a re-recording of his song She’s Got Body, She’s Got Soul, from the Frenzy album, for the soundtrack of Gillian Armstrong’s movie Starstruck, and commenced working on his debut album Escapade, with local producer Mark Moffatt (Saints, Eurogliders, Ross Wilson, Divinyls), who was also the musical director on Starstruck.finns47Moffatt had more APRA Top 30 Greatest Songs Ever to his credit than anyone else, as well as fifteen ARIA Hall of Fame inductees, his co-producer Ricky Fataaar, a former Beach Boys drummer who was married to supermodel Penelope Tree (below), had toured with Bonnie Raitt and David Cassidy, and was equally talented, and would work with Jenny Morris, Wendy Matthews, and Peter Blakely in the future. The trio of talent behind Tim’s first solo album was completed by Timmy Kramer, a cool, young, Californian sound engineer with a relaxed, West Coast attitude, they all gathered in Festival’s Sydney recording studios in early 1983 to record what would become Tim’s magnum opus.finns50The lead single was to be Fraction Too Much Friction, a song originally developed by Tim on piano, but producer Moffat (below) who played guitar on the early recording of the song, felt that a reggae treatment would enhance the sound and he was right. The song is catchy with interesting chord and tempo changes, the intro of synth-infused guitar, bass and drums brings Moffatt, Chris Haig and Fataar respectively into the mix, piano flourishes by jazz great Richard Tee added colour to the song and trumpets by Peter Cross and a sax solo by Joe Camilleri were all highlights, nicely complemented by the soulful backing of Venetta Fields and confident lead vocals by Tim.finns51At this time Tim Finn was still making the painful adjustment to his younger brother Neil supplanting him as the prime mover within Split Enz, he was also experiencing difficulties with his long-term partner Liz Malam, as his more recent song titles would suggest – In The Wars, Walking Through the Ruins and Fraction Too Much Friction, as the lyrics to the latter song would suggest “Take a typical man, put him with a typical woman/ Sit back watch everything slide “. Lyrically the song explores the eternal struggle between man and woman to live together, to accommodate each other’s emotional highs and lows, aspirations, and misgivings, while neutralizing the friction which can destroy relationships “I swallow my pride for you/ My personal highs bore you/ You’re too wrapped up in your own world/ I gotta become someone / Inside this oyster there’s a pearl”, Tim and Liz would ultimately marry in 1981 but divorce a year later.

Richard Lowenstein’s bouncy promo video is a mixture of bright day- glo colors, video scratching, domestic scenes, partying, animation, and Tim strutting downtown with Venetta Fields, wearing Wayfarer sunglasses and carrying a huge boombox ghetto blaster. Tim privately felt that Fraction Too Much Friction was “painfully white” and his street walk in the video was certainly reminiscent of Gene Wilder’s hilarious blackface, jive-talking, rasta slouch beanie-wearing, ghetto blaster-toting impersonation of a black man in the 1976 movie Silver Streak, starring Wilder and Richard Pryor. The song was a surprise hit, and charted #2 in NZ, #8 in Aust, the album Escapade also did well, hitting #8 locally and #1 in NZ, Tim Finn would record his last Enz album in 1983, and the group he had formed ten years before, would disband.

Tim’s follow up album, Big Canoe, boasted an all-star team, ascendant producer Nick Launay, guitarist John McLaughlin (Del Amitri), keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens (Paul McCartney), and playwright Jeremy Brock, brought on board as a co-lyricist with Tim, at the suggestion of Greta Scacchi. Tim told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was really focused on writing “a full musical”, because “writing for the pop music charts all the time retards your growth. It’s an infantile projection.” Despite the glittering assembly of talent and creativity, Big Canoe would sink like a stone. Tim described it as “big, bold, adventurous, catchy, romantic, tough, urban but pastoral … and the best thing he had ever done.” (Mushroom Pictures: Great Australian Albums: The Story Behind the Album – Woodface). Critics dismissed it as flaccid, overblown, pretentious, and boring, and the fans agreed. Tim would never recapture the momentum he had created with his solo debut Escapade, until he was reunited with his brother, and for a time he would exist on the fringes of  the film industry, taking bit parts in movies in which Scacchi appeared, and writing soundtracks for such movie flops as The Coca-Cola Kid and Les Patterson Saves the World.finns52

 

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