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Crowded House

After 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 forming.

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 Australia

9 months
Crowded House (Crowded House)
5 months
Edge (Daryl Braithwaite)
4 months

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 spoilt.

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’.

At the 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.

By late 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.

With 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.

The 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 in place.

Before 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.

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Related artists
Split Enz
Finn
Neil Finn
Tim Finn
Reels

 

 

 

 

 

  

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