This anthology is dedicated to the memory of our friend Michael Hutchence. These INXS recordings represent musical highlights of the work we did as a six-piece band with Michael from 1979 to 1997. We miss him dearly, and this is a tribute to how brightly he shone . . .
If you live in New York, there is no bigger rock 'n' roll thrill than watching a world-class band blow up the stage in the most famous arena on earth, Madison Square Garden. I've seen The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, U2, and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band all do it. And on February 16, 1991, I saw INXS do it. I wrote about it too, in a review for Rolling Stone:
" . . . 'Suicide Blonde' shot out of the PA like some mutant house-music spawn of 'Brown Sugar' and 'Twentieth Century Fox' as Andrew Farriss huffed and puffed the white-boy blues on harmonica over drummer Jon Farriss' forced dance-floor march and the syncopated chatter of Tim Farriss and Kirk Pengilly's guitars. With 'Calling All Nations,' INXS dropped down into a slower, metallic P-Funk strut while Michael Hutchence laid out the agenda for the rest of the evening: 'Take the chains from your mind/Take the chains from your feet/And do the sex dance cos it's necessary.'"
No one else, playing anywhere else that night, seemed to matter. Ferocious Australian showmen sharpened by experience and oiled with confidence, Hutchence, Pengilly, the three Farriss brothers, and bassist Garry Gary Beers owned the Garden and everyone in it. I had seen them before--in clubs and theaters, always in fighting trim--but I had never seen them better. The funk was clean, the rock was hard, and the set list was radio heaven: "Need You Tonight," "What You Need," "Devil Inside," "New Sensation," "Never Tear Us Apart."
And there was Hutchence. In his lifetime he was compared so often to Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison that it was easy to forget the original electricity in his voice and body. His life, in and out of the lights, was a mixed blessing of joy, brains, exuberance, introversion, animal magnetism, and, ultimately, fatal sadness. And Hutchence broadcast them all, each night, in his midnight purr, hot white bark, and cobra-hips ballet. "I was born a performer and I like to give," he once said in an interview. At the Garden, it was impossible to imagine he would ever stop.
Ten years later, Tim Farriss admits that he does not recall much about that 1991 New York show. For him, London's Wembley Stadium, six months later, on July 13, was The Gig, when everything INXS had worked for, every record they ever made and show they ever played, came together in rightful glory. It was INXS Day on BBC Radio; the audience was a sell-out house of 72,000 people. "When we walked out there together," Tim says, "it was one of the happiest moments in the band's life. We weren't here because we were lucky. We were here because we worked hard for it. And we're here because people care."
That is the place in rock history that INXS deserve. The one they have is more complicated: a best-selling library of ten studio albums, including the 1987 global smash Kick; a run of six straight U.S. Top 10 hits between 1987 and 1990; a reputation as one of the most explosive stage bands of the last two decades; and the black afternoon of November 22, 1997, when Hutchence's lifeless body was found in a Sydney hotel room.
The singer's sudden and tragic death, by his own hand on the eve of an INXS 20th anniversary tour of Australia, threw a black shroud of shock and unanswered questions over the group's life and future. "We had grown up together, hung out and done everything together," says Tim. "And we always said to each other, if any one of us ever quit, that would be it." He pauses thoughtfully. "But Michael didn't quit the band. In fact, he was more into the band at the time than we had seen him in the previous three or four years. That was the weird part. He never quit. He checked out on life in general."
Andrew, the middle Farriss brother, first met Hutchence in a Sydney schoolyard in the early 1970s. The two eventually became INXS' songwriting engine: Andrew, who played keyboards and guitar, created the music, and Hutchence wrote the lyrics for nearly every song INXS recorded. "Michael never played an instrument," Andrew notes. "He messed around with the violin for awhile. But he was a poet. In school, I'd be going, 'Have you heard the football scores?' And he'd go, 'No, have you read this book by Hermann Hesse?'
"The thing I always liked about Michael," Andrew says, "was that he took his image seriously, but he took his art more seriously. He never lost that focus. He got distracted, at the end, by real life, by things he couldn't control. But he always had a handle on his art."
This collection--a celebration of INXS' first 20 years, going back to their earliest recordings and including rare Australian singles--is the memorial Hutchence really deserves. These 42 songs are also proof that INXS achieved the goal most important to them: not success or celebrity, but lasting greatness. Formed at the late-'70s crash point of arena rock, new wave, disco, and the glam funk of Chic, Kool & The Gang, and Earth, Wind & Fire, INXS took them all to heart to make a sterling personal dynamite.
"The most important thing to us," says Kirk Pengilly, "was that we mattered, that we changed some things. We wanted to touch people, yes, but we also wanted to leave a mark. That was the biggest wish any of us had, including Michael."
Shine Like It Does is the story of how that wish came true.
Could INXS handle themselves in a fight?
"I think so, yes. We're quite handy."
--Michael Hutchence, Q, 1994
To understand the sound and star power of INXS, you have to comprehend what it was like to be a working band in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s--the fists, booze, and blood; the sweatbox pubs, drab military servicemen's clubs, and gargantuan beer barns; the exhausting commutes to gigs in remote mining towns and the fight-club ambience of the bars and dance halls in the big cities. You played hot, tough music for drinking, dancing, and brawling. Or you died trying.
The punch-ups were not always in the audience. Tim Farriss had a memorable run-in with the guitarist from an Australian punk band called X during an INXS show in 1979, shortly after the band had changed its name from the Farriss Brothers. "I had a big X on my Les Paul," Tim explains, "and their guitar player strolled up to the stage, grabbed me by the collar, and said, 'What is this fucking X doing on your guitar? You can't steal our X.' We're actually doing the gig, but he was going to take me on, right onstage. I'm like, 'Excuse me, mate, I've got a song to play.'"
