When I was watching The Chart Show online again recently (for a nice change), I came across a video for a song that I liked, so I might as well do the story of this one. Split Enz were a group that formed in New Zealand in the mid-70s (and they must definitely be among the greatest pop culture exports that country has produced along with Shortland Street and The Tribe).
They are best known in this country for their 1980 hit “I Got You”, and for 1982’s “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” being banned by the BBC. By the mid-80s, they had evolved into Crowded House. Their only UK hit single in the 80s was 1987’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, which is arguably their best-known song, and this came very close to being a chart-topper in America too.
Their next hit in the UK wouldn’t be until June 1991, when “Chocolate Cake” was released. The rather bizarre video was a “Hot Shot” on The Chart Show, and the fact box informed us (so it must be true) that the idea for the song came from overhearing a woman in a New York restaurant saying “shall I get the bill or have another piece of chocolate cake”. It’s hard to believe that this reached only no. 69!
The lyrics to this one were rather witty (there is also a “moo” sound for no particular reason), and Danny Baker (when he had a career) was rather fond of playing this on the radio. One day he interviewed a member of Crowded House (it might’ve been Tim Finn, or maybe his brother Neil) in the studio, and asked if he was namechecked in the song, but it turned out that it was “Tammy Baker” all along.
Those that are namechecked though include Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Andy Warhol, and Elvis Presley (that could be a good Only Connect question… or maybe not). I remember Danny also asked him what that strange noise was at the start of later hit “It’s Only Natural”. But he didn’t ask him though if everywhere he goes he always takes the weather with him, because he really hates that!
I am also reminded of one of the most popular videos uploaded by Michael Rosen, where he told the story of when he was a boy, and he had all of these slices of cake in front of him and he couldn’t stop himself, he definitely had another piece of chocolate cake! Crowded House had more hits in the 90s, including “Weather With You” (their only UK Top Ten hit single), “Fall At Your Feet”, and “Pineapple Head” (probably not about a failed Nottingham Forest footballer).
They also won a Brit Award in 1994. When Crowded House split in 1996, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” was rereleased and was a Top 40 hit again, presumably to say “we might be back one day”. Their best-of “Recurring Dream” also topped the album chart for two weeks. A later best-of also featured the fascinating “My Telly’s Gone Bung”, where the drummer lamented about his broken television.
It was really enjoyable to look back at one of their more underrated songs that is now three decades old. Crowded House did indeed eventually return as was hoped with various line-ups, and they have gone on to release more acclaimed albums, right up to this year. And such is the odd cycle of pop music, one of them is now in Fleetwood Mac.