Reviewed by Richard Tutin
I often wonder as I listen to a piece of music or a song on the radio about its backstory. Why was it written? What was the inspiration behind it? I also am interested in those who sing the song and provide the musical backing. What drew them into the music business in the first place? Was it an accident or did they decide to be a musician at an early age?
It’s good when some of those questions and wonderings are addressed in a biography of a particular artist. In this case it is Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House fame. Finn has been part of the Australian and New Zealand music scene for about forty years. His songs, often written in conjunction with this brother Tim, have become well known across the globe to the point where the audience can sing the old favourites just as easily as the artist himself.
Jeff Apter has, after a lot of research and organisation of material, produced a very readable story that covers Finn’s life from cradle to the present. As well as looking at the vast catalogue of songs he has written, co-written and produced over the years, he also delves into what inspired Finn to want to pursue a musical career especially in a genre that has had its fair share of failures in amongst the smaller legion of successes.
Apter attributes a lot of Neil’s success in the industry to his work ethic as well as having the support of family as he pursues the excellence that has marked his contribution to the industry. This includes the support of his parents, Mary and Richard, his brother Tim who co-founded Split Enz and has collaborated with Neil on many projects and his wife Cheryl who has given unwavering support especially during the times when things were tough. Neil has often acknowledged this support in interviews and during concerts as he introduces the songs prior to singing them on the stage.
Finn’s musical direction has moved along various paths over the years. These paths are explored and introduced by Apter. The result is a well-rounded knowledge of a great artist who probably thought that he wouldn’t last in the industry as long as he has.
The Australian and New Zealand music scene has had its moments. Many artists and groups moved overseas to the United Kingdom or the United States to find and receive recognition for their talent and efforts. While Neil Finn and his band mates initially chanced their arm in England and the USA they ended up returning to familiar shores. Finn himself eventually relocated his young family back to New Zealand when he realised he could work effectively at home. He didn’t need to live overseas. He did not shun the American and UK markets because he has regularly toured there for over thirty years.
Jeff Apter has given us a unique view of one of our great pop artists. Neil Finn has given us a canon of music that we enjoy hearing on a daily basis as well as mentoring new artists as they begin their journey of musical recognition. After reading this biography we may listen more carefully to Finn’s musical output and reflect on how Neil Finn has grown as a composer, musician, family man and friend.
Jeff Apter has worked on more than 30 biographies in various capacities. His subjects include Keith Urban, George Young (Friday on My Mind), Malcolm Young (The Man Who Made AC/DC), and John Farnham (Playing to Win). He was on the staff of Rolling Stone for several years.
Don’t Dream It’s Over
by Jeff Apter
Allen & Unwin
ISBN 978 1 76106 808 9