Crowded House help Support Act’s Roadies fund with live album
Crowded House makes beautiful albums. By July 2010, they had sold 10 million of them. But it is in concerts that they bring a sense of time to the timeless songs, with their improvised humour through whacky onstage patter and the occasional practical joke on fans.
For Neil Finn, the stage also provided a leveller to Crowded House songs, where non-radio hits like ‘Recurring Dream’, ‘In My Command’ and ‘Catherine Wheels’ get as much applause from the fervent fans as those which were.
“Music always travels in mysterious ways,” he admits. “I can’t say I understand why one song is a hit and another one’s not.”
A two-part collection of Crowded House’s live shows are being released for the Australian Road Crew Association’s (ARCA) Desk Tape Series. The series was created by ARCA to raise funds and resources for Support Act’s Roadies Fund, which provides financial, health, counselling and wellbeing services for crews.
The tapes are straight off the mixing desk and made by a road crew member – in this case, their sound engineers Bruce Johnston and Angus Davidson. They are released on ARCA’s Black Box Records through MGM Distribution, with the first instalment available on all major streaming services now.
Crowded House Live 92-94 Part 1 is the tenth release of the Desk Tape Series. The booklet that accompanies the CD version offers an insight into what inspires Finn’s songs.
‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ was a world hit including #2 in the US, #1 in New Zealand and Canada, and top 10 in Australia, Norway and the Netherlands.
Neil was feeling lost at the time and wanted to write a song about moving forward. He penned it at his brother Tim’s home, trying to find quiet there while his sibling was away. But drummer Paul Hester was also staying there and had friends over, so while Neil wrote behind closed doors in the piano room, out came the line “when the world comes in”.
“Try to catch a deluge in a paper cup” is a homage to his musical hero John Lennon who used the line “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” on ‘Across The Universe’.
The song came together quickly and Neil made a demo of it as soon as he returned to his home, using a matchbox as a snare drum and tapping the table as his bass drum.
The original had an R&B/soul feel and Crowded House found it difficult when they rehearsed it. In the studio, producer Mitchell Froom suggested changing the flavour and shifted the key from E to E♭ to make it more melancholy.
Years after its release, fans remain divided on whether the song is hopeful or if the title means “don’t dream (any more because) it’s over”.
According to bassist Nick Seymour: “You think the song is gloomy?
“The record’s about not giving up hope and succumbing to the effects of the mass media and consumerism, but there’s an over-riding positive view in all our songs.”
The inspiration for other songs on Crowded House Live 92—94 Part 1 come from different places. ‘Pineapple Head’ was something his infant son Liam yelled out while hallucinating during a fever in Melbourne, as well as “the get away car” and “the detective is flat”. Finn says Liam still insists he should get some publishing royalties for the song!
At Crowded House’s ‘Farewell To The World’ concert, Neil introduced ‘Sister Madly’ as, “This is a song about waking up in a room with my sister having nightmares!”
For ‘Hole In The River’, Finn was doodling up a new melody when the phone rang. It was his father to say his sister (Neil’s aunt) had taken her own life. He went back to the piano and out came the first line, “There’s a hole in the river where my auntie lies.”
One interpretation of ‘Better Be Home Soon’ is that Neil is telling Paul Hester he was aware of the demons he was confronting and that he needed to be home where he would be “safe”.
At the 2005 ARIA awards, after a depressed Hester died by suicide in a Melbourne park aged 46, Neil flew to Sydney from Auckland just to perform the song as an emotional farewell to the drummer.
‘Chocolate Cake’ was inspired by an incident in a New York restaurant where a woman loudly chattered, “I don’t know, you think I should have another piece of chocolate cake?” The song’s lines like “excess of fat on your American bones” was viewed as a mean-spirited comment on American consumerism and over-indulgence which led to its low sales in the US.
‘Log Cabin Fever’, about a lonely man who takes his own life because he was shut in during winter, first emerged in Split Enz’s 1982 album Time and Tide.
Other songs on the live album are ‘Mean To Me’ (about an American tourist in the New Zealand town Neil grew up in) who was down on her luck and felt abandoned by everybody, ‘It’s Only Natural’, ‘Kare Kare’, ‘Locked Out`, ‘Distant Sun’, ‘Whispers And Moans’, ‘Love This Life’, ‘In My Command’ and ‘Fingers Of Love’.