Hutchence was already attracting women and trouble in equal measure. "He was always singing to the chicks, not the guys," Pengilly says, "and that was stepping over the line. Australian pub bands sang to the guys, not the girls. We often had to hide Michael while we packed the gear in the van, because the blokes outside wanted to punch his head in."
To Hutchence, however, this was progress. "I knew something was going on," he said in 1994, "when I was onstage one night and some fella shouted out, 'You're a fuckin' poof!' The girl next to him turned round quick as a flash and said, 'He's had more women than you've had hot dinners, mate.' I thought, 'Now we're getting somewhere.'"
They became pals and peers of U2 and The Rolling Stones, but INXS earned their gilded station the hard way. They came from a hardy generation of bands--Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, The Angels, The Saints, Radio Birdman--that hammered classic Anglo-American blues-rock into something uniquely and fiercely Australian, fragrant with perspiration, fresh blood, and daredevil ambition. INXS, from the very beginning, smelled of all three.
Tim, Andrew, and Jon Farriss--all born in Perth, two years apart--played in bands as teenagers but never together, until INXS. In the late 1960s their father took an insurance-company job in Sydney. There, by the mid-'70s, each brother had his own action going. Tim played in a duo, then in a weird country-progressive rock combo called Guinness, with Pengilly, a school friend originally from Melbourne, whose parents ran a restaurant in a national park on the far northern tip of Sydney. (The band was named not after the beer, but the bass player's dog.) Andrew and Hutchence had a rehearsal-room group called Doctor Dolphin with schoolmate Garry Beers. Only Jon, a prodigious drummer, actually made money from music, bringing home $50 a night from cabaret-band work.
"A lot of the stability that we had as brothers, once we formed INXS, came from having cool parents," Andrew says. "They were a big reason why we could play together and go through some of the insane things we have as INXS. At one stage, in the very early years of the band, my parents were looking after all of the guys--feeding us, literally keeping us from starving."
Tim, Andrew, and Jon finally performed together for the first time, with Hutchence, Beers, and Pengilly, as the Farriss Brothers on August 16, 1977. The occasion was Tim's twentieth birthday (and, coincidentally, the day Elvis Presley died). The location was a communal hippie-surfer crib on Whale Beach in north Sydney, where Tim was living at the time. And the set list--beginners' hits of the day like "Hot Stuff" by The Rolling Stones, "Love Is The Drug" by Roxy Music, and Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff"--was an exact blueprint of INXS' future: rock moxy with a funk undercurrent and a spritz of glam.
"As the Farriss Brothers, we were playing the very same style of music that we did as INXS in the late '80s," says Andrew. "But because we weren't recording yet, nobody heard it. Then, right after we played that first show, the whole punk thing exploded. We already started to seem old before we were new."
The three years between the Farriss Brothers' debut and the first INXS album in 1980 was a dizzy adventure in relocation, roadwork, and self-discovery. In late 1977 the Farriss' parents moved back to Perth with Jon, who was still in school. "The rest of us," Andrew says, "were like, 'Do we get a new drummer or go over there?'" They followed Jon.
In Perth, a city isolated from the mainstream of Australian life by a continent's worth of empty plains, consistent work was scarce. The Farriss Brothers often took jobs way out of town, in mining communities on the fringes of Australia's central deserts. They once drove more than a thousand miles to play at a club in Goldsworthy, on the northern edge of the Gibson Desert; the band, trying to save money and gas by taking an inland road instead of the longer coastal highway, ran out of asphalt halfway into the trip. They spent the night sleeping in the dirt (waking up next to a dead kangaroo), then drove the rest of the way through the desert.
Pengilly recalls a night in Perth, a fancy-dress party at a place called the Broadway Tavern at which the band members all had to wear costumes: "Andrew was in a chicken suit, I was a turtle or something. And we called ourselves The Vegetables." "We Are The Vegetables," written that afternoon and played that night, was released in 1980 as the B-side of INXS' debut single, the frisky new wave hop "Simple Simon." "It was a phrase I came up with," says Andrew. "We were exhausted, earning little money. I felt like a vegetable. But when we went back to Sydney in '78, we'd had these bizarre Steven Spielberg-ian experiences in the Australian desert. We'd been toughened up."
In Sydney, change came fast. Midnight Oil manager Gary Morris looked after the Farriss Brothers for a few months. Then the band struck up a more enduring relationship with its booking agent, Chris Murphy, who quickly negotiated a record deal with a local indie, Deluxe, and remained the group's business warrior for more than 15 years. The Farriss Brothers also got a new name--INXS.
But the biggest transformation was in Hutchence. "There's a big difference between someone who doesn't believe in himself and someone who does," says Tim. "Michael suddenly made that switch. He was no longer singing covers--he was singing our songs. And onstage, he was getting the big vote. When he got that, he relished it. He really started to eat it up."
Born in Sydney, on January 22, 1960, Michael Hutchence was shy and bookish as a child and endured a rootlessness that, ironically, made him well-suited to the one-nighter quality of rock life. Hutchence's father, Kell, moved the family to Hong Kong to start a wine-importing business when Michael was four. In 1972 the Hutchences returned to Sydney where Michael met Andrew after the latter pulled him out of a schoolyard fight. "Michael told that story for years--it was kind of sweet," Andrew says. "It was a true story--I just can't remember much about it. I think it was more important to him than to me."
