My wife Robyn and I have been riding a wave of nostalgia over the past week as the re-release of Split Enz' classic album True Colours rides back to the top of the New Zealand album charts.
True Colours is the band's most commercially successful record, released in 1980 and re-released for the 40th anniversary, which included Neil Finn's I Got You — the hit single which broke the band internationally.
It was their fifth album and also included singles Shark Attack, What's The Matter With You, I Hope I Never, Missing Person and Poor Boy.
We had followed Split Enz from the inception — Neil and I were schoolmates when Split Ends (later changed to the more Kiwi "Enz") formed out of the University of Auckland in 1972 and we went to several of the early concerts when the instrumentation consisted of piano, guitar, bass, violin and flute.
Comparisons to Jethro Tull and British folk-rock bands aside, Split Ends were exciting, different and incredibly talented.
Concurrent to his brother Tim's development with Split Enz, Neil was also honing his creative skills in Te Awamutu and we all joined the local All 'n' Some Folk Club with dreams of being musicians.
As it transpired only one of us had the talent and perseverance.
By 1973 the band had added drums and developed the early sound we are now familiar with through early singles and their appearance on TVNZ's talent show New Faces.
Although they made the final, they finished second-to-last.
1973 was also the year of the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival — New Zealand's Woodstock.
Tim Finn reflects on Split Enz's classic album, True Colours
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Headliners were Black Sabbath and the only other overseas act were Fairport Convention.
The latter would have been a better band for Split Enz to open for — but someone decided they should play before Black Sabbath.
Neil and I, 14-year-olds, were sitting in the crowd when their set was cut short by the heavy metal crowd calling for their idols.
There were some highlights though — Fairport Convention were excellent, The La De Das, Mammal and Billy TK's Powerhouse were Kiwi bands at the height of their game and apparently Todd Hunter gathered some mates, wrote some songs and pulled the name Dragon out of a book to play at the event.
By the 1980s, however, Split Enz were headlining festivals and Robyn and I saw them at Sweetwaters in 1981 and 1983.
By our last year of school Robyn and I had become a couple and followed Split Enz closely — having attended a concert in every New Zealand tour they have played — including the 20th anniversary tour and various reunions.
The first big show — at Hamilton's Founders Theatre — featured Neil as opening act.
It wouldn't be long before Neil was called from his Auckland band After Hours to replace Phil Judd in Split Enz, now in England trying to break into the big time.
Letters (that's how we communicated back then) to us from Neil painted a desperate time.
The first two records — Mental Notes and Second Thoughts — originally only made any impact in New Zealand and Australian.
Neil was officially part of 1977's Dizrythmia, but in truth he contributed no songs and after the Hamilton concert conceded to us he was still coming to grips with lead guitar and during the concert wasn't always "plugged in".
It did make No 3 in New Zealand.
Frenzy was the first album to make any impact overseas — No 49 in Canada.
Neil sent me and Robyn a copy of the 1979 release — one of the early ones before I See Red was added.
The band were struggling in England and Neil had signed on for the dole. There were more line-up changes and it was easy to tell morale was low — but 1980 was coming.
Our 1979 Christmas card from Neil included the sentence, "We've just finished a new album called 'True Colours' which we're all pretty excited about so we're hoping for great things with it."
And for a New Zealand band, great things it did.
No 1 in New Zealand and Australia, No 10 in Canada, No 38 in Britain and it broke the Top 40 in the United States.
And our friend had a No 1 Australasian hit and was Top 20 in Canada, Britain and Ireland and Top 50 in the US with I Got You — the song not originally intended as the opening single.
We were excited for Neil and the band we loved.
All Split Enz concerts were events — but the True Colours tour was amazing.
The set-list was a trip through the Frenzy and True Colours albums, with concert favourite Lead a Horse to Water and the occasional cover song thrown in.
Tim was in full flight, monologue introductions, manic moves and that beautiful voice.
The band continued the momentum with Waiata — recorded in Melbourne and out in 1981.
The band had been touring True Colours and writing and recording new material. They were on a roll.
Waiata repeated some of the chart success, but not the total sales of the previous album.
But it kept the band touring and this time Neil wrote two Top 10 singles — History Never Repeats and One Step Ahead.
In 1984 the Finn brothers made a triumphant return to Te Awamutu when Split Enz headlined a concert at Albert Park as part of the town's centenary celebrations, with opening act Herbs.
It was Tim's first stage appearance in town since his pre-Split Ends band played in the talent quest as part of Sound Out 72 — the outdoor concert at Waipa Racecourse with The Peddlers headlining. Robyn and I were there as well.
Split Enz continued for three more albums after Waiata — but the final record, titled See Ya' Round, gave a clear message the ride was over.
Tim had a successful solo career and Neil was looking to lead a band of his own creation.
History did in fact repeat when Neil wrote Don't Dream It's Over, an international hit for his new band Crowded House which set them on their way.
For the 40th anniversary True Colours has been completely remixed and revitalised by keyboard player Eddie Rayner.
Speaking to NZME journalist Karl Puschmann, Tim Finn expressed how chuffed he was with the open and spacious sound of the new mix, "which allows long-lost nuance to shine and reveals sonic treasures for Split Enz trainspotters to discover".
He described the making of the record as a mix of desperation, frenzied energy, fearless ideas and self assured confidence. It obviously worked.
And design guru Noel Crombie has once again given the album a unique Split Enz look — like the original, creating four colour schemes for the vinyl release.
For collectors it is nice — but expensive.
Robyn and I have nine versions of True Colours on vinyl and three on CD — all different colour schemes mainly. One is a Japanese audiophile vinyl still wrapped.
They go with our three versions of Mental Notes, four versions of Frenzy and four versions of Waiata — again mainly colour variations, but also record label changes and track list variations.
The Finn musical dynasty started by Tim and Neil is also continuing, with Tim's son Harper and Neil's sons Liam and Elroy all enjoying careers in the industry.
In June 1993 Neil and Tim were made OBEs for their contribution to music. At the beginning of the century they were the first inductees into the Te Awamutu Walk of Fame and for several years Te Awamutu Museum had an exhibition entitled True Colours, which for a time was the biggest drawcard.
As well as playing for the 1984 centenary, Tim performed a solo concert in Te Awamutu in 2006 and in 2008 Robyn and I promoted the Finn Brothers concert at the Te Awamutu College Hall which raised $50,000 for the Gracelands building fund.