The Beginnings Of The Enz

The Beginnings Of The Enz

split enz, 1976
(L-R) Phil Judd, Malcolm Green, Tim Finn, Mike Chunn, Robert Gillies, Eddie Rayner and Noel Crombie of Split Enz in 1976. Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns.

True Colours and their #1 smash single, "I Got You" may have thrust Split Enz into the mainstream in 1980, but they'd actually had a couple of previous hits and had been a talked-about act since they first moved to Australia in 1975. Even before then, in New Zealand, before their move and within a year or so of Tim Finn, Phil Judd and Mike Chunn having formed the band as Split Ends in 1972, they'd appeared on New Zealand’s version of New Faces and subsequently scored their own half-hour TV special.

Part of the appeal was obviously visual – they were suitably eye-catching for television – but there was certainly a musical strength as well. Listen to these early recordings, and you'll hear a strikingly unique and incredibly well-developed style. Early Split Enz drew on a late '60s art-pop aesthetic and incorporated exaggerated and surreal vaudeville and cabaret aesthetics, highlighting whimsy, nonsense, fragile nervous tension and the most preposterous haircuts ever seen in pop. They were more extreme musically and visually than virtually anything that came before, or after; even the Sex Pistols looked and sounded pretty normal compared to these chaps. Of course, for all their weirdness they seemed like very nice chaps, and they didn't swear on television, so they weren't that threatening.

Although they encountered a ridiculous number of line-up changes early on, the original Split Enz could probably be said to have ended when co-principal Phil Judd departed for a second time, leaving the band in the hands of co-founder Tim Finn – Judd had originally departed, together with Mike Chunn, after the band's first US tour and before the recording of their 1977 album Dizrythmia. Tim had brought in his little brother Neil for Dizrythmia, and by the next album, 1979's Frenzy, Neil was making his presence felt. We'll focus on the pre-Frenzy era here.                                                                                                    

Let's start way back in 1973, near the beginning.

"The Sweet Talkin' Spoon Song" [New Faces 1973]

The historic New Faces performances I mentioned above. The only remnants that exist were recorded on film by Tim Finn's dad. One imagines Neil sitting with his mum and dad in the loungeroom watching as his big brother made his first television appearances. Sadly there's no trace of the half-hour TV special that followed on from this. These two songs would feature on the band's second single.

Split Enz's first Countdown appearance, in May 1975 (just a couple of months after the introduction of colour TV) was with "No Bother To Me", which was their final NZ single and their first to be released as Split Enz. Their first two had been released under the name Split Ends.

The next handful of performances feature material the band recorded in Sydney in May 1975 for their first album, Mental Notes.


"Stranger Than Fiction / Time For a Change" 




"Under The Wheel" 

"So Long For Now" 

Split Enz' 1976 album, Second Thoughts, was recorded in London and produced by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music. The record featured re-recordings of four tracks from their first album, including "Titus", “Stranger Than Fiction" and the exquisite "Time for a Change". A previous recording of the album opener "Late Last Night" – as featured here – had been the group's first (minor) hit single in Australia earlier in the year.

"Late Last Night" 

"Lovey Dovey"

"Sweet Dreams"

From 1977's wonderfully titled Dizrythmia, Split Enz's first album without Phil Judd and Mike Chunn, was co-produced by former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. "My Mistake" was the group's first Top 20 single in Australia.

"Bold As Brass" 

"My Mistake" 


"Parrot Fashion Love" 




If you want to dive deeper, the early Enz albums are all available to stream. Check them out below:  

Mental Notes (1975)

Second Thoughts (1976)

And the collection of early New Zealand studio recordings from which we pinched the title of this piece, The Beginnings of The Enz 

Related Posts