Michael's parents divorced in 1975; he moved with his mother, Patricia, a makeup artist, to Los Angeles for a year. On the day he returned to Sydney, Hutchence immediately called Andrew. "One of the paradoxes about Michael," Andrew continues, "was that he had a lot of personal and spiritual confidence but not a lot of ego. He used to say to me, 'I'm jealous of the way you can talk about yourself in lyrics. You can say "I."' Michael had problems saying 'I.'"
But Hutchence was a rigorous student of his craft. "We always used to watch other bands--the headliner, if we were supporting, or on nights off," Pengilly says. "It was to see what they did, how they did it, and to say 'I can do better.' We had this competitive nature. But Michael especially had it--to not do what they're doing, to be different and likable."
INXS' first records are like any other band's baby steps. They sound thin, awkward, and out of focus. Yet the best tracks shake with great promise: the high-speed glee of "We Are The Vegetables," the cocksure snap of "Just Keep Walking" on INXS. "Stay Young," on 1981's Underneath The Colours, is a modest gem in which Hutchence's husky melodrama bridges the black-cream goth of Andrew's keyboards and the tart disco step of Jon and Garry Beers. "The Loved One," a sexually charged cover of the rhythmically eccentric 1966 classic by Melbourne beat group The Loved Ones, was issued as INXS' third Australian single in 1981 and became their first Top 20 hit.
"It's taken me a long time to get over those first two albums," Tim says, noting that INXS cost only $6,000 to make and was taped at night, after gigs, with a madcap engineer, the late Duncan McGuire, who ran the sessions under the excitable influence of whiskey, coffee, and pills. One night, during a mixdown, a tape machine erupted in flames. At another session, McGuire spilled one of his cocktails into the console; the band members used Q-tips to scrub up the liquid that seeped into the faders. "But 'Just Keep Walking' has a power to it," Tim insists. "We pushed the beat--hard--and Andrew does these wild synthesizer solos, real what-the-fuck-is-this stuff. We released our product as we learned to play it. It was naive. But it was also pure."
With Shabooh Shoobah, INXS hit their long-simmering stride--and international pay dirt. Released in America in February 1983, five months after it blew into Australia's Top 20, the album was a Top 50 hit here. The single, "The One Thing," peaked even higher, at #30, on the back of heavy MTV rotation. "I'm not clear how the sax break came about on 'The One Thing,'" says Pengilly, who picked the instrument up in 1979 and taught himself the basics. "We needed to do something in that space, and I just blew through it. Mark [Opitz, Shabooh's producer] kept me doing it for a couple of hours. By the time I got what he wanted, I was pretty angry. You can hear the frustration."
In comparison, the zen heart of "Don't Change" is a descending keyboard figure that Andrew wrote as a result of listening to Mozart and ambient Eno records while doing Tai Chi exercises. Andrew credits the guitars with the track's elegant locomotion: "That's where Tim and Kirk excelled. Whey they got on top of a riff, it was unstoppable."
So was INXS' destiny in America. Chris Murphy believed the band's greater future lay abroad--so much so that while he was working on an international deal for INXS, he sent Andrew, Pengilly, and Hutchence to America, and then England, to meet with prospective producers and soak up local scenes and influences. In the spring of 1983, INXS formally landed in the U.S. for a two-month blitz, opening for The Kinks and the Stray Cats. "We'd go to these college towns," Pengilly recalls, "go for a walk around the local shops and get mobbed--in our own small way. It was amazing. We had recognition from day one. We were like, 'Hey, I love America. When can we come back?'"
"The Top Forty could be so much better. But there's no bands left. There's U2. And R.E.M. I think we're included in there."
--Michael Hutchence, Rolling Stone, 1988
One night in August, 1983, Tim Farriss was chasing his sweat with a cold beer backstage in Toronto, where INXS had just opened for fellow Australians Men At Work, when Hutchence put his arm around Tim's shoulder and said, "Timmy, Nile Rodgers is here. He wants to meet ya." Tim's response: "Fuck off, Michael. Stop shitting me." Michael said, "No, really."
"I turn around," Tim says now, cackling with embarrassment, "and Nile Rodgers is standing right behind me."
For Tim, this was a huge honor. When asked now about his biggest influences as a guitarist, he simply says, "Nile Rodgers. To this day." As a teenager, working in a record store, he developed a major love of funk, chasing records by Kool & The Gang, War, and Rodgers' band, Chic, that were rarely heard on commercial Australian radio. When Rodgers' solo album, Adventures In The Land Of The Good Groove, came out in '83, Tim played it nonstop on the INXS tour bus.
Rodgers, in turn, had seen INXS on TV and liked what he saw and heard. Within a couple of weeks, he and the band were in New York's Power Station (with Daryl Hall on backing vocals) to record a new song written by Andrew and Hutchence, "Original Sin." In its combination of INXS' road-honed rhythmic poise, Rodgers' taut production, and the doubled jump of guitars (played live in the studio by Tim and Rodgers), "Original Sin" was an impressive advance on the group's crossover dream. Hutchence's lyrics were the crowning touch, a bleak reverie on racial harmony that came out of a car ride through Harlem.
"We were stopped at a light," Pengilly remembers. "There were these kids playing on a basketball court--black, white, Hispanic, all six or seven years old. They were playing together, no problems. The idea, for Michael, was that these kids were not worrying about what color they were, or their heritage. But as you grow up, the culture, peer pressure, start coming in. That's when the trouble starts. You start out innocent, accepting of everyone. But through conditioning, you start to believe there is a problem."
Hutchence was, in a way, proved right. "Original Sin" was a smash in Australia and Europe but stalled halfway up the Billboard singles chart. In the South the record met with especially disturbing resistance. Andrew claims that at one show--he thinks it was Texas--someone threw a revolver on stage: "The message was, 'In appreciation of your music.'"
