Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More Than Just A 'Short Note'

Forming in 1978, Sydney band Matt Finish were one of a slew of groups that emerged from the thriving pub rock scene around that time. Their very first line-up consisted Glen White (bass), John Prior (drums) and singer/songwriter/guitarist Matt Moffitt. After honing their craft for a year or so and eventually gained a recording deal. By this time they’d expanded to a four piece, with Jeff Clayton, who had originally replaced White on bass, now on rhythm guitar and Rick Grossman on bass.

Matt Finish released their debut single ‘Mancini Shuffle’ in November 1980 (the song was inspired by Moffitt‘s love of Henry Mancini‘s soundtrack to ‘The Pink Panther’). But it would be their second single ‘Short Note’, taken from the group’s debut album of the same name, that would bring Matt Finish their greatest commercial success. ‘Short Note’ was a stunning ballad and reaching #33 on the Australian charts during March 1981. It deserved to go so much higher, but has since become one of the defining Australian pop-rock songs of that era. Matt Finish toured relentlessly throughout 1981and nearer the end of that year released the 5 track EP ‘Fade Away’ (#59). The band owed some of its success in this period to the backing of the newly established JJJ radio network which played the band’s on a high rotation basis, leading to commercial networks picking up tracks. Around that time singer Matt Moffitt experienced some health issues and the band had to wind things up. Bass player Grossman joined Divinyls and would later be a long term member of Hoodoo Gurus.

About 18 months later Moffitt relaunched Matt Finish in concert with Prior and Clayton (back on bass) and newest recruit Bert Dorset on rhythm guitar. The high paced touring schedule resumed and they issued two EP’s before the end of 1983, ‘Out Of These Moments’ (#53) and ‘Blind And Running’. Their sophomore album ‘Word Of Mouth’ was released in May ‘84 but realised only one minor hit in ‘Always Another’ (#77). Unfortunately there wasn’t another ‘Short Note’ to write chart success for Matt Finish, and by 1985 Matt Moffitt had wound up the band to pursue his solo career.

Moffitt recorded his debut album ‘As Little As A Look’ in Belgium during the first half of ‘85 but it took a while to see the light of day. The first single lifted from it was ‘Miss This Tonight’, a brilliant surging rock-ballad that knocked on the door of the top 10 in various regional centres around Australia but could only manage #27 nationally in mid ‘86. I recall seeing the single on Countdown at the time and it was one of my favourite tracks of a stellar year in music, though I confess at the time I didn’t really make the connection between Matt Moffitt and Matt Finish. A second single ‘All That Stuff’ made the lower reaches of the national top 100.

Moffitt continued to tour locally and overseas, and by the end of the 80s was fronting a band called The Blue Max. In 1992 he released a limited edition EP entitled ‘Eureka’ and soon after rejoined with original Matt Finish drummer John Prior to launch Matt Finish Mach 3.0, which included Jennifer Barrett (vocals/guitar), Guy Le Claire (guitar) and Lindsay Jehan (bass), the latter two both ex of Eurogliders. More line-up changes came in the ensuing couple of years, which also saw a handful of singles and the third Matt Finish album to be released in 15 years with 1993’s ‘By Heart’. But again Matt Finish proved to be a short term venture and split once more soon after.

During 2001 Moffitt reunited with former band-mate Rick Grossman to form the short lived outfit Fire Hand Ember (who performed under various pseudonyms including Matt Finish). It must have been around this time that I recall seeing Moffitt performing the song ‘Short Note’ on television. My memory is a bit hazy but I’m pretty sure it was on a show called Good News Week. I remember thinking this guy stills sounds great, and the song had lost none of its magic after 20 years. Sadly Matt Moffitt died suddenly in August 2003 at age 46. In 2006 original Matt Finish members John Prior and Jeff Clayton took a revamped Matt Finish line-up out on the road in tribute to Moffitt. The new era Matt Finish has continued to tour over the last couple of years and hit the recording studio in late 2007 to lay down some new material, and a newly compiled ‘retrospective’ collection was welcomed by fans old and new in 2008.


Anonymous said...

Matt Moffitt - Miss This Tonight was such a top tune
I spent so many damn hours on a plane flying from Melb - L.A in 1986, and i'm quite sure they only had one various artist album aboard .. and this was one of the songs - replay after freakin replay, if i was'nt sick of it by the end i was never going to be ! ... looks like i was never going to be lol

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

lol - that is the test of a song isn't it - to endure seemingly endless repeats. I cut down my listening to commercial radio in the 90s for that very reason. I agree about Miss This Tonight being a brilliant song. I was still a student back in those days, so rarely did my finances stretch to buying albums, but I did pick up the single for about $1.99 at Kmart one day. 6 or 7 years back I came across it on a 3CD box set of 80s tunes - and I was well pleased to do so :)

Helen said...

In 2005 I moved heaven and earth to get a copy of the album 'By as little as a look' after all my tapes were stolen from my car. I bought a brilliant vinyl copy from ebay - and it arrived in smithereens! It was quite traumatic but the seller and I became good friends sharing my heartbreak. Then I got a CD on ebay later that year. I made myself two copies just in case of future disaster. :)

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Hi Helen,
glad to hear you finally got that elusive copy on CD - nothing like tracking down a treasure - I know that feeling well (and a backup copy is always a good idea). Thanks for your comment :)

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if anyone could tell me where i can get a copy of by as little as a look cd.