INXS

TrackAlbum
Wishy WashyINXS
Stay YoungUnderneath The Colours
The One ThingShabooh Shoobah
To Look At YouShabooh Shoobah
Listen Like ThievesListen Like Thieves
Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)Listen Like Thieves
Biting BulletsListen Like Thieves
New SensationKick
Need You TonightKick
MystifyKick

 

spotify-logo-primary-horizontal-dark-background-rgb-sm

 

 

INXS photo

INXS (l to r): Tim Farriss, Kirk Pengilly, Garry Gary Beers, Michael Hutchence, Andrew Farriss, Jon Farriss

 

Contributor: David Bruce

22nd November 1997. Michael Hutchence is found dead in his hotel room at Sydney’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. The Coroner ruled that the cause of death by hanging was “suicide while depressed and under the influence of alcohol and other drugs”. His girlfriend, Paula Yates, implied that it was probably autoerotic asphyxiation due the fact that Hutchence didn’t leave a suicide note. He’d just had an argument with Bob Geldof. Drugs. Booze. Sex. Geldof. As rock star deaths go, all the boxes were ticked. And Hutchence truly was the last great rock star of his generation, dying as ridiculously as he lived.

When I was fourteen, I wanted to be Michael Hutchence. I still do now. The man dripped filth and I suppose I thought that by association, so would I. After wearing a Kick t-shirt for three months solid, I would be proved correct, just not in the way I would have liked. Kick, of course, was the album that broke INXS in the UK and worldwide; a pop/funk/rock behemoth that sold by the shedload, helped in no small part by the Need You Tonight video, which has been scientifically proven to impregnate 63.4% of the women who watch it.

INXS, to me, are a bit of an anomaly. Chronologically sandwiched in between a love of Beastie Boys and Run DMC and the discovery of Pixies and The Fall, these leather-clad, cock-rocking Antipodeans did something to me they had no right to do. I loved them. And a big part of me still does. I scoured the racks for anything I could get my hands on – picture discs, dodgy live VHS cassettes, you name it. I even joined the official fan club where we’d get sent in the post a suitably sugar-coated tour diary written by Jon Farriss with all the rude bits missed out. The rude bits are why we joined, Jon.

INXS started out as the Farriss Brothers on the Aussie pub circuit in 1977 before morphing into INXS, in the mistaken belief that this was a better name. It isn’t. INXS is a mind-blowingly terrible name. Andrew, Tim and Jon Farriss should have sued. Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly (guitar/sax – yeah, sax, bear with me) and Garry Gary Gary Gary Beers made up the sextet and together they made a curiously sexless debut album called INXS (1980), which was light on hot bedroom action but very heavy on synths, new-wavey herky-jerky guitars and dreadful lyrics … which are all brought together to brilliant effect on the final track, the fantastically odd Wishy Washy. I genuinely can’t explain why I love this song, but love it I do. It may have something to do with the line: “I’ve got a place with a view, you can see all the cars, hello cars!” or the way the synths sound like they’re being attacked by primary school kids hepped up on energy drinks laced with dolly mixtures. Or even the line, “I’ve got another place, this time with a fireplace, where a woman can come around write poetry and feel safe”. What? With you around, Michael? Come on now … whatever, it’s a banger.

 

INXS was pretty hit and miss but the follow up was much, much better. Underneath The Colours (1981) kicked off with the glorious Stay Young, all snaking synths and nagging Tim Farriss chorus riff together with the sound of Hutchence growing into those leather keks: “Keep that biting lip, know what I mean? Sweat upon the brow, that’s what I want”. Yeah, we know what you mean and what you want, sunshine. Incidentally, the Stay Young video is well worth a watch – like a bad episode of Home And Away on a budget of 54 Australian dollars with a clearly destined-for-stardom Hutchence giving it the full Poundshop Mick Jagger experience. Lovely stuff.

 

Hot on the heels of Underneath The Colours came Shabooh Shoobah and now we’re really getting down to business. No foreplay here as The One Thing thrusts its loins into your face with Hutchence getting himself all of a-quiver: Well you know just what you do to me, the way you move, soft and slippery”. Bit of a sax break for the ladies and bosh, before you know it you’re smoking a cig, feeling a bit sore and wondering how on earth you’re going to manage that short stagger to the toilet to get cleaned up.

Hutch isn’t finished there though, as the tempo drops but temperatures soar with one of the band’s finest moments, To Look At You. A simple drum beat, sultry descending synth lines and a brilliant Hutchence vocal about the old hows-yer-father (naturally) add up to an absolute classic.

 

As I was hoovering up the back catalogue, I even paid top dollar for an Aussie import cassette called Dekadance just to own the extended mix. That obsessed.

