Monday, May 19, 2014
I debated with myself about whether I should include Crowded House as part of New Zealand’s music history. Those who say it doesn’t belong point out that it was formed in Melbourne and had two Australians. Those who say it does belong point to frontman and principle songwriter, Neil Finn, formerly of Split Enz and native of Te Awamutu. I say they're important to both countries.
I first heard of Crowded House, like so many other people did, with the release of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (1986, video above), which is from their debut album, Crowded House. The song went to Number One in New Zealand and Canada and Number 2 in the USA and Number 8 in Australia. It was the band’s biggest international hit, and was included on APRA’s list of the 100 best NZ songs (number two) and also the 100 Best Australian Songs (seven). Kind of shows they were pretty bi-national.
On the other hand, that song was one of only 6 Top Ten singles the group hand in Zealand in the period 1986-1996, and that’s out of 27 released; in Australia, they had three top ten hits and in the USA, 2. So, they were clearly more popular in New Zealand.
Their next single, “Something So Strong” (1987, below) was from the same album and reached Number 3 in New Zealand, 18 in Australia, 10 in Canada and 7 in the USA. They’d never crack the Top 40 in the USA again, though they had three more Top Ten hits in Canada, plus two additional Top 40 hits. Even so, the album the singles came from reached Number One in Australia, 3 in New Zealand, 8 in Canada and 12 in the USA.
They followed this with another single that was a hit in New Zealand (2), Australia (2) and Canada (8): “Better Be Home Soon” (below), from their 1988 album, Temple of Low Men. The single also hit Number 42 in the USA. The album was Number 1 in Australia, 2 in New Zealand, 10 in Canada and 40 in the USA.
This was, frankly, about the time I stopped paying attention to the band, but I wasn’t alone: It was three years before they hit the Top Ten again on the NZ charts, for example. But that didn’t make any difference for me, since I was still living in the USA, and I never heard any of their songs between 1988 and 1995, when I moved to New Zealand and heard songs from those years. That was when I learned that Neil’s brother Tim had performed with the band many times, too. I hadn’t known that.
Their final single before breaking up was “Not The Girl You Think You Are” (1996, below). I’d never heard the song before this project, and it’s kind of meh to me, and I guess that was kind of a common feeling: It reached Number 37 in Australia, 41 in New Zealand, though it hit 20 in the UK.
The band broke up in 1996 and they went their separate ways. Neil had success with his solo projects and work with his brother, Tim. Drummer Paul Hester had quit the band in April, 1994 for family reasons. He committed suicide in 2005 after a long battle with depression.
Neil reformed the band the following year, and they’re still around, though they haven’t had any new singles since 2010.
Crowded House was, for a time, a big and successful act with a strong New Zealand influence. Given that, and the totality of Neil Finn’s influence on New Zealand music, I think the band should be included in this adventure in blogging. But, if it makes my Australian friends feel better, think of them as an “Australasian” band. It doesn’t really change anything.