I like it too but to my ears it's definitely disjointed. I prefer side one to side two.
Here's an interview from Australian mag RAM promoting the album.
RAM, December 9, 1983
Invasion of Privacy
Phil Judd has become something of a recluse since his Split Enz and Swinger days. Greg Taylor tracks him down and finds that making solo albums is just as traumatic as group efforts.
“Once upon a time it was Hastings, New Zealand, a medium sized town surrounded by orchards and hops and tobacco fields. A house at the back of a shop where both parents “worked their butts off”, two brothers who were “old enough to pick on you for the first fifteen years of your life – drive you crazy…”
Escape to Auckland and Art School in the early 70s. You meet Tim Finn, who also happens to be unimpressed with current music. You get a guitar and start writing your own.
This leads to a band called Split Enz, of which much as been said…You are a major force through the hard years, when the uncompromising eccentricities are out of step with mass taste, when the cult following is just enough to sustain the intense ambition.
In 1975 that ambition leads the Enz to Australia, and is recognized by Michael Gudinski, a young entrepreneur with a new record company. An album, Mental Notes is recorded, and despite less than amazing sales, the group sets off to England.
The going gets even harder – and for you, the one member who has acquired a family, it gets too hard. Quitting in 1977, you cast about in England for most of a year, then briefly rejoin for a UK tour. But you decide that it’s not happening musically or financially, and return to New Zealand and painting.
However, the musical itch resurfaces. Gathering a couple of younger players, you form the Swingers. Gudinski beckons you back to Australia, and over 1980-81 his belief in Split Enz people finally pays off: not only do your former band break the commercial barrier with True Colours, but your Counting The Beat shoots straight to No. 1 faster than any debut since Daddy Cool’s Eagle Rock.
But somehow the act doesn’t pay off, especially live. The Practical Jokers album isn’t as mega as the single. An offer to write for and perform in the Starstruck movie is useful, “but it really just helped pay off our debts…we did nothing but lose money in the Swingers.”
How this could be is probably still a mystery to you and/or your accountant. In any case, the same combination of musical and financial frustration leads to a departure from your second band early in 1982. This time you stay in Melbourne and start writing for a solo album, which you record six months later in Auckland.
But Mushroom aren’t entirely happy with the results, and sit on it for a while. Eventually a new environment and a producer are suggested; suddenly in January this year, you find yourself booked into a Los Angeles studio with Al Kooper, medium-famous keyboardist (Blood Sweat & Tears, the ‘Super Sessions’ with Mike Bloomfield etc.) turned producer (the Tubes among others), and shortly afterwards in Alberts Studios, with Russell Dunlop and Bruce Brown.
Finally your first solo album, Private Lives, is released in October. (In interviews you persistently claim it to be “only my third album in ten years”, apparently ignoring your presence on such Enz albums as Second Thoughts and The Beginning Of The Enz.) One side is from the Auckland sessions, the sound and arrangements stark, almost experimental in contrast to the slick productions on the other. The same quirky pop thread that runs from your Tim Finn collaborations to the Swingers remains, along with a strange new mixture of the intensely snappy and the oddly inconsequential. About three of the eleven tracks are great, probably among your best work.
You can’t stand to listen to any of it.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be too pessimistic…supposedly I’m being interviewed to hype my product. But speaking quite honestly, I don’t like it very much. And if that stops a thousand people buying it, that’s tough – but I really don’t like it.”
Since Phil feels just the same about everything he’s done on record, a thousand record buyers can carry on with whatever they were doing. Phil has also always disliked interviews. Intensely. A record company rep said – only half-jokingly – “Perhaps I’d better come along and reassure him”, and as the man himself says, “I’ve forgotten how to even talk to someone practically – about something in a serious context. I don’t see many people at all. Tim maybe once a month – we’re still very close. But that’s about it.”
However the entire current Split Enz lineup have been inhabiting his lounge room for months – though on canvas rather than in the flesh. Judd created the cover for Mental Notes: somehow the suggestion was made that he do another for the one they’ve just recorded. He painted a huge and striking portrait – blue-suited truncated torsos with the heads floating under the feet. He doesn’t elaborate on the composition, but is enthusiastic about the work.
