CROWDED HOUSE RENEWAL

I joined the Crowded House Fan Club at the age of forty plus. The subscription was motivated—sadly, but not unpredictably—by greed.

Frenz of the Enz was an umbrella organisation (if that word can be used for something so quaintly amateur) set up by long-term tour manager cum general factotum Peter Green to meet fans’ insatiable hunger for information about Split Enz, Crowded House and all related organs of music making.

Having paid not even the slightest attention to any fan club ever, my first awareness of Frenz of the Enz was via the merchandise stall Peter and his sidekick booked at Camberwell Record Fair for a decent stretch of the 90s. A couple of times a year they’d rummage around in the various cupboards and storerooms of House Headquarters and select a few boxes of stuff to take to the fair. Sounds pretty daggy, and it was, but what a lovely idea. Here was a simple, unpretentious connection between a band of international renown and those local Melbourne fans who’d been following the Crowdies from their inception or perhaps even further back to the deliciously eccentric fruit salad of Split Enz.

Crowded House cornucopia

Vinyl Connection Merch Stall

Club members would wander up to the trestle table, chat to Peter about the latest Finn project or Paul Hester’s new band, maybe fill a gap in their Enz ephemera collection from the knick-knacks on display, then drift off again. It was not an expired Access All Areas pass or a back issue of the Club Newsletter I was after, however, it was a genuine Split Enz rarity that drew me to the stall (more here) and ultimately led to me signing up. For it was Peter Green who told me of a series of Fan Club only CD releases of live Crowded House performances.

Crowded House t-shirt

I never saw Crowded House live—despite owning a ‘Farewell Melbourne’ t-shirt worn so frequently and fraudulently it has achieved the faded black patina of a true gig veteran—but I knew them from a bootleg CD acquired during European travels in the early 90s. It was fabulous: raw, energetic, ragged, engaging, alive!—exactly what concert recordings should be. So it was a no-brainer that the promise of further live Crowded House treats had me sending off my cheque to a Post Office box in Prahran.

A package duly arrived, containing the current newsletter. This slim volume introduced me to the wonderful and slightly scary world of the committed fan. List your favourite adjectives to describe each member of the band! Send in your design for an imaginary 45 cover! ‘Sister Madly’ indeed.

But more significantly, there was an order form for the first batch of club-only live CDs.

Crowded House Live CDs

I ended up with a goodly selection of discs which I listened to a couple of times and then—sadly, but not unpredictably—filed away. Not that they disappointed (well, a couple were underwhelming, but it would be churlish to name names), in fact they confirmed why Crowded House were so popular in concert. Informality, warmth, generosity and spontaneity characterise the recordings from the earliest (1987, Myer rooftop) through to the final gigs (1996, Corner Hotel, Melbourne). They could kick ass too; the confidence arose from road-hardened arrangements while freedom sprouted from knowing each other’s skills inside out.

Periodically, something stirs in memory or is prompted by a flash of music news, and I reach for some live Crowded House. Yesterday it was the wonderfully chaotic Nick’s Birthday Party (9/12/1991, Memphis Tennessee) with it’s spontaneous birthday song for the bass player and a shambolic audience-driven set-list (Neil: ‘It’s your night, we’ll play whatever the fuck you want’) that delivers a snippet of ‘Ruby Baby’ as well as on-spec versions of Enz classics ‘One Step Ahead’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’.

Crowded House Fan club CDs

But on Sunday night I won’t be just listening, I’ll be watching. Because Crowded House have reformed for a short series of concerts at the Sydney Opera House—site of their 1996 Farewell To The World concert DVD—to celebrate induction into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame. I won’t be there, but I’ll be there. The final concert is being broadcast live on TV; it’s my birthday eve and I’ll be planted on the couch, with the sound up and my faded t-shirt on, singing along and maybe getting just a little misty as those glorious pop songs are belted out into the Sydney night by a grey-haired but still vital band.

The fan club membership lasted just a couple of years; enough CDs to satisfy even my gluttony, sufficient inside information to solder an enduring connection to Mr N Finn and his music, a pewter belt buckle never worn for fear of an accidental appendectomy, a calendar consigned to the Op Shop long ago.

Crowded House belt buck & t-shirt

The music has fared better. When Neil goes into one of his sublime middle-eights my heart swells, when banter sparks between the players or they depart from the script I smile. Oh yes, Brother Madly will be there on Sunday night.

I wonder if the fan club still exists?