Shabooh Shoobah and "Original Sin" marked the start of three years of hyperdrive. From early 1983 to the end of 1986, INXS lived and worked like a '60s beat combo, releasing three studio albums--Shabooh was quickly followed by The Swing and Listen Like Thieves--and touring every inch of solid ground in Australia, the U.S., and Europe. If you include non-LP B-sides, soundtrack contributions, the remixes on the 1983 Dekadance EP, the first U.S. issues of INXS and Underneath The Colours, and one-off singles like the blast through The Easybeats' 1968 monster, "Good Times"--cut by INXS in December '86 with Cold Chisel's Jimmy Barnes to promote an Australian tour--INXS recorded and released more than six albums' worth of material in 48 months.
The pace, for Andrew and Hutchence, meant writing new songs at the same velocity. "It was intoxicating," Andrew confesses. "Whenever I went home after a tour, I had to bring new music to the next record. It never occurred to me that I needed a break."
The Swing vividly captured the widescreen stretch of INXS' pop vocabulary: the rubber-band bounce of "I Send A Message," the white-gospel glow of "I Burn For You," the straight-arrow drive of "Dancing On The Jetty." But on Thieves and Kick, under the refining touch of British producer Chris Thomas, INXS stopped swimming through genres and sharpened their funk. The extent to which Thomas, a production legend who worked with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Roxy Music, pushed INXS to excel is pressed into the perfect fatback of "What You Need."
Thieves was already 11 songs strong--including the bruised urgency of Andrew's "This Time" and the swaggering title march--when Thomas told the band they were still one hit short of a classic album. "We went through Andrew's demos," Tim says, "and went, 'What about this?' Chris goes, 'Yes.'" INXS rehearsed "What You Need" on a Sunday, recorded the basic track on a Monday, and finished it on Tuesday. Hutchence's lyrics were simple and direct, a surefire prescription for the blues: "Hey you, won't you listen/This is not the end of it all/Don't you see there is a rhythm/I'll take you where you/Really need to be." And he sang it like he believed it.
To Tim, Kick was essentially Thieves, Part Two. "We started from where that finished," he contends. "Chris Thomas really understood the band by then. He'd flown around the world to see us play. He said, 'My goal is to make you come across on record the way you do live. And'--these were his very words--'you haven't done that yet.'"
Andrew made his own promise to the band as the tour bus rolled between Thieves dates in Germany. "I felt incredibly confident," he says now. "Even before I'd started writing for Kick, I knew the audience was there for it. I said to the band, 'If you trust Michael and I to write the whole of the next record, it will be massive. We know what we're doing.'
"Michael and I had to be able to do this without having any bizarre conversations with people about what we were trying to achieve," he explains. "It was an enormous leap of faith by the others--'We're trusting you. It better be good.' So we were good."
Andrew and Michael were better than their word. The first INXS album without any writing credited to other members, Kick sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone and fired four singles into the American Top 10: the delicious creeper "Devil Inside"; "New Sensation," a hot slap of self-satisfaction with a jangly-guitar figure that sounds like triumphant laughter; "Never Tear Us Apart," a wrenching ballad speared by Pengilly's fleshy, crying sax; and "Need You Tonight," pure sex atop a tick-tock beat and insect-funk guitar, which went to #1. One of Tim's fondest memories of America was hearing "Need You Tonight" on the radio during an airport-limo ride. The driver, who was black, turned to INXS in the back and said, 'This is you guys, right? This shit is hot with the brothers, man.'"
"We were going, 'Alright!,' punching knuckles," Tim says, still dazed by the compliment. "That was the culmination of everything we had tried to do. We weren't trying to emulate black musicians. We only wanted to be ourselves, playing good funk. And we'd done it."
In a Rolling Stone interview, conducted at the height of Kick mania in 1988, Hutchence marvelled at INXS' solidity, how they had gone all the way with their friendship and Australian brand of common sense intact: "Sometimes we think, 'How'd we get here without being a pack of assholes?' It's pretty rare. That's what it's about: respect for your position and appreciating it. . . . And I know we're going to keep going. We may burst our own bubble, but I don't think we're going to let anybody else do it for us."
There was more truth in that sentence than he knew.
"I don't get recognized much, thank God. That's because I don't ask for it."
--Michael Hutchence, Los Angeles Times, 1989
"One of the last serious conversations I had with Michael was while we were writing songs for Elegantly Wasted. He said to me, 'One of the good things in our relationship is we never competed for the same things.' It was true. He never tried to compete with me on a musical level. And I never wanted what he had, that visual image."
Andrew Farriss is talking about the beginning of the end: the long train of strain that marked INXS' last days and records with Michael Hutchence, the seesaw years of blues and victory between 1990's X and 1997's Elegantly Wasted. "The important thing about INXS--and Michael always agreed with us on this--was that this was a real band," Andrew continues, "not a formula created by some record-company guy. We were a band of people who stuck together to achieve a common aim. It was only after Kick that Michael started mixing with a different group of people who, I personally think, ran around kissing his ass.
"Which," Andrew quickly notes, "we didn't do."
Even in a group of equals, stardom favors the wild and the beautiful. Hutchence was both. It is no coincidence that in his two major film roles, he played gifted, reckless dreamers: the poet Shelley in Roger Corman's 1990 production Frankenstein Unbound and a magnetic junkie-singer in Dogs In Space, Richard Lowenstein's sharp, sad 1986 memoir of the late-'70s Melbourne punk scene. When Kick awarded Hutchence the world's attention and unlimited privilege, he wore them like a birthright.
