The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Split Enz

12-18-08 Split Enz – “Mental Notes”

When Split Enz made the transition from Australasia to England, someone decided to re-use their debut album title, “Mental Notes” for their new recorded-in-England album (the album that is called “Second Thoughts” in Australasia). No idea if it was the band or producer Phil Manzanera – but the decision to use the name twice has caused innumerable mix-ups over the last 30+ years!

The album that caught my imagination was called “Mental Notes” and was recorded in Australia in 1975. It was issued on the Mushroom label in Australia and the White Cloud label in New Zealand (via Pye Records). This initial version of “Mental Notes” has never been released in the northern hemisphere!

I did as many ‘fan things’ as I could for this LP; I went to “the road hedged with roses”; I looked up former band members; I told all my friends about this wonderful LP! I have a number of friends that met me / know me because of this album. I collect all the variants (numerous Australasian editions). I’ve admired the Phil Judd cover art over an extended period of time. It’s simply one of my favorite English-language rock music records.

Of course, when I talk about “Mental Notes” – this is the version I have in mind – not the pink-bordered cover that’s on Chrysalis, produced by Phil Manzanera. Ah, Chrysalis Records in Los Angeles, circa ’76-’77! I got so into Split Enz because the label offered not only free tickets to see them (at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, CA), but – as I recall – an unlimited bar tab, too!

I remember going to the Golden Bear, and seeing someone lugging a mellotron around.

What an unforgettable show! We had no way of anticipating what we saw that evening. I’ve been a big fan ever since. “Big fan?” Uh, I wrote the discography for the first book by Enz bassist Mike Chunn. I went to New Zealand 7 times, because of “Mental Notes”. I may not have the most complete Split Enz collection (I gave some of mine to Brian W.), but I think it’s safe to say that I helped most people I know understand a Split Enz discography; I made sure everybody knew the big differences between the two differing LP versions both called “Mental Notes”. And I shook loose with one of the first Split Enz NZ discographies – there weren’t any reference books, when I did that for the first time! It was interesting to me, and – if one went to NZ at the time – surprisingly obtainable.

Yes, there is a re-mastered CD out now. There still isn’t a northern hemisphere edition of “Mental Notes” on LP or CD – there’s just that Chrysalis LP (and there isn’t even a Chrysalis CD of it – that I know of!) – the now-infamous Chrysalis “Mental Notes” (known as “Second Thoughts” in Australasia…and at my house).

Thank you: Phil Judd, Tim Finn, Mike Chunn, Paul Crowther, Eddie Raynor, Wally Wilkinson; Michael Gudinski, Gary Steel, Murray Cammick, Peter Green; Brian Ware, Bob Gaulke, Allen Pasternak etc. – “make a mental note of it!”



Anonymous Bob G said...

Dear Ron,

I'm so glad Enz fandom brought us together 25 years ago and I'm also happy that there was always a certain analysis going on as well.

(I'd rather suffer a room full of trekkies than listen to the babbling of the people that like it all.)

It's nice to know that as much as tastes evolve, there's always space for the things that provided a such a particular sort of joy.


2:50 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Yeah, it remains a special place in the universe. Many others followed it,'s a room where we are comfortable. I just wish more illumination was on hand for dear "Mental Notes" - with so few variant pressings. I still have my NZ advertisement for it, which is very cool.

6:15 AM  
Blogger chas_m said...

So if I want to get my grubby little protruberences on a copy of the RIGHT cd of Mental Notes -- how do I find it? ISBN number? Cover art?

What are the distinguishing marks, pray?

3:24 PM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

Since I don't have the 2006 remasters of the entire Enz catalog, I can't speak for "Mental Notes", but I have heard "Frenzy" and "Corroboree" and considerable liberties have been taken with the mixes, particularly on the latter. I haven't seen "Mental Notes" singled out for criticism, but for my money the best value is still the original early 90s gold and silver box sets. The bonus rarities discs in each box are essential and most of those bonus tracks are NOT on the new remasters. Those sets along with the new Luton tracks collection are the ones I'd suggest anyone seek out.

Ron, any quibbles for you with the "Mental Notes" remaster?

7:23 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

W.S.M. AUS 510113632.2 the correct label & number for the right CD vers. of "Mental Notes" - but Brian correctly mentions the gold/silver CD boxed sets as being good and OK, too. The correct "Mental Notes" is in a digipak, not a jewel box.

6:48 AM  

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