#518: One Step Ahead by Split Enz

Peak Month: August 1981
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #6
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #104
YouTube.com link: “One Step Ahead
Lyrics: “One Step Ahead”

Split Enz is a folk-rock band that formed in 1972. For the first several years they spelled their name The Split Ends. They released their first single in New Zealand and Australia in 1973. The co-founders of the band were Tim Finn and Phil Judd. Finn was the lead vocalist and played acoustic and electric guitar and piano. Phil Judd also played guitar and added vocals. Judd eventually left the band in 1978. In the late 70’s and early 1980’s, Split Enz’ membership consisted of Tim Finn, his younger brother Neil Finn on vocals and guitar, bass player Nigel Griggs, drummer Malcolm Green, keyboard player Eddie Rayner and percussionist Noel Crombie. During the 1970’s, they had two singles in the Top 50 in New Zealand which made the Top 20 in Australia. Tim Finn was born in Te Awamutu, New Zealand. Phil Judd was born in Hastings, New Zealand. The pair relocated to Melbourne, Australia, in 1975. Judd left the band in 1978 to form a punk band in New Zealand named the Suburban Reptiles. Split Enz became a more mainstream rock band with an In 1980, the band released the chart-topping “I Got You,” which went to #1 in New Zealand and Australia. The single was #1 in Australia for eight weeks. In 1981, Split Enz released their sixth studio album titled Waiata, a which is the Māori word for song. They released three singles from the album, the first being “One Step Ahead.”

One Step Ahead by Split Enz

“One Step Ahead” is a song about a the difficulty of blending one man’s need for solitude in a relationship and his girlfriend’s need for emotional expression. The pair are also out of synch with the pace at which they move through their days. He complains, “you slow me down.” This may be in reference to her emotional expression. She says “Boy I want you to stay.” In the relationship the female seems to be the one who wants them to engage with each other, while the guy is avoiding intimacy and is trying to elude her by staying one step ahead of her.

In an article in Daily Nation, Jonah Thatiah writes about the challenges of luring a man out of his “man cave.” What women can do when a man their in relationship with has gone silent? She describes the common scenario: “He doesn’t want to talk, to listen or to do anything with you. It is as if he has gone into a cave and you have no idea how to lure him out. This is often a very confusing time for a woman. The withdrawal can feel like a threat to the relationship and some women react to it by shutting down. Others who do not know how to deal with the silence, do all that they can to try and coax him out of the cave. Still, others who feel abandoned react to it by seeking emotional intimacy from another man.”

In the case of the Split Enz song, the man’s strategy for any attempt to coax him out of his solitude is to stay one step ahead of the woman and avoid getting closer. In general, when men retreat into silence and solitude for days, or weeks, the female partner will become panicked. She’ll pepper him with questions: Do you still love me? Are you angry? Are we okay? For an introverted male, this may only push him deeper into silence and make him feel overwhelmed. Psychologist, Chris Hart, suggests that the solution for women is to just do nothing. Simply acknowledge that for whatever reason, retreating into solitude is her mates coping strategy. It is not necessarily a sign that the relationship is in trouble. If the man can go off and enjoy his solitude without his female partner panicking, he may not feel the need to be one step ahead of her. He may discover that she loves him just the way he is, even when he is being quiet.

In North America, “One Step Ahead” charted best in Kansas City (#2), Regina (#3), Vancouver and Dallas (#6) and Winnipeg at #7. However, the single missed the Billboard Hot 100, stalling at #104.

Coinciding with their hit single in Vancouver (BC), Split Enz performed in concert at the Kerrisdale Arena on August 11th and 20th, 1981. They returned to the Kerrisdale Arena on May 13, 1982, with the Payola$.

A second single from Waiata, “History Never Repeats,” became a Top Ten hit in New Zealand and Australia. However, it failed to gain international exposure. Their debut single from the album, Time And Tide, in 1982, called “Dirty Creature,” found Split Enz boxed in with Top Ten success in Australia and New Zealand but nowhere else. In 1982, the band released the single “Six Months In A Leaky Boat.” While the song made the Top Ten in Vancouver, Split Enz hoped for international hit failed to materialize when the BBC blacklisted the song during the Falklands War. The BBC acknowledged this eventually in 1999, as reported in The Q Encyclopedia of Rock Stars by Dafydd Rees and Luke Crampton.

In 1983 and ’84, Split Enz released their final studio albums, Conflicting Emotions and See Ya ‘Round. Both albums garnered singles that made the Top 20 on their continent. After the album, Split Enz split up. Neil Finn and recent Split Enz drummer, Paul Hester, went on to found Crowded House, who had international hits in the later half of the decade, including “Better Be Home Soon.” Crowded House was active as a band until 1996. And since 2006, Neil Finn has headed a reformed Crowded House that continues to tour. Paul Hester, who had suffered from depression for years, died by suicide at the age of 46 in 2005.

Tim Finn has mostly pursued a solo career after leaving Crowded House in the late ’80’s. In 1989, Finn won two New Zealand music awards for his solo performance of “Parihaka.” His song to the 2005 soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, entitled “Winter Light.” Imaginary Kingdom won Tim Finn a New Zealand music award for Best Male Solo Artist in 2007. The song was one of the tracks on Finn’s Imaginary Kingdom album in 2006. In late 2015, Tim Finn wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, Ladies In Black, premiered in Brisbane. He collaborated with Carolyn Burns on the production. The musical was based on the 1993 novel, The Women in Black, by Madeleine St John. The musical won a Helpmann Award in Australia in 2016 for Best New Australian Work.

Nigel Griggs released a solo album in 2002 titled Sleeper. He has appeared at most of the Split Enz reunion tours over the decades. Malcolm Green left Split Enz in 1981 after disagreements regarding Green’s songwriting and inclusion of his songs on the band’s albums. He moved to Australia and helped produce and mentor other recording artists in his own studio. Green took part in Split Enz 2005 tour. Eddie Rayner ended up as music director for a TV show called New Zealand Idol. He has also been part of Spit Enz reunion tours, as well as touring with another band named Space Waltz. Noel Crombie released a solo single in 1983. He also helped with the stage set design for the final concert in Sydney, Australia, for the Crowded House Final World Tour.

February 14, 2020
Ray McGinnis

Peter McAlpine,”Interview Tim Finn – Crowded House, Split Enz,” Ezra Magazine, March 4, 2015
The Phil Judd Interview, Stuff.co.nz, June 30, 2009
Peter Wilmoth, The Reinvention of Tim Finn, Domain.com, February 6, 2017
Neil McCormick, “Neil Finn interview: ‘Music is a mystery’,” Telegraph, London, UK, February 7, 2014
Split Enz – Tim Finn, Tim Finn.com
Crowded House ~ about, Crowded House.com
Georgia Westgarth, A Roaring Finn: Tim Finn Returns to the Theatre and Back in Time, Daily Review, Fitzroy North, Australia, November 11, 2014
Former Split Enz drummer, Mal Green, to Sell his Castle Cove Home, News.com.au, Surry Hills, Australia, March 5, 2014
Rees, Dafydd and Crampton, Luke. The Q Encyclopedia of Rock Stars. Darling Kindersley, London, 1999, page 938.
Jonah Thatiah, RELATIONSHIPS: Luring a Man Out of his Cave, Daily Nation, February 13, 2016.
C-FUN Top Thirty,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, August 29, 1981.

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