Hutchence's lyric and stage persona--the deep-thinking libertine with a wandering heart--became everyday wear as he waltzed with sultry assurance through a series of tabloid-ready affairs with pop glitterati: among them, Australian singer Kylie Minogue, supermodel Helena Christensen, and British television host Paula Yates, who gave birth to Hutchence's only child, a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, in 1996. The singer spoke candidly to the press about his experiments with leisure chemicals and cracked wise about life on an elevated plain. "Why do you still bother doing all this band stuff when you could just nonce around?" the British magazine Q asked him in 1994. "That's a bloody good question and I don't know why I bother," Hutchence drolly replied. "I'm going to quit today."
There were days when no doubt he meant it. Publicly, Hutchence took great pains to show that, in INXS, he was One of Six, a big wheel inside a bigger deal. In 1988 he and the band unanimously rejected Rolling Stone's offer of a cover because the magazine wanted to feature Hutchence alone in the photograph. Pengilly credits Chris Murphy with helping INXS, particularly Hutchence, maintain a united front. "Chris was always having private chats with Michael, helping him deal with the special attention," Pengilly says. "Chris' thing was always, 'It's six guys.' When Rolling Stone wanted to put Michael on the cover, Chris adamantly said no, that it was the whole band or nothing. And we agreed. So it was nothing."
But a year later, during a rare extended break in INXS activities, Hutchence recorded a side project, Max Q, with Australian keyboardist Ollie Olsen (the two had previously worked together on the Dogs In Space soundtrack) without informing the other members of INXS. Andrew Farriss found out about the record when he saw Hutchence in a Max Q video on Australian television. "Andrew took it very badly," says Pengilly.
Plenty of rock bands have broken up over less than that. The ones that don't often end up making records that plainly sound like bad marriages of convenience. INXS did neither. In the face of yellow-media hysteria over Hutchence's love life, dropping U.S. sales, and fraying brotherhood aggravated by Kick follow-up pressures, INXS recorded some of the finest and most honest music of their career. Today, Andrew suggests that INXS was partly to blame for letting America slip away in the 1990s. "We spread ourselves too thin," he says, "maintaining home and families in Australia as well as an international career. After we did the X tour of America, we never came back to play the bigger shows, the stadiums. We had the following and credibility to pull it off, but we never did it. And when we did come back in 1992 with Welcome, the whole music business had changed."
Seattle had happened: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the underdog aesthetic of alternative rock. The members of INXS were all in their early and mid-thirties, still on the shy side of middle-age even by rock-star standards. "But we were now thought of as an 'old' band," Andrew says. "People wanted something new."
X was the first INXS album to be made under the duress of success. "We took a fair bit of time off after Kick, and when we came back together, there were doubts," Pengilly confesses. "Some of the guys even said, 'Do we need to do this anymore?'" He doesn't mention which guys, but adds that the band went back to producer Chris Thomas for the third time "because he would help us keep our shit together."
Andrew went into X with the understanding that he and Hutchence would not be writing all of the songs. "Michael and I had delivered with Kick," Andrew says. "But with X, everyone said, 'We want to have a go at writing.' I said, 'Fine.'" Jon Farriss collaborated with Hutchence on two songs, including the Top 10 hit "Disappear," an ice-cream sundae of love and optimism with a come-hither vocal hook--part Beach Boys coo, part doo wop wolf whistle--embedded in pillowy echo. Pengilly also got a cowriting credit on the album. But Andrew and Hutchence ultimately wrote the bulk of X during a New Zealand writing retreat. One of the songs to come out of that labor was "Bitter Tears," a brassy declaration of cleansing and renewal--"I'm seeing my way," Hutchence sang, "for the first time in years"--which, ironically, ended INXS' Top 10 singles streak in the U.S. when it hit a brick wall at #46.
Welcome To Wherever You Are is surely the most misunderstood album INXS ever made. Tim, Andrew, and Pengilly all cite it as the best, hands down, of the band's long players. Welcome was a glorious success in Britain too, where it debuted at #1. Yet the album was INXS' first major commercial disappointment in the States, selling well short of Kick and X.
The title, which implied confusion and a fragile cohesion, didn't help. "It should have been something more positive," Tim admits. Pengilly defends the phrase: "It was really quite innocent--'Be happy with whatever you are, whoever you are, wherever you are.'" Welcome was, in fact, made at a time of compound personal drama: Jon's pending marriage, Pengilly's recent divorce, Hutchence's overstuffed dating-and-party schedule. Tim was sidelined by illness for part of the project. You wouldn't know it, though, from the record's spirit of liberation, its fresh air of anything-goes.
Made at home in Sydney, at the band's own studio, Rhinoceros, with Shabooh Shoobah producer Mark Opitz, Welcome is a bold step away from the wiry erotic formula of Listen Like Thieves and Kick. The funk is more implicit, the rock more boisterous. Originally written by Andrew as a waltz-time ballad for his first daughter, "Heaven Sent" became a 4/4 stormer after Pengilly piled distorted guitar atop the opening chord progression. Tim is especially fond of "Taste It"--"It's got Garry's rock-solid bass"--and calls "Not Enough Time," a compact epic of dusky soul and paisley strings, "a great moment for us in the studio, especially where it goes into that little stop and the orchestra comes up. It was our idea of a Beatles-esque thing, and we loved it."
"There was no sense of further achievement in doing another Kick--that spiral was not going up," Pengilly argues. "With Welcome, even with all of our problems getting in the way, we figured, 'Fuck it, we've done some amazing things, let's just have fun.' Welcome is a special album, because it's really us."
"Sure, I was upset that it didn't do as well as Kick and X in America--but not as sorry as my accountant," Tim cracks. "We got to make the record that we wanted to do."
