Crowded House was formed in 1985 when Tim Finn
, the founder member of Split Enz, left the band to pursue solo projects.
Rather than take over the leading role in that band from his brother, Neil Finn
dissolved Split Enz
and formed something new, and in a very different style and direction than the post-punk new wave
The starting line up of the band was Neil Finn, ex-Enz drummer Paul Hester
, bassist Nick Seymour
and guitarist Craig Hooper
, although Hooper didn't survive the band's formative period. Originally the band was called The Mullanes (from Neil's middle name).
In June 1985, the group travelled to Los Angeles
seeking a label to release their work and signed with Capitol Records
. One of the stipulations of the deal was the band changed its name, and they decided on Crowded House -- a comment on their L.A living arrangements.
Crowded House's eponymous
debut album was released in summer 1986, to resounding indifference
-- largely because Capitol did little to promote
it. The band however decided that if Capitol weren't going to tout their work, they were. Not through a large expensive tour, but instead by playing acoustic
sets to small crowds at ethnic restaurants, in record stores, and for industry insiders. Unorthodox
though this approach might have been, soon people were talking about them. They found themselves on the talk-show circuit, where they charmed American and Canadian audiences
It took until February 1987, but the album did reach the American Top 40, peaking at number 12. Don't Dream It's Over
was the biggest hit
, reaching number two and Something So Strong
reached number seven. In Australia
and New Zealand
, the band, inevitably
, took off big-time.
Temple of Low Men
, released in 1988, had a darker tone
than the first album, and though the lyrical and melodic complexity of the songs was stronger than on the first album, it was less immediately accessible. Again, Capitol failed to support the band with any significant
promotion and sales were disappointing, both of the album and the single Better Be Home Soon
The band shelved plans for a major U.S. tour, took three months off, and then toured Australia
. The tours were successful, but sales didn't follow, and to all intents and purposes the band had broken up by mid-1989.
In the slump of Crowded House 1989, Neil began working with his brother Tim again, writing together for the first time. They intended to produce a Finn Brothers album. Things worked well, and the pair very quickly had 14 numbers put together. At the same time, Neil was working on new songs for the next Crowded House album, but here he had little success. Neil and Tim decided to combine the best of the Finn Brothers material
with the Crowded House stuff, Tim joined the line up of the band, and the result was Crowded House's third album, Woodface
released in the summer of 1991.
This album provided much of their most remarkable material, including It's Only Natural, Fall At Your Feet, Weather With You,
and Four Seasons In One Day
and launched the band to success in the UK, and Europe with the huge British success of "Weather with You". Woodface
went platinum in the UK, and enabled the group to sell out several concerts at Wembley Arena
. Tim, however, left the band in November 1991, in the middle of their tour and before the English success - it wasn't that there had been a falling out, simply that Tim's input was more important in the writing and development of the material, rather than the performance of it - especially live.
In 1993, hard on the heels of the success of Woodface
, both Finn brothers received OBEs in the Honours list, for their contribution to the arts.
Crowded House's fourth album, released early in 1993 was to be their last with entirely new material. Guitarist Mark Hart
joined them for Together Alone
which was released in October 1993. Reviews were entusiatic, especially for the two stand-out numbers Private Universe
and Distant Sun
and sales were solid
, all over the world, except the US.
The band toured Europe
and were just starting an American tour when Paul Hester decided to leave to spend more time with his new family. They finished the tour with a session
drummer, but it was clear that the end was coming. Neil Finn wanted more time to work on projects outside the band - the postponed album with Tim, production
work for New Zealand musician Dave Dobbyn
, and solo work -- and Paul Hester was gone.
The Finn brothers album was released in mid 1995, and in June 1996, Neil officially disbanded Crowded House. Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House was released that same month, with a handful
of new songs amongst the old hits, and it went straight in to the U.K. and Australian charts at number one.
On Sunday November 24, 1996, Crowded House played their final show to a crowd of 100,000 at the Sydney Opera House
with proceeds going to the Sydney Children's Hospital Fund.
Neil Finn made his debut
as a solo artist in June 1998 with Try Whistling This
. In December 1999, Afterglow, an album's worth of Crowded House leftovers and rarities, was issued in Australia and New Zealand and in the UK, January the following year. Neil's second solo album One-Nil (One-Neil?) is due for release in March 2001.
Though four albums (if you discount the 'Best Of') in 10 years is hardly prolific
, Crowded House produced some of the best pure pop music of the late 80's and early 90's. Neil Finn's carefully crafted lyrics and haunting melodies, the harmonic
structure of the songs and the back-to-basics acoustic
nature of the band producing a sound oddly resonant
of the Beatles - not as they were in the 60's but as they might have been if Lennon and McCartney
had been born into the same generation
as the Finn Brothers.