MENTAL NOTES (1974–1976). In Episode 2 of Radio New Zealand National's story of Split Enz the band moves to Australia and infiltrates the Aussie Rock industry. They record their debut album, Mental Notes, recently voted the number 1 New Zealand album of all time in Rip It Up magazine.

Songs in this programme include Stranger Than Fiction, Under the Wheel, Spellbound, Maybe and Late Last Night, plus rarities Prophecy, Tiny Tote and others.

Album Trivia: Mental Notes

On the original LP, the very end of the song Mental Notes on side 2 runs into the inner groove around the label. Record buyers in the 70s who didn’t have auto-return tonearms on their record players were treated to an endless loop of Phil saying “Make a mental note” as the needle wore through the vinyl.

The Mental Notes painting, currently in storage at Te Papa, The Museum of New Zealand, is subtly different from the original Australasian Mental Notes cover. By the time the re-recorded Mental Notes was released overseas, Wally Wilkinson had been replaced in the band by Rob Gillies and Phil Judd painted Rob’s head over the top of Wally’s on the actual painting. He also updated a few hairstyles…

Most of the album’s songs were demo’ed by the band at Mandrill Studios in Auckland in 1975 immediately before the band’s departure for Australia. The unpublished tape was found by the studio owner twenty years later, but was then lost again! A cassette copy had been made in the interim. That went missing too.

Time for A Change was first recorded in 1973 on a demo tape with just Phil on acoustic guitar and Miles Golding on violin. Sadly, despite an extensive search, this tape could also not be found for inclusion in Enzology.

Tim, on Miles’ influence on the songs:

“The middle part of Under the Wheel, where it starts going quite dissonent– that was pure Miles. And the starting riff of Stranger Than Fiction, which was more melodic, but came from a different world and different time.”

The Stranger Than Fiction riff was composed at Malmsbury Villa.

Miles Golding: “I remember it vividly. I was just messing about on a lovely day. I started playing a few notes, the guys got their guitars, Phil’s eyes lit up and it became Stranger Than Fiction.”

Wally Wilkinson composed Stranger Than Fiction’s main guitar riff.

Wally, on Under the Wheel:

“The last out solo on it, I thought of the Mariposa leaving the wharf. Someone waving to someone as they left the shore for the last time.

“Crowther playing drumsticks on the piano strings worked extremely well.”

The bass on Maybe was played by producer Dave Russell. “I couldn’t quite pull it off”, says Mike.

Wally’s guitar solo on So Long For Now was recorded while he rolled around on the floor.

In the rough mix of Stranger Than Fiction, Phil’s spoken lines about “the hippy man with his tarot cards to play” were replaced with a spontaneous (and unbroadcastable) tribute to the producer, “Cowboy” Dave Russell. This caused Tim to laugh. Phil’s take was re-recorded with the proper words, but Tim’s laughing remains on the finished record.

Stranger than Fiction and Titus were influenced by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy. In fact, the lines “Stranger than fiction, larger than life, full of shades and echoes” were lifted from the blurb on the back of Titus Groan.

The Woman Who Loves You and Lovey Dovey were both recorded during the Mental Notes sessions but were left off the final album. Both were resurrected for Second Thoughts — the re-recorded Mental Notes.

Producer Dave Russell didn’t want the others there for the final album mix and only let Phil sit in.

Neil Finn regards Mental Notes as his favourite Split Enz album:

“I was a young teenager when that came out. You fall in love with music at that age more than at any other time in life. I fell in love with that record. It was completely unlike anything I’d heard before.”