The experience was not enough to stem the growing estrangement between Hutchence and the rest of the band. Hutchence was, as Tim puts it, "a star in the full meaning of the word. Every minute of his life was consumed with being with this famous person or that famous girl. It was all out of control for him." At one point, Andrew moved from Australia to England to save his songwriting bond with Hutchence, then living in France and Copenhagen. And in all of 1992, INXS--a band virtually born for the road--played only one show, headlining the Concert For Life, an Australian megabenefit that turned into a public relations fiasco when the group's expenses ballooned out of control. (The truth of the enterprise emerged when the press sniping subsided: the show raised more than $600,000 for charity.)
"Michael was very troubled at the time," Tim explains. Romantic upheaval was complicated by serious injury. In Copenhagen, Hutchence suffered a concussion in a fall from a bicycle and, as a result, temporarily lost his senses of taste and smell. The singer had also developed a problematic interest in the Seattle rock explosion ("He liked the darkness of it," says Andrew) and started to question not only the band's musical identity but also his own relevance as a writer and vocalist. Andrew recalls that at one session for Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, Hutchence--ripped on red wine--shoved a microphone into his acoustic guitar, right through the strings, shouting, "We need more aggression on this track!" Hutchence had become, according to Tim, "a very different human being. None of us felt like we really knew him."
Rehearsals for Full Moon, held at Hutchence's villa in southern France, were not productive. "It wasn't about what we were doing," Tim complains, "as much as who happened to be there: Johnny Depp, supermodels, whatever." To get rid of the distractions, the band volunteered for house arrest; INXS set up mobile recording facilities on the Italian isle of Capri where, Tim says, "things got worse. Michael was really out of himself." After the microphone-up-the-guitar incident, INXS took a month-long break after which Hutchence returned a different better man--"really friendly," says Andrew.
Out of that mess came an album of scruffy bravado, an Australian turn on that Northwest rock ideal but without the black ennui. In Rolling Stone, Hutchence described "The Gift," a crusty chunk of industrial locomotion written with Jon Farriss, as "a good hard look at the word 'love'--not in the romantic sense but in a more universal one. The idea is that love has to prevail." And whatever Full Moon cost in war and grief--"Nights of arguments, declarations of love, craziness, lucidity," to quote the brief liner note included in the album--it was all worth it when soul giant Ray Charles consented to pour some of his wild honey all over "Please (You Got That . . . )."
"We were in Paris, recording overdubs," Andrew explains. "Michael and I heard that Ray Charles was recording at the same studio. We thought, 'What if he actually liked one of our songs?' So we took two tracks, 'Make Your Peace' and 'Please,' put them on cassette, and sent them down to his engineer: 'If Ray is interested, we'd love to do a recording with him.' And Ray said, 'Yes.' We thought it was ridiculous--you mean all we had to do was ask? One of the great messengers of jazz, blues, and soul wanted to take the time to record with us."
Charles and Hutchence dubbed their "Please" duet at the former's studio in Los Angeles (Charles passed on "Make Your Peace" because the key was too high for his voice.) An amazed Hutchence later told Andrew that Charles, uninhibited by his blindness, moved the knobs and faders on the control-room console with expert second sight. Tim had his own Ray Charles moment during the filming of a "Please" video. "We're jamming away, in the third take," Tim relates, "and Mr. Charles--he was always Mr. Charles to me--doesn't have much patience for that stuff. He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Then, all of a sudden, Michael runs off to have a piss. While I'm standing there, Mr. Charles comes over, puts his hand on my shoulder and goes 'Michael, I love the way you're singing this thing. It's so cool.'
"It was really heavy--to have to say, 'Uh, Mr. Charles, I'm not Michael.' But then he laughed his head off." So does Tim as he tells the story. "He thought it was really funny."
INXS released Full Moon, Dirty Hearts in October, 1993, then opened 1994 with an international tour to promote the album. The trek was dubbed The Dirty Honeymoon Tour, but the marriage continued to crumble. That same year, Hutchence began work on his first real solo album with producers Andy Gill (ex-Gang Of Four) and techno savant Danny Saber. (The project proceeded in fits and starts and was still incomplete when Hutchence died; it was posthumously completed by Gill and Saber and released as Michael Hutchence in Australia in late 1999 and in America the following February.)
By 1995 Hutchence's ballooning tabloid profile had driven a deeper wedge between him and the rest of INXS. Shameless in their hunger for Hutchence dirt, London newspapers published lurid details of his relationship with Paula Yates, including her child-custody battle with her former husband, Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats. "I'd like to apologize to people for boring the shit out of them for two years," Hutchence joked grimly in one interview, referring to his suffocating omnipresence in the Fleet Street sheets.
Andrew, living in London, was reduced to staying in touch with Hutchence through the bitchy nuggets of newspaper gossip. "It was soul-destroying," Andrew says now, his voice thick with distaste. "I'd read something new about Michael in the papers every day. My friends would ask me about it constantly. You couldn't run away from it. I was worried about him.
"One day, I called Michael on the phone and said, 'I can't stand reading this stuff anymore. Are you OK?' And he said, 'I'd love to get together with you.' He came around and we talked for awhile. Finally, I said, 'Why don't you get your head out of your problems and into some music again?'" Andrew and Hutchence soon pulled out of London to the relative obscurity of Dublin and lit into their first sustained stretch of songwriting in three years. They wrote more than half-a-dozen new songs, more than enough to set a new INXS record in motion.
"A lot of people say to me, 'Elegantly Wasted is a terrible name for an album,'" Andrew notes. "But I wouldn't change it for anything. Because that record gave Michael an outlet to tell people how he felt, how the media made him feel. He wrote real lyrics about his real life.
