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Nor Need We Mention The Haircuts: Split Enz in 1980

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Looking at the back cover of the 1980 Split Enz album True Colours, I’m tempted to skip my research and just say “Every song on this album was a huge radio hit.”  But surely that can’t be true?

It’s not – it’s just, first, that I listened to this album over and OVER, and, second, that pretty well every song is excellent.  “I Got You” was a hit, as was “Shark Attack,” and a number of other songs got airplay, including the lovely “I Hope I Never” and the amusing “Nobody Takes Me Seriously.”

Nine-Year Overnight Successes

For most of us in North America, True Colours was the band’s debut album.  But, in fact, they’d been slogging it out – in their native New Zealand, with various lineupssince 1971.  This record, though, broke them internationally, and deservedly so.  (I won’t mention the bonus attraction, the “laser etched” record itself – look it up.)  What a fine bunch of tunes. 

And Then What?

For a few years, things only got better.  The next album, Waiata, featured a couple more smash singles, “History Never Repeats” and “One Step Ahead,” which sounded (and still sound) to me as though they could have been on True Colours.  But the shift, to my ears, came with 1982’s Time and Tide and its delightful single, “Six Months in a Leaky Boat,” which – delightful though I’d still pronounce it – I didn’t like.  Look, I was deeply invested (I was young) in the True Colours sound, and “Six Months” was – well – different.

How Different?

It sounded – although obviously I didn’t realize it at the time – like Crowded House, the band Neil Finn formed after Split Enz broke up (and which his brother Tim later joined).  Crowded House had great, and deserved, success; they were a fine pop band.  But they weren’t my beloved sort-of-New--Wave Split Enz, and I never became a fan.  I will cling to my laser-etched True Colours and the plain-old-black-vinyl Waiata, because those two albums represent a pinnacle of eighties pop.


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