“It’s good to have projects…since the Swingers broke up, music has taken about five percent of my time. Literally, I’ve done nothing but sit around for a year waiting for Mushroom to make up their minds what they want to do – which sounds lovely, but it hasn’t given me a lot of direction.”
More time is spent in the living room in front of a large piece of canvas.
“I don’t have much choice – I had to stay sane, really. I hadn’t done any serious painting for years, and once I started I was just totally rapt.”
Judd lives a hermit’s life in a pleasant modest flat near St. Kilda’s Acland Street. He doesn’t have a record player, listens only occasionally to the radio (classical more than rock – “I think people, especially musicians, get too influenced for their own good”. He reads “a fair bit of the time – everything from classics to rubbish.” Usually the only company is a small dog with a large appetite for strangers’ shoelaces, but for the last six months, Phil’s ten-year old daughter has been staying with him – “I’ve got her on lease!”
Unlike her father, “she’s made friends rather quickly…she’s fine, one of the modern generation – ten and grown up already.”
We sit at what could only be called a ‘breakfast nook’. In photos, Judd often looks sharp, knowing, amused. Today, up close, he’s somehow smaller; withdrawn behind glasses, clearly agitated by the tape recorder but constitutionally incapable of feeding any bullsh*t into it. Every answer is painfully honest; the tape is full of silences, usually broken by my own nervous laughter as I try to ease into the next question.
The choice of Al Kooper had intrigued – was that your idea?
“No, no, not at all – it was picked out of the bag, I think. ‘Cos I don’t really follow the production/engineering scene…I just had to go with who was chosen. And it turned out about fifty-fifty, really. Half of it was okay as an experience, and the other half was pretty miserable. It was the first time I’d ever worked with a producer who produces in the traditional sense – at my vintage age, it was rather a shock..” (Judd is from the 1953 crop.) “He really took control, and I hid in the background. Which was the complete antithesis of how I’d recorded the stuff in New Zealand. So I didn’t do what he wanted to do.”
Obviously that didn’t stop Mr. Kooper from doing his job. There’s no sleeve credits, but a host of sessioneers recreated and expanded three of Judd’s basic recordings. “I can’t remember their names…they came and went so quickly I couldn’t believe things like that existed. It was a lot quicker – after six months I forgot the parts, it would take me a day to work them out. It was an eye-opener to work with session musicians after being in the business for ten years. I’d never done it before. Actually, I think some of the original album tracks were better. Like on side two, they’re pretty average musically, but that had a certain warmth that I prefer – even though a lot of people seem to like those American tracks, the slicker tracks.”
I’m one of them, and Judd is too pessimistic. Whether or not side one is as he envisaged it, the end result is more listenable than side two. The only obvious distortion is Worlds Away, which has ended up sounding like Todd Rundgren. Kooper’s other tracks – Dream’n’Away and Rendezvous – are simply Judd-with-beef (not least because, despite all the implied freakouts, Phil throughout the album displays some of his most animated singing ever.) And the two Brown-and-Dunlop tracks – Laydown (the next single) and Concrete And Steel – are my personal selections as best of the whole bunch.
The point is that Phil Judd is not really a dedicated loner. “I find it very difficult to work with other players. I haven’t got the patience. I’ll have to nurture that…but I haven’t the guts to say I don’t like something, and tell someone to bugger off. ‘Cos I’m very fussy with what I like. So instead, I just go and completely f*ck it up by myself! Don’t have to blame anybody then…”
Though he could see forming another band “only if the books were going to stay balanced,” he still looks back wistfully to group days.
“I used to love writing through jamming with other people, particularly the Swingers…the inspiration that can pour out of a good practice is one of the most amazing things you can experience.”
But aren’t there any compatible or interesting players to do that with at present?
“I don’t know. You see, I don’t know anybody. I haven’t been to see a band in a year and a half, I’m not up on the scene at all….I love working with people, but just don’t make the contact.”
The journalist leaves at last. You probably won’t have to do this again for quite a while, even though you finished writing the next two albums’ worth of songs ages ago. Meanwhile there are visions to paint; the girl will be home from school soon, there’ll be things to cook.
One day, someone exactly the right wavelength might just turn up at the door…