"The only argument we had the whole time," Andrew adds, "was that I wanted to include a set of lyrics I had about the death of my mother. I wanted to include it for Tim and Jon and I. Michael and I had this funny debate over whose pain was worse. We came to the conclusion that it was a pointless argument. I decided to write my song some other time, some other place." Andrew would have that opportunity; Hutchence was running out of time.
It is difficult to look now at any title or lyric from Elegantly Wasted--"Searching," "Don't Lose Your Head," "I'm Just A Man"; "I'd love to take this lying down" ("Shake The Tree"), "This ain't the good life" ("Elegantly Wasted")--and not shiver with foreboding. Hutchence's derailed happiness and mounting resignation are writ large in his words and the subdued weight of his singing. The devastating personal cost of that honesty was plain the first time he sang "Searching" in front of a live audience, on television in September 1996 during Australia's annual equivalent of the Grammys, the ARIA Awards.
"Right up until we walked on stage," Tim says, "Michael was in tears. Paula had just left the country quickly, something to do with custody of the children. All of a sudden, it was showtime. Michael had to wipe his eyes and go out there and sing 'Searching.' It is one of the greatest performances we ever gave on television. It was totally live, and Michael sang with such emotion: 'I am searching, I am not alone.' It's still too heavy for me to look at, even today."
Hutchence left no note of regret or explanation in the Sydney hotel room where he died. He had already written a letter of passionate candor in Elegantly Wasted, in songs like "Searching." He poured his heart into that letter, then mailed it around the world. It was not enough.
On November 21, 1997, Pengilly drove Hutchence and some other band members to the television studio in Sydney where INXS were rehearsing for a 20th anniversary tour of Australia. It was to be called the Lose Your Head Tour. During the ride Pengilly sensed nothing amiss. "You would have never, ever had an inkling that something was going to happen," he says. "It wasn't in Michael's voice, manner, or vibe."
Andrew has his own precious memory of that final rehearsal. "We were doing some songs acoustically with Michael and our background singers, to get the vocal parts right," he explains, "and I remember sitting in this circle of people and having this deep, deep feeling of love. I can't explain it--it was weird. And very powerful.
"Then I can remember sharing a joke with Michael. And the last time I saw his face, he was smiling at me as he walked out the door. That is one of the many blessings God has given me in this life--that the last time I saw Michael's face, he was smiling." The next afternoon, on November 22, Hutchence was found dead, hanging from a door in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. He was 37 years old. A memorial service was held on November 27 at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney; Hutchence's body was later cremated at Rookwood Cemetery.
INXS still exists. Tim, Andrew, and Pengilly talk about the future with a respectful enthusiasm--about individual pursuits (Tim's production work with young bands; Andrew's recent success as a producer for the aboriginal ensemble Yothu Yindi), and the prospect of new group studio work. On January 12, 1999, INXS formally emerged from seclusion to headline the opening show at Stadium Australia in Sydney; they played a four-song set fronted by black English vocalist--and big INXS fan--Terence Trent D'Arby. A year later, during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games at the same venue, INXS appeared before an exuberant hometown audience with Jon Stevens of the Aussie band Noiseworks.
"We're not ready to get a new singer and call ourselves INXS again," Tim insists. "Whoever we work with in the meantime is with INXS--which is different. By the same token, I truly believe in my heart of hearts that Michael would not want us to crawl off under a rock somewhere for the rest of our lives--to pretend that he never existed, or that we as a band never existed."
"We're still developing, still learning how to move on," Andrew says. "Visually, Michael was the focus. He absorbed the image stuff, which he wanted to do. But with him gone, it's bizarre. The rest of us now have to ask ourselves, 'Who are we? And how do we show it?'"
Pengilly describes a strange but reassuring vision he had the very day of his friend's passing: "We all basically hightailed it away, to try and deal with it. I ran down to my farm outside Sydney, got extremely drunk, and eventually went to sleep. And I had this dream that Michael came to me in the form of an owl. I was in a big field, and he landed on this tree next to me and said, 'It's OK, mate. I'm finally happy. I'm finally free. Don't worry. Just get on with your life.'"
Rock 'n' roll is a much poorer music without the voice and sass and poetic spark of Michael Hutchence. But it is an infinitely better music because of the funk, sex, and joy that he, Kirk Pengilly, Garry Gary Beers, and Tim, Andrew, and Jon Farriss packed into the records they made together. In everything they played and sang--the hits, the misses, the rarities--INXS celebrated their friendship and the most vital luxury of their success: the chance to be heard, the opportunity to make a difference.
This collection ends with devastating loss. But what you hear, in every note, is the sound of life.
New York City
by Andrew Farriss
1. Simple Simon
The first song we released as INXS was "Simple Simon"--1979 and we were playing constantly and suddenly there was the need for a radio song. I came up with the basic song idea in an old house in Collaroy on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Simon was a fictitious character who comes across as a victim of both circumstance and his own stupidity. Given the live shows we were doing, I think it was written as much for the gigs as it was for radio.
2. We Are The Vegetables
Originally released as a 7-inch vinyl Bside to "Simple Simon," "We Are The Vegetables" was basically describing our collective daytime wits as a group after working six or seven nights a week with sometimes two gigs a night. A purpose written idiot anthem.
3. Just Keep Walking
Australia. The late '70s. In the early years of INXS' career, after playing a gig we used to drive ourselves back to Sydney. Usually the gigs would finish late at night, and we couldn't afford to always stay at hotels, so often we would have to drive home regardless of the distance involved. Some of these car trips were as long as 12 or 13 hours long and usually at night. Sometimes there would be bad weather, and, combined with poor road conditions, the long night, and our level of tiredness, it could be very dangerous.
