#892: ‘Mean To Me’ – Crowded House

By the time Crowded House hit the scene in 1985, the band were already set to be musical superstars. Having joined his brother Tim’s band Split Enz in the late ’70s, Neil Finn became the de facto leader of the New Zealand new-wave group soon after. When Split Enz split in 1984, Neil moved to Melbourne where he formed The Mullanes, which eventually turned into the group who became famous under the name of Crowded House.

Not wasting much time before recording an album, Crowded House made their existence known almost right away with their debut single ‘Mean To Me’. While their self-titled debut is exactly six years older than I am, it took me almost no time at all to become introduced to the band and their music, with my mother, who was a huge fan of the band, playing their music frequently.

In 1996, the group announced their breakup and played their ‘final’ concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. The first song the group performed that night was of course ‘Mean To Me’, and when I first saw that performance, that song struck me as a perfect means of introduction for the band. From the simplistic starting lyrics, the song instantly diverges into the consistently perfect songwriting of Neil Finn, backed with the highly-accomplished backing music from the rest of the group. (As an aside, I highly recommend watching their 1996 Farewell To The World concert, even if it’s only for the performance of ‘Mean To Me’.)

I recall hearing this song while growing up and hearing it as some form of simplistic plea for kindness. Of course, as I grew older, I realised that Neil Finn’s song, while often simplistic, are never that simplistic and obviously hides some deeper meaning. As it turns out, I was sort of wrong, but not far off.

See, the song is pretty straightforward, and describes in great detail a meeting that Neil Finn had with a fan. Apparently, the fan did indeed come all from America to meet Neil, before divulging her whole life story to him. Soon enough, he realised that she was somewhat crazy and did what he could to divert her attention to a friend of his.

Again, its pure simplicity drew me in, mixed with the somewhat nostalgic feeling that I’ve developed for this song over the years. As it turns out, it has become one Crowded House song that I find myself returning to time and time again, despite it not exactly being their most famous,

Sadly though, I also recall hearing this song soon after the death of the group’s drummer, Paul Hester, in 2005. In fact, I remember coming home from school, hearing the song on the radio, and then soon after, hearing the news of Hester’s death. While the song never had an inherently sad meaning to it before, since Hester’s death, the song has always held a tinge of sadness in it to me.

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