serving his apprenticeship with Split Enz, his own group Crowded House
established Neil Finn as one of the world’s favourite songwriters.
In July 1984, just six weeks after Tim Finn
announced he was leaving Split Enz, Neil Finn decided to break up the band.
Eleven months later Neil unveiled his new group. In the meantime Split Enz
recorded a final album and went on a farewell tour with Tim back in the
fold. At one of the farewell parties, a slightly tipsy Nick Seymour
approached Neil Finn and offered to join any band he was thinking of
With Nick, Split Enz’s newest member, drummer Paul Hester, and Craig Hooper
of The Reels, Neil unveiled his new group on June 11, 1985 with a Melbourne performance as The
Mullanes. Neil’s middle name is Mullane. Minus Hooper the group relocated
to Los Angeles, determined to start their career with a world-wide
recording contract straight off. Nick especially was always inviting people
around to the house the group was sharing, so when the contract with
Capitol Records was secured and the group needed a name, they looked around
and called themselves Crowded House.
The first album was recorded with the help of session musicians including
producer Mitchell Froom. Although well received by critics and fans alike
the album took an inordinate eight months to reach the No.1 spot in
Australia. What made the difference was the third and fifth singles
released from the album, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ and ‘Something So Strong.’
Both singles were also top ten hits in America. More than Neil Finn’s
clever and tuneful Beatlesque songs the band made an impression with its
imaginative videos (directed by the group itself); embroidered clothes
designed by Nick Seymour, happy go lucky stage manner, and their
play-anywhere attitude. If it meant playing on a street corner to help
promote the band and its record they’d do it. And they were great fun doing
it, thanks mainly to the quick witted, wisecracking Paul Hester. Crowded
House was a great package. The second album, ‘Temple Of Low Men’ repeated
its success at home, but wasn’t as popular internationally. ‘Better Be Home
Soon’ gave the band an Australian No.1 single.
Longest Time To Reach #1 in
Crowded House (Crowded House)
Edge (Daryl Braithwaite)
Baby Animals (Baby Animals)
In 1990 the brothers Finn were trying to work on a duo album at the same time
as a new Crowded House was in the works. Nick Seymour was temporarily
sacked, blamed for a writer’s block Neil Finn was suffering. In the end the
brothers’ and group projects were combined, Tim becoming an official member
of Crowded House for ‘Woodface’ and the tour the band embarked on to
promote the record. Once they were on the road Tim was no longer having
fun, and at a band meeting in Scotland it was decided he should leave, to
be replaced in the touring band by American Mick Hart. The ‘Woodface’ album
itself gave the band five hit singles. In the process however that original
happy performance chemistry of Crowded House’s had been tampered with and
Neil Finn decided to take his family back to New Zealand to live, and the
fourth Crowded House album, ‘Together Alone’ was recorded in the isolated
environment of Kare Kare on the North Island. This time the producer was
England’s eccentric Youth, who took delight in pushing the band in new
musical directions using unconventional recording techniques.
During the subsequent tour, just two hours before Crowded House were due to
take the stage in Atlanta on April 14, 1994
Paul Hester informed the group this would be his final performance with
them. The next morning he flew back to Melbourne to await the birth of his
first child. For their next concert in Washington, and the immediate
future, Crowded House persuaded Wally Ingram (who was playing drums for
their support act Sheryl Crow) to fill in. Ultimately Melbourne drummer
Peter Jones was appointed Hester’s replacement.
Work was started on a fifth album in New Zealand, sessions interrupted by
an album finally from Neil and Tim as the Finns. Hoping to breathe life
back into the Crowded House sessions Paul Hester returned for three songs,
with original producer Mitchell Froom back in charge. The fifth album even
had a title, 'Help Is Coming', but was shelved. Instead, those three new
Paul Hester/Mitchell Froom tracks were added to the greatest hits package
'Recurring Dream'. A month before it was released, in a hotel room in
London Neil Finn announced he was breaking the band up. Six months later,
on the steps of the Sydney Opera House they played their final show, in a
performances telecast around the world. Watching, you couldn't help but
feel Paul Hester's sadness, Nick Seymour's anger and Neil Finn's emotion at
the enormity of it all.
A year and a half later, on May 27, 1998 Neil Finn spent his 40th birthday
by performing songs from his first solo album at London's Abbey Road famed
#2 studio for the who's who of the British music industry and media
present. ‘Try Whistling This’ was released the following week. Sessions
from the missing fifth Crowded House album were released in December 1999
as part of the rarities album, ‘Afterglow’. A second solo Neil Finn, ‘One
Nil’ followed in March 2001. The Americans didn’t get the New Zealand
accent gag in the title and the record was released there as ‘Nil All’. In
April 2004 the Finns, Neil and Tim, released and toured ‘Everyone Is Here’.
end of 2004, Paul Hester joined Neil and Tim Finn on stage at the Palais
Theatre in Melbourne. Also that year the Finns played with Nick Seymour in
Belfast, where Nick was now living and working. There was a growing feeling
that Crowded House may yet have a future. But Paul Hester’s suicide on
March 26, 2005 put an end to that, and Neil Finn set to work on a new solo
album. In late 2006 Neil Finn invited Nick to take part in sessions in the
sessions for his new album taking place at Neil’s own studios in New
Zealand with producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Rufus Wainwright, Kings Of
Leon). During that process Neil and Nick provided commentary for the tenth
anniversary release of Crowded House’s ‘Farewell To The World’ concert DVD.
January Neil had decided to turn his album into a new Crowded House record.
Nick Seymour took charge of finding Paul Hester’s successor. Although the
‘drummer-wanted’ message was meant only for the eyes of some buddies back
in Melbourne, the story got out. Flooded by applicants, Nick and Neil found
themselves sitting through "40 or 50" auditions, in Melbourne,
Sydney, London and LA. The man they eventually found was Matt Sherrod, an
American best known as being a member of Beck’s band.
Sherrod on board and keyboardist Mark Hart also back in the fold Crowded
House recorded another four songs to add to the album sessions in London,
with mega-producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, The Pogues, Chris Cornell).
Crowded House finally returned to live performances in April 2007 at
California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
album ‘Time On Earth’’ is named for a track that didn’t make the cut. The
title and many of the songs on the record conjure up memories of Paul
Hester and thoughts about his passing. It was an album made by a “band” in
transition. When sessions finished the second version of Crowded House was
contemplating the follow-up Neil put together his second 7 Worlds Collide
all-star charity project, involving Wilco who took the opportunity to also
record their latest album at Neil’s Roundhead studio with producer Jim
Scott. Scott and Neil produced 7 Worlds Collide ‘The Sun Came Out’. Before
recording the next Crowded House album Neil also took the new line-up on an
extensive tour schedule, more than ever ahead of recording sessions. The
Crowded House which entered the studio with Jim Scott to record what became
‘The Intriguer” had gelled into a tight unit. The songs reflected Neil’s
journey around the world.