SPLIT ENZ & CROWDED HOUSE – PART 2

CH7

Better Be Home Soon (N Finn) and Into Temptation (N Finn) – Crowded House 1988

 By  late 1988 Tim Finn’s affair with actress Grata Scacchi ended when she decamped with fellow actor Vincent D’Onofrio (both below), Tim’s flirtation with a career in film sputtered to a halt and he was looking to reboot as a musician.CH51The success of Neil and Crowded House presented an opportunity to be reunited with his younger sibling. Neil assisted him to get a recording contract with his own label Capitol, hooked him up with Crowded House’s producer Mitchell Froom, and even arranged for him to engage Neil’s US manager Gary Stamler. Paul Hester and Nick Seymour could have been forgiven for suspecting that the brothers were about to form their own band, and that they may not be a part of it, which is what very nearly happened by the time the House’s third album was due. While Tim continued to struggle with his own compositions, Neil was at a creative peak, driving Crowded House toward global success, and even having time to write the excellent You I Know for fellow Kiwi Jenny Morris (below), a “secret Neil Finn gem”, and Jenny’s first top twenty hit in Australia, in 1987.  CH38Producer Mitchel Froom was again entrusted with the band’s second album Temple of Low Men (a colloquial term for the vagina/cunnilingus), to be recorded in Melbourne (Platinum Studio) and Los Angeles (Sunset Studio) in 1987/88 for release in June.CH9When Better Be Home Soon became the first single lifted from the album, the consummate musical skills of Crowded House and the sublime creative talents of Neil Finn were again evident, the simple acoustic arrangement and three- part harmonies, where reminiscent of Split Enz, probably because Tim Finn (below)  had contributed backing vocals to the recording whilst in LA.CH52The inspiration for this song according to Neil Finn was an evening spent in a motel in New Zealand where male rugby players and female netball players were staying, and some paired off for the night. He mistakenly answered what he thought was a knock on his door to find that it was a girl entering the room next door, hence the first line, “…you opened up the door, I couldn’t believe my luck…” he was also speculating about the other guy’s reaction to the arrival of the girl and the fact that both were yielding to temptation. Neil’s wife Sharon (below with Neil) wasn’t so sure and was understandably anxious when she heard a song that appeared to be about infidelity and the temptations of life on the road.CH39The song is unusual as it is sung in the first person, but it is also clear that it is not Finn who was that person, the chorus was inspired when Finn experienced a Los Angeles earthquake, and drew from that, the analogy of the wrath of God, felt when people yield to temptation.

The surreal promo video featured the band performing in an old theatre with a proscenium arch, Neil sings and Hester flashes cue cards to him from the prompt box at the footlights, all wear preppy clothes, shirts and ties, Nick Seymour plays an organ which he didn’t do on the record as it was played by the producer Mitchell Froom, Seymour and Hester appear as giant figures behind Neil as they wander backstage and a backdrop of piled-high chairs and a scenery moon and clouds pass by, wistful, beguiling, playful, and Neil front and centre. Neil subsequently performed this song as a tribute to the late Paul Hester (below) who passed away in 2005, it was an international hit charting #2 in Australia and NZ and top 40 in the USA, and was subsequently covered by Jessica Mauboy, Kasey Chambers, Donny Osmond, and the Coors.CH26Into Temptation was a restrained ballad and the fourth single lifted from Temple of Low Men, the acoustic guitar on the verses is sparse and crystalline and the whole arrangement has a gorgeous dreamlike, almost hymnal quality.CH8The inspiration for this country-tinged song was Neil’s feelings of separation and even alienation from his wife Sharon because of his constant touring “I guess this was written from my wife’s point of view. It was a very quick song (to write), written one morning when I got out of bed. It relates to that feeling when someone’s getting to the end of their tether with someone who’s always away; trying to maintain a relationship with someone who is not there. And here’s that slight warning, I think the line that I’m most proud of in the song is: “It would cause me no pain to end it, but I could start again, you can depend on it. “There’s a bit of strength there. It’s not like saying, “For God’s sake, don’t leave me, I’d be hopeless without you. It’s more like, “Listen, pull your weight, buster!” (50 Years of Rock in Australia – Jeff Jenkins 2007), the song was under-appreciated and undeservedly so, when it only charted #67 locally, and #38 in NZ.

Temple of Low Men received mixed reviews from the critics, the OC Register noted “The submersion into pain and guilt begins immediately with the opening track, the sad and despondent I Feel Possessed, and moves through the mind of an adulterer on Into Temptation …”, another observed that it was  “not-so-easy listening”, and even Neil agreed retrospectively that it was no so much the work of his inner Lennon and McCartney , but the outpouring of “Leonard Cohen and McCartney.” It did not replicate the runaway success of the band’s debut album, but it charted respectably with #1 in Aust, #2 in NZ, #10 in Canada and #40 in the USA for global sales in excess of 700,000 copies.

 

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