Mark ‘Swish’ Schwerdt
Elizabeth High School, South Australia 1975
(Afternoon Recess, 2:30pm Tuesday)
I can’t pin down exactly when I first heard it. Could have been 5KA at night, Bill Page hosting. Perhaps it was 5AD, but definitely not on Bazz and Pilko’s breakfast show.
It was Split Enz – Maybe.
It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Ariadne Dobbie’s music classes hadn’t prepared my 15 year old ears for the unconventional metre, then the headlong demi-chorus, followed by the madness of the fadeout.
What was that? Who are they? Will I ever hear them again?
I took to bringing my tinny tranny to school, just in case it would be played during the day. I’d studied both the 5KA and 5AD charts well enough to know that a new single had no more than two weeks in the Predictions section before it would be removed from both the radio playlists and the singles section of the Elizabeth Town Centre record stores, never to be seen again.
And there it was, the second coming of the song. A Tuesday arvo. It’s on I said, as Dave, Neil, Hammo and Bucko crowded around, ears straining to work out why I was hopping about to the “di-di la-ta-de-di la-te-ti-da-ti-de-di-di” ending to the best 2:57 of my life so far.
They were hooked too, or at least went along with it for my sake.
I tracked down the single. The B-side, Titus, was just as enthralling.
It got even better – they were soon to be the bottom half of a concert at Festival Theatre, supporting Ayers Rock. We had to see them, so we piled on the 490 bus outside the Elizabeth Drive-In on Main North Road for the mid-week school night trek into the big smoke.
Even though we weren’t familiar with the rest of Spit Enz’s repertoire, we were stunned. Titus, Under The Wheel, Amy (Darling).
We knew about Bowie, had heard a bit of Roxy Music, but this football team full of makeup caked Kiwis veered from music hall racket to classics tinged mood pieces. They were like street theatre with instruments. A handful of Elizabethan urchins had their minds altered without artificial assistance that night.
We came back into the theatre after intermission, but our hearts weren’t in it. Jazz rock noodling wasn’t for us.
We didn’t make it past the first pair of Ayers Rocks’ songs, as we scarpered to get the early bus northwards.
Once I’d seen them in the flesh, Split Enz became the complete package for the kid who wanted to be thought of as cool, edgy. (In truth, I still want to, and I never will be).
But wait, they have an album too. Mental Notes. Have a look at the cover. I think it was Hammo who bought it first, but I borrowed it and I probably wore it out before I returned it. The song Maybe was the most conventional song on the album. I found a second hand copy of the album, a bit scratched. I’ve still got it.
OK, a year or so later, I discovered The Saints, The Ramones, Radio Birdman, The Sex Pistols.
But I never forgot that it was Split Enz who got me started. (And Frenzy was underrated)
© Mark Schwerdt