INXS Dekadance cassette

Moving on past The Swing (some good tunes, some horrible production) and we reach the twin peaks of 80s funky rocky stuff – Listen Like Thieves and Kick. There was a time in my life when I believed Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain) from Listen Like Thieves (1985) was the greatest song ever written. Those first three strummed F#s are still all I need to be back on that school trip to the North Yorkshire dales, listening to this song on a loop while everyone else was listening to The Final Countdown by Europe. In stonewash jeans. I still love that song today, although there is a chance that it may not be the greatest song ever written.

It’s difficult for me to be objective about these two albums now. I must have played them both thousands of times so picking out highlights has been tricky. Starting with my favourite INXS album, Listen Like Thieves (the song) is a great 1 a.m. car ride round the sweaty ripped backsides of Sydney. I’m not entirely sure why everybody’s down on their knees, listening like thieves but I could hazard a guess. Kicking off side two of LLT is Biting Bullets. I believe this is what kids today would call a ‘choon’. A full throttle stomper with a chorus that soars over Ayers Rock on the back of yet another thumping Tim Farriss riff. I’m not sure they ever topped this.

On to Kick (1987) next and this is where I came in … probably my first major obsession in life that didn’t involve Panini stickers. I don’t think I really need to describe my choices here – New Sensation, Need You Tonight, Mystify are embedded in our collective consciousness. In fairness I could have picked pretty much any track. The first side of Kick is as good as anything released in the 80s. FACT.

 

Album-wise, that was pretty much that for me. X, Welcome To Wherever You Are, Full Moon Dirty Hearts, Elegantly Wasted all had the odd decent tune but they could never live up to what came before. I won’t comment on anything post-Hutch. I did stick around for a very long day out at Wembley Stadium in 1991, where they headlined a bill consisting of Roachford, Jellyfish, Jesus Jones, Deborah (not Debbie) Harry and Hothouse Flowers in front of 74,000 people. My abiding memory of that day is being charged £3 for a hotdog. Three bloody quid!! In 1991!! That was at least £217 at today’s rates. Thieving bastards.

As a postscript, a couple of years after Wembley I staggered out of a Fall gig in Newcastle and queued all night for a ticket for the ‘Get Out Of The House’ tour at Newcastle Mayfair – a serious comedown from Wembley Stadium. It was well worth it as they were staggeringly good that night. Loud as hell, a rhythm section as tight as OJ’s glove with Hutchence in full rock god form, this is what they were all about. I even enjoyed the sax. Tim Farriss said we were all crazy. You’re not kidding Tim, we paid £3 for a hotdog mate …

 

 

INXS official website

INXS Discography

Michael Hutchence official site

The Michael Hutchence Memorial

INXS biography (iTunes)

David Bruce lives in Seaham on the north-east coast of England and can be found on twitter @davidkbruce, mainly posting obscure music clips that nobody watches.

TopperPost #645

8 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Aug 7, 2017

    Never my favourite Australian band, I must commend you for an article that held my interest and as good a top 10 as anyone could have done. If I must put in a Wot! No? It might be ‘Disappear’ which has a gorgeous verse melody (though the chorus leaves a bit to be desired). I will also be fair: they were one of the very few Aus bands prepared to be sexy. Most Aus bands preferred macho.

    • David Bruce
      Aug 7, 2017

      Thanks a lot for taking the time to read and comment David! Obviously in those days The Birthday Party, The Saints, The Triffids and The Go-Betweens were yet to hit my radar but I must admit I do still very much enjoy listening to INXS. Yes, some of it hasn’t aged well but I do think that their best stuff is far better than they were ever given credit for. Oh and the chorus is the reason Disappear didn’t make it in there….

  2. Glenn Smith
    Aug 8, 2017

    Great list and total respect for the two entries from Shabooh Shoobah, great record. I’d have to chuck in their first real anthem from the same album Don’t Change as it was a brilliant live song, with a great opening line. And maybe a special mention to I Send A Message from The Swing,it still plays well on the radio. First saw them live in 1980 on a double bill with Models, what a gig, what a band.

    • David Bruce
      Aug 8, 2017

      Thanks Glenn! Don’t Change is a cracker. Although there are some great songs on The Swing (Melting In The Sun nearly made the list), for me it’s dated far worse than any of their other records. Nick Launay seemed to want to use every trick in the 80’s producers handbook, rendering a lot of it completely unlistenable these days. Would love to hear those songs produced properly.

  3. Gary/The Autumn Stones
    Aug 8, 2017

    “Same Direction” prob m’fave deep cut. LLT def best album.

    • David Bruce
      Aug 12, 2017

      Same Direction is a beauty…

  4. Alex Lifson
    Aug 12, 2017

    This what you need, this what you need!
    Thanks for posting.

    • David Bruce
      Aug 12, 2017

      Cheers Alex, thanks for reading

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

↓