20th May 2021
I have always been a fan of Crowded House’s music and so many of their songs became a part of the soundtrack of my life, particularly the 1985 – 96 period when they produced hit after hit. Today I’ve decided to share a couple of my favourite tracks and a little backstory behind the band.
Founders Neil Finn (guitar, piano, vocals) and Paul Hester (drummer) and Nick Seymour (bass) were members of the New Zealand band, Split Enz, a band that had originally been formed by Neil’s elder brother, Tim Finn. They had received some success with the 10 albums they released between 1975 and 1982, including a chart topping single ‘I Got You’ in 1980. When Split Enz decided to disband, Neil and Hester decided to form a new group. Nick Seymour approached them with an offer to join a new venture, The Mullanes, along with guitarist Craig Hooper. Their first performance was in June 1984 and it didn’t take long to secure a record deal with Capitol Records. At Capitol’s request The Mullanes were renamed Crowded House, alluding to the tiny Hollywood Hills house they shared during the recording of their self-titled debut album.
Fortunately, the band member’s time with Split Enz had built up a solid Australasian fan base and Crowded House were welcomed by the locals. Capitol Records didn’t realise the potential of the new band, however, and their handling of the initial promotion was low-budget and low-key. The first single, ‘Mean to Me’, reached Australia’s top 30 but helped serve as an intro into the US market thanks to some moderate airplay.
When the mega-hit ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ was released in October 1986 things started to change for the band. A slew of awards at the ARIA Awards ensured that any record company would take them seriously in the future. This success was followed by the hits ‘Something So Strong’, ‘World Where You Live’ and ‘Now We’re Getting Somewhere’; all chart successes.
Neil Finn was under pressure from Capitol to create a second album that would match their debut. The title Temple of the Low Men was a dig at Capitol for the lacklustre promotion of the first album. It was released in July 1988, this time with the full backing of Capitol Records’ promo team and budget. The single ‘Better be Home Soon’ showed the exceptional song writing skills of Neil Finn and is one of their best loved songs.
I’m starting my selection of favourites from the early Crowded House catalogue is that first huge hit, ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’.
While on a break after the Canadian leg of the Temple of the Low Men tour, Neil and his brother Tim co-wrote and recorded some songs for their own project album ‘Finn’. It was when Capitol rejected some of the songs that Neil had written for the upcoming third album, that he asked if Crowded House could use the songs written for ‘Finn’. Tim agreed on the joking proviso that he become a member of the band, which he did, and the band hit the studio to record and produce the next album. ‘Woodface’ was released in 1991 and charted well in Europe and Australasia.
The first single was a statement about American excess. ‘Chocolate Cake’ was panned by some US critics (obviously) but did well elsewhere. ‘Fall at Your Feet’ didn’t fare as well, but the third single release ‘Weather With You’ was a huge hit.
Tim Finn left the band in 1991 and was replaced by Mark Hart on guitar and keyboards. With this new line-up they recorded the album ‘Together Alone’ which was released in 1993. The album sold well internationally, mainly on the strength of the singles ‘Distant Sun’ and ‘Private Universe’.
The band was midway through a US tour when one of the founders, Paul Hester decided to quit. He and his wife were expecting their first child and he wanted more time with his family. Sheryl Crow’s drummer, Wally Ingram, stood in until Neil could find a permanent replacement which came in the form of Peter Jones (ex-Harem Scarem). At the end of the tour Tim and Neil finally released their album ‘Finn’.
It was at a press conference to announce their first Greatest Hits collection, Recurring Dream, that Neil revealed that Crowded house would be disbanding and that their 1996 European and Canadian concerts were to be their final performances.
My second choice comes from the Woodface album and is another personal favourite, ‘Weather With You’
The Recurring Dream compilation featured four songs from each of the band’s studio albums plus three new tracks with guest appearances by Eddie Vedder. As a final goodbye to their local fans, they played the Farewell to the World concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in November 1996 to raise funds for the Sydney Children’s Hospital. The crowed was estimated at between 120,000 and 250,000 people, the biggest recorded at the time for an Australian music event.
After disbanding the various members embarked on various projects. Neil Finn released two solo and two live albums between 1998 and 2001. Tim Finn resumed his solo career and also collaborated with brother Neil on the second Finn Brothers album, Everyone is Here. Under the Crowded House name, a compilation of unreleased songs, named Afterglow, was issued.
Paul Hester worked in children’s entertainment and hosted his own ABC TV show, Hessie’s Shed, from 1997 and hosted the series, Music Max’s Sessions, in 2003. Sadly, he had struggled with depression for some years and took his own life in 2005 at the age of 46. Following the news of his death, Neil and Tim Finn was joined by Nick Seymour on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London to play a tribute concert.
While Nick Seymour was working on Neil’s third solo album they decided to release the new material under the Crowded House name. The reforming of the band was announced in 2007 and Beck drummer, Matt Sherrod joined the new line-up. They started small with a private show at their studio for 50 friends which they streamed live. Further small concerts followed as warm-ups to their performance at the Coachella Festival. When they performed the track ‘Don’t Stop Now’ on Rove Live to promote the new album, ‘Time on Earth’ they were previewing an album that would go on to shoot up the charts in Autralia, New Zealand and the UK.
The following album, Intriguer, was released in 2011 and saw Crowded House embracing some new sounds. Neil Finn claimed that the album took twists and turns they had never explored before, and was different from what had gone before. It topped the Australian and New Zealand charts and peaked at #12 in the UK, showing that they were still relevant after all their years in the business.
I’m closing with some very happy news for Crowded House fans. Tracks from the new album, Waiting for Dreamers, were premiered on YouTube this month and they are fan-bloody-tastic. The album is available from the band’s official website and is set for imminent release. The old craftmanship that I’ve always admired is alive and well in the line-up of Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Mitchell Froom and sons of Neil and Tim, Liam and Elroy Finn on guitar/keyboards/backing vocals and drums/guitar/backing vocals respectively.
Of the two new video clips at available at the moment I have chosen ‘To the Island’ to end today’s feature. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the Crowded House magic is still there. Catch you soon
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music’s Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that does more than just share a song.
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Words © Andrew Knapp 2021