I wonder if they have a Seniors Membership?

*

Crowded House first album

27 comments

  1. As usual, Bruce, a spot on post and take of an extraordinary group. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks so much Michael.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A fine post Bruce – and that sounds like a fine way to spend a Birthday eve.
    Woodface is on the 1001 and I’m pleased to report I was won over immediately and have been a fan (though I suppose, an unofficial, non-dues paying one, unless they offer an International discount!) ever since.
    Enjoy the show on Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Geoff. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the show. And, having just purchased the re-issue of Together Alone (my favourite CH album) on vinyl , I might even revisit them in these pages.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Two of my favorite all time bands, Split Enz who I was overly fortunate to see in my college gym, and then every CH tour as they always came through California plus all local Tim or Neil solo shows and best of all the first Finn tour, at The Fillmore Auditorium in SF when they boys played all the instruments and Tim explained what happened in that angel’s heap! The Beatles from down under, underappreciated

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicely put, Douglas.

      Like

  4. N & Z not going to be happy about Crowded House bouncing Poldark! I’d best get in an Art House DVD and record the concert to watch later.
    Good stuff.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First of all, as you are aware, I had no idea these fan club discs existed. Now that I do, I have informed my sister (the biggest Crowded House fan in Kitchener Ontario) of their existence.

    I love fan club CDs. Marillion have many, and I am happy to say I have almost all of them. I am missing the first two — 1998 and 1999. My Marillion fan club collection is probably in the neighborhood of about 80 discs now, if not more. Taken as individual CDs probably closer to 200. That’s a lot of Marillion and sadly this caused me to burn out a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Get what you mean about burn out. That is indeed a whole lot of Marillion. I think I ended up with around half of the Crowded House CDs – a decision I’m pretty comfortable with. I note a couple of them on Discogs (though not for sale). Good luck to your sister!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My sis travels a lot and is prone to finding cool stuff. You never know!

        Crowded House were big here in Canada. They got a lot of radio and video play. They sold a lot of CDs here. I think they were very in tune with Canadian tastes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Canadians and Aussies share lots of positive commonalities. As for the Finn connection, there is a live Split Enz album from the “True Colours” era called “Live Colors” (and with a True Colours cover) that I deeply crave. If you or your sibling ever see it…

          Liked by 1 person

        2. NOTED.

          Marillion covered “How Will You Go”, incidentally. Quite a nice acoustic version…on one of their fan club CDs!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. What a nice link!

          Like

        4. Could that one be a Grail List item, perhaps? I can add, if you want!

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Hey Bruce, I could only find a Russian Federation 2-CDr copy of Live Colours (on Discogs)? Am I typing this one in incorrectly, or something?

          Like

        6. Could be, Aaron. I saw it included in a blog post once – looking again, it does have that ‘air of bootleg’ scent about it!
          http://rockonvinyl.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/split-enz-live-colors-pinkpop-festival.html

          Like

        7. No that one I got. Two copies. LOL

          Like

  6. This. Everything about this. Crowded House FTW!

    Like

  7. I like that, that’s a proper way to reward your diehard fans. Marillion were always good to theirs that way too.

    The only fan club I ever joined was Sisters of Mercy and I chose a year where they did absolutely nothing at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, the Sisters of Mercy. They are not departed or gone, except for the year you were a fan club member.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post, Bruce. I think I’ve mentioned before that I went through a Crowded House phase. Lasted a year or so (maybe less) though I did get into Woodface and Together Alone pretty big (thought I only had Woodface until a recent Crowded House chat saw me digging around for the albums).

    Anyhoo, hope the televised gig is a real swell way to welcome a birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks James. The concert was really excellent. Neil’s voice is in great shape and the band were fabulous. They ran live tweets across the bottom of the screen during the show, and I managed to get one up, which was rather neat.
      PS. All four albums are worth owning, though ‘Together Alone’ is my favourite.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to hear it. Ticked that one off the list, then… who’s next?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Kiss Army!! — my only fan club experience.

    (I did find myself on a mailing list for folks sympathetic to Sendero Luminoso at one time, but that’s a story for another time…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that’s a red rag and no mistake. Of course you know what I say next… write the damn thing already. Just scrawl ‘It’s all fucked’ across the bottom of the incomplete report and get on to something meaningful. OK?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s already how I end all my reports!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Every time I listen or hear this band I always wonder why i don’t listen to them more (running off to watch Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Later Bruce)

    Liked by 1 person

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