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Split Enz’s “I Got You” Sounds Fresh and Different 30 Years Later

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In the early 1980s, the new wave movement perfectly coincided with the advent of MTV. One of the greatest one-hit wonders of this era is Split Enz's "I Got You"; although released in 1980, the song has aged quite well, and sounds timeless.

Hailing from New Zealand, the group existed in frequently changing lineups, but was originally founded in 1972 by Tim Finn and Phil Judd. After toiling in obscurity for several years, Split Enz transformed their original experimental sound into a more accessible one, particular after Tim's younger brother Neil joined the band. It wasn't until their 1979 album True Colours that Split Enz experienced success, mainly due to "I Got You." But after more personnel changes, the group called it quits in 1984. Neil Finn, along with fellow Split Enz alumnus Paul Hester, would form the popular '80s band Crowded House, while Tim embarked on a solo career. He would eventually team with his younger brother on different projects, including Crowded House's 1991 album Woodface. While Split Enz became a one-hit wonder in the U.S., they remained popular in their native New Zealand as well as Australia; there they mounted a successful reunion tour in 2006.

What makes "I Got You" so memorable? Essentially the song contains two parts: the new wave-tinged verses, and the '60s-soaked chorus. The first verse maintains that electronic, robotic sound typical of new wave, with lead vocalist Neil Finn mimicking the eerie synthesizer-dominated background. "I got you/And that's all I want," he sings. The slight echo of his voice, the minimal chord changes, the mechanical aura—all are consistent with the new wave genre.

But then the chorus kicks in, and the listener is instantly transported back to the '60s. The synthesizer sounds like an organ, the drums and bass resound, and Neil's voice takes on a strident tone: "I don't know why sometimes I get frightened/You can see my eyes, you can tell that I'm not lyin.'" Once the chorus ends, the track returns to its robotic sound, forcing the ear to adjust to a more modern tune.

These two parts seem disparate, yet somehow they complement each other. However, simply remove the three verses, and the track could pass for the latest Dave Clark Five single from 1965. This quality makes the song sound just as fresh and different today.

Another interesting aspect of "I Got You" is its unusual lyrics. On the surface it may seem like a typical love song, but as the tune continues, the words take on an air of paranoia: "Something's wrong—I feel uneasy," Tim sings Split Enzin a slightly quavering voice. "Where do you go—I get no answer/You're always out—it gets on my nerves." The narrator obsesses over his beloved; when they are together, "I don't go out, now that you're in" and while apart, "I stay in my room." The aforementioned chorus emphasizes this uneasiness, with the narrator confessing his fright that she will leave him.

I first came across "I Got You" in grade school, when I was still collecting K-Tel albums. I purchased The Beat, which purported to contain the latest in new wave. Among its contents were Duran Duran's "Girls on Film," The Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like" (another underrated single), and Haircut 100's "Love Plus One." Whether the album really encapsulated cutting edge music is debatable. But "I Got You" remained in my head for many years; even back then I recognized the track as something different.

The accompanying music video further emphasizes the track's dichotomy. Note the typical new wave look—makeup, gravity-defying hair—but the bounciness of the chorus belies this moody posturing.

Sadly, Split Enz never charted again in the U.S. However, they left behind a distinctive, catchy single that still sounds great today. Unlike some new wave songs, listening to "I Got You" will not inspire the comment, "Wow, that is so '80s."

To learn more about Split Enz, visit their All Music entry and listen to tracks on their Last FM page.

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About Kit O'Toole

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I love this song and I’m not ly-y-y-yin’

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    LOL! Thanks, El Bicho!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I always liked their song about spending six months in a leaky boat. Story of my life…LOL…

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    great album. i still have my original lp, with the laser cut artwork on the surface of the record.

  • John

    Actually, that’s Neil Finn doing the vocals on this track. I wouldn’t consider Split Enz one-hit wonders. The song charted at number 53, hardly a “hit”. They had 3 albums chart at number 40, 45 and 58.

  • http://www.nickhodge.com/ Nick Hodge

    Split Enz continued to be popular in Europe and Canada post I Got You.

    Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, now a friend of the Finn Brothers, has cited Split Enz as one of his influences

    Crowded House, formed by Neil after Split Enz, charted #2 in the US with “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – strangely similar feeling in the lyric. One should note that Neil’s lyrics are rarely direct and the words/phrases are chosen to fit the music.

    Crowded House became very popular in the UK in the early 1990s.

    Paul, RIP.

    Nick. (yes, I am a fanboi)