Years ago I arrived in the US pursuing an Aussie/Kiwi girl with whom I was madly in love. We were perfect then, or so I thought. She’d been holidaying for over a year in North America whilst I’d been working in the New South Wales bush. Finally, I missed her so much I took long service leave and jumped on a plane to tour with her.
However as we approached each other at San Francisco Airport, I knew immediately from her body language something was wrong. Whether it was her hesitant gait or pained smile, my intuition said the relationship was over. Finito. Sure enough, she’d married a local fella yet neglected to tell me. As you do. But that’s love, often blind.
Anyway, I was hanging around San Francisco for a few weeks, with her and the hubbie making small talk-like a spare prick at a wedding-when I chanced upon a Split Enz gig, at the Kabuki Theatre. Feeling homesick we both went along and witnessed a fantastic concert featuring their new album, Time and Tide...
I was reminded of this concert last week when I watched a tribute on ABC TV for the recently departed Paul Hester. Hester took his own life after a successful career as a member of Split Enz and thence Crowded House. The show was a re-run of a recent Hestor production called Hessie’s Shed. Appearing with him were old mates Neil Finn, Nic Seymour and Paul Kelly. It was painful to watch.
During some interview brackets conducted by Hester, the body language was simply excruciating. Even from Paul Kelly who seemingly had no intimate connection to the Split Enz/Crowded House phenomena. And Finn was an especially uncomfortable interviewee as he struggled to maintain eye contact throughout. His posture and demeanor warily considered Hester, as one considers a coiled snake.
Finn made the point a number of times, that Hester had initiated the Crowded House breakup by quitting the band. Ostensibly this may have been the case. Though Hester seemed to imply by his reactions - equal parts nervousness and button pushing - that this was not the full picture. The politics of a musical divorce were obviously unresolved.
On stage Hester presented some phony questions from the audience to Finn, such as, ‘What went wrong ?’. Which Finn handled with aplomb, ‘Well the fact I’m standing here means nothing went wrong’. This retort relieved a latent tension which the audience responded to with wild applause.
It was as though Hester was trying to prove himself, as the integral member he truly was with Finn. Yet had no need to, as Finn confirmed his importance after his death. It was painfully obvious how much Hester loved Finn, worshipped him even, yet the tension between them was palpable.
With Crowded House, Hester was living his lifelong dream. Was his death a case of limelight deprivation syndrome, leading to an insurmountable bout of acute depression. And magnified by the success of a new Finn Brothers album, on which he played no part. If so, what a waste for him and his family.
Yesterday I mused on this, whilst absently singing the latest Finn Brothers current hit, Won’t Give In. A beautiful ode to joy and family. The haunting melody features the brothers with their soaring harmonies singing, ‘It means that I won’t give in, won’t give in, won’t give in...Cause everyone I love is here, take me home, take me home’.... It leaves me with goose bumps every time.
The lyrics and chorus of the hit must have been especially significant to Hester, ironic even, after the recent loss of his girlfriend. Indeed the lyrics right through the Finn's brilliant album Everyone is Here, are truly poignant in the context of his suicide.
Yet Hester was a great drummer and accomplished musician in his own right. And from the little I saw of Hessie's Shed, he came across a nice bloke and a lot of fun to be around. Sure, pretty bloody silly at times but harmless all the same. It's little wonder his death touched so many.