Who I Want to Write Like

I’m occasionally asked if there’s anyone I wish I could write like. The answer: Yeah, I wish I could write like this guy.

32 Comments on “Who I Want to Write Like”

  1. i remember growing up with split enz, neil and tim finn’s first band, here in aus. loved them then. adored crowded house. wept when hessie died.

    have you heard neil & tim’s last album (from a year or two ago?) they both are frighteningly good singers, and they both write, and its overall amazing.

  2. Best concert I ever saw? Neil Finn giving a FREE concert on Toronto’s waterfront in ’98 (99?) (when Try Whistling This was released).

    You expect a free concert to be short and perfunctory. Not this one. He gave a THREE-HOUR show, with three encores, playing new stuff, Split Enz stuff, Crowded House stuff… it was amazing. And his son played guitar with the band. Great show.

  3. Cool, a song from Woodface, my fav Crowded House album! I actually saw them in Chicago during the Woodface tour way back in the early 90s(I think), and it still ranks as the most enjoyable concert I have ever attended.
    Aren’t they touring again, or something? I think I remember hearing about it on WXRT (Chi-town radio station).

  4. Scott: you can probably find most of this on Amazon, maybe iTunes. Look for the following stuff:

    Crowded House (not counting the Greatest hits I can think of 5 CDs)
    Finn Brothers (2 of these)
    Neil Finn (2 of these)
    Split Enz (probably not easy to locate in US)
    There’s a live CD called 7 World’s Collide with Neil Finn and a bunch of guests, like Eddie Vedder and Johnny Marr.
    I recommend all of these. However, my list is probably not up to date. Does anyone know, am I missing any?

  5. Ever since I left Australia for the UK, almost ten years ago, I’ve been trying to find a couple of Aussie albums on CD – Split Enz’s ‘Time & Tide’ is one. Neil Finn is a bona fide genius. Good taste, Mr Scalzi!

  6. Call it Scalzi’s Week of Love for Aussies!

    I listened to Woodface approximately 1,684,489 times during my last year of college.

  7. Sween: saw them play a live show in Golden Gate Park in 89 or 90, and they were *brilliant* – as much passion as the 4 times I saw them in “regular” shows (including Wolfgang’s in SF in 87 – that show was, frankly, orgasmic.)

    Thanks for posting these videos, John. What great memories.

  8. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, Webkinz Purchasiing Agent

    Personally, I hate you, John, but I was let it subside slightly for this. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is kryptonite to my heart. Hearing it always puts me over the edge into tears. So lovely, so heart-wrenching, so sad.

    I own none of their albums, but I respect their work and was saddened to hear of their drummer’s suicide.

  9. I also was there in Golden Gate Park in 89. I had just returned from a 6 year living spree from NYC. Uber good memories! It was a grand welcome home to the Bay Area.
    But John, you say you wish you could write like that. Who is to say you don’t? The parallels between the lines of art are very blured. And at some place it all merges. Where stories are music, music is a painting, painting is poetry…yada yada..;)

  10. Don’t get me wrong, Ray. I think I write pretty well. However, I have yet to write amazingly catchy yet not stupid perfect pop, as Neil Finn does.

  11. The Woodface tour was truly lovely. The Cincinnati show even featured a rubber chicken, at one point. Perfect love songs and a rubber chicken–it was a tough show to top!

  12. Neil Finn is one of my (artistic) heroes – Crowded House were, if not my first favourite band (I may have been too young to think in that way), the makers of my first favourite album (Temple of Low Men!).

    The Crowded House best-of, Recurring Dream, is near-perfect (if we could somehow add “Love This Life”…), and a great introduction. The only solo stuff I’ve gotten my hands on is Try Whistling This, and it’s fantastic too.

  13. I am a big crowded house fan (to date, one of only two songs I’ve ever sung Karoke was Don’t Dream It’s Over)….

    I like you more and more with ever posting, John, and I’m already a dues-paying memeber of the John Scalzi Fan Club!

  14. If people are looking for hard-to-find crowded house stuff, http://www.smokecds.com is an NZ-based online CD store that ships worldwide (I’m not affiliated with them, just trying to facilitate the purchase of albums by one of our greatest bands!). It has split enz, and also a lot of other NZ stuff like Flying nun, which I understand is quite hard to get overseas, for those of you that are that way inclined (Go the Clean!).

  15. Four Seasons in One Day, Fall at Your Feet and Into Temptation are my favorite songs from Crowded House. I used to have the super special import of Recurring Dream, but it was a total loss in a car fire.


    Mmmm. Thanks for making me go back to that collection.

  16. So does this mean that someday we can expect a special limited edition chapbook paean to the bacon cat a la the song Lester?

  17. Not be nitpicky or anything, but in the entry above, “The answer: Yeah, I wish I could write this guy.” I assume you mean, “Yeah, I wish I could write like this guy” as opposed to literally writing Neil Finn. Although one could do worse than to write into existence one of the best songwriters of all time, I suppose.

    Oh, and Woodface is astounding. That version of Fall At Your Feet was terrific. Thanks.

  18. Writing like Neil Finn would be nice but there’s still this 17-year-old inside me that wants to be a guitar-slinging badass like Jimmy Page.

  19. There’s a sixties-kid in me who wants to write like Phil Ochs wrote.

    Alas, there may be a reason the only song of his to hit the charts (There But for Fortune) was taken to the charts by Joan Baez.

    Maybe if I could have Phil Ochs mastery over lyrics, and the voice of Neil Finn.

    Is that asking for too much?

    If I can’t write like Phil Ochs, Tom Lehrer is another songwriter I’d like to write like. And if I can’t sing like Neil Finn, I’ll settle(?) for Jim Morrison!

  20. Darren – You can get a decent remaster of Time & Tide locally here. If you want to drop me a line, I’m happy to help get it to you.

  21. Darren,

    It’s a few years ago now, but I managed to score both Split Enz box sets from Tower Records Picadilly Circus. Might be worth checking there.

    Best piece of clothing I own? My Split Enz reunion tour T-Shirt from 1993. Still in good nick. Make a good shirt down in the antipodes, we do.

  22. Martyn Taylor – Northumberland – A writer exploring what lies beyond our peripheral vision. Published by various small presses and now considered to be nearly a Proper Author. Can be found lurking around the frozen North of England, happily herding a small family of recalcitrant adults who may once have been children and a woman who may very well be the fulcrum upon which the universe turns. Available for hire for very reasonable prices.
    Martyn Taylor

    I remember seeing Crowded House in Cambridge. If I say they weren’t bad you have to understand I thought I’d bought tickets for Little Village – Ry Cooder, et al. before he went all Buena Vista.

  23. Great song. Crowded House the soundtrack of my life during some interesting years. Funny, never owned the recordings but the songs beg to be played on the guitar. Up until now that was how the songs stayed with me ( Much Music played them on a heavy rotation during the ’80’s as well ). Evaluation: John Hiatt and Neil Finn same strong power as songwriters. A new found connection for me thanks to this thread.

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