The song lyrics were about life on the road and the pubs: "Green grass fields and earth, broken bottles bricks and dirt." By the time we started recording our first album, I had written the lyrics already and showed them to Michael. He liked the line "Clever words on smooth tongue talking, shove it brother, just keep walking." We knew it would connect with the workers and drinking mob in the pubs. It was a long time before random breath testing and everybody went out to party.
From our self-titled album, INXS; it was an important single for us in Australia. We had begun to connect our pub following with a broader radio audience for the first time.
4. The Loved One
Originally recorded in the '60s by an Australian group, The Loved Ones. We were looking for a one-off single at the time.
1981. Sydney, prior to the making of our second Australian-released album, Underneath The Colours. Six years later we rerecorded the same song with a completely different feel on our Kick album.
5. Stay Young
From our second album, Underneath The Colours. By 1981 we were playing mostly to people our own age, generally about 18 to 25. The song is about loss of innocence. The Australian pub audience was always good to us, and yet the alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and youth depression associated with it was ever present around us. On reflection, it was probably just as much about how other people handle those issues as it was about ourselves handling them.
Michael wrote the lyrics, and I wrote the music. The band had a great song to play live and a chorus that radio could relate to. David Mason and Karen Ansell, our friends from the highly respected Australian band The Reels, helped out on backing vocals on this track.
6. The One Thing
Kirk, Michael, and I had taken a working holiday visit to Los Angeles, New York, and London.
To get into the cultures of those cities and get inspired, we had begun to depart from pub rock and enter the twilight zone of commercial pop music. "The One Thing" was musically more adventurous than our previous recording. The beginnings of our international career, both in music and in video.
We had made a provocative video to go out on a very young MTV in North America. Visually rich and living to excess, actually a scene very far from reality at the time, we were transported from our earthy pub rock beginnings to the weird world of television and mass media.
7. Don't Change
Everything changes, or does it? Nothing lasts forever, and yet most of us at some point in our lives want it to.
1982 and we were recording our third album, Shabooh Shoobah. As I recall, Michael wrote the lyrics, I wrote the main riff and some of the chords, and the band all contributed to the arrangement. The combination of my Roland SH7 synthesizer and Tim's and Kirk's guitar parts created a powerful texture on the main song riff. Kirk's vocal harmony in the chorus and the end of the song are signature parts.
Michael and I had written the song with the intention of introducing a different rhythm feel. The band rocked in the studio, and in the translation for the first time we were being seen and heard in North America.
"Don't Change" is still in our live set. INXS and "Don't Change" are part of the same show.
8. To Look At You
Words can heal and words can hurt. When it comes to love, who we touch and what we see are sometimes more important than words. I wrote the lyrics and music. Jon's drum track and Garry's bass line, in particular, gave the recording a different feel to the rest of the album.
9. Here Comes II
Originally written for our album Shabooh Shoobah. Michael and I wrote this one in London in 1982. It reminds me a little of some of the songs we wrote in the mid-'90s together. This version never made it on to the album. Instead, we recorded a much faster version, which was probably done with touring in mind.
10. Black And White
At this time we were travelling more and more overseas, and yet we were still playing pubs in Australia. I think this track reflects the energy of the pub audiences at the time. Great rhythm track from Jon and Garry. Michael wrote the lyric, and I wrote the music. When I listen back to some of our early work I sometimes try to remember why we recorded the songs the way we did. By that, I mean the tempo and instrumentation in particular. Uncompromising and energetic, the band's performance was a direct reflection of our environment at the time.
11. Original Sin
1983. We had been touring the world seriously by now. We had performed to many different cultures and learnt more about our own culture because of our distance from it. Before leaving Australia, during a short break from constant touring, I had written a few new songs and instrumental grooves.
We were on tour in the U.S. and Canada and one of the tapes we used to listen to at the time was Nile Rodgers' Adventures In The Land Of The Good Groove. I have always had a great love of funk guitar, and we had all become really fond of Nile's guitar work and production style.
The next sequence of events were bizarre and kind of weird. We had finished a show in Canada, and it was a support gig. We played well, but it was not our gig. We were just sitting there drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, when none other than Nile Rodgers walks through the door, saying how much he enjoyed the show.
Next thing, we were all talking about going to New York to record a new song with Nile producing. What song were we going to record?
Michael and I worked out the basic form of "Original Sin." Michael's lyrics were to the point, and the music I had written was timed right for us to enter both the charts and dance clubs in many new places, in particular, Europe, Asia, and South America. I think it was the first or second take of the version that we ended up using, and that captured what we wanted. Daryl Hall and Kirk helped out on back-up vocals.
In the United States we had a death threat from one listener who took offence to the lyric. Another dude threw a pistol on stage during a club gig in Texas saying, ". . . in appreciation for your music . . ." The one obvious reality here was we were doing something that for the first time was on the edge.
12. I Send A Message
With the insatiable appetite created at the time for new video material from us (and we were good at it), we decided to shoot two videos in Japan: "Original Sin" and "I Send A Message." The latter was shot in the huge old temple in Tokyo's main old city park. We were told that Westerners were not given permission to use it for commercial purposes. For 800 years the monks had kept it together.
I was intrigued to know why young Aussies in a rock band were so honored. The head monk whips out a trumpet and says, "I just want to play," and proceeds to do exactly that. Rock on.
Michael wrote the lyric, and I wrote the music. Years later, at Wembley Stadium, we changed the way we played it, changed the original rhythm feel to a harder rock feel.
13. Burn For You
This was one of the earlier songs Michael and I had written for The Swing. The chorus was pure pop, and Kirk's acoustic guitar part gave the track a different sound from the rest of the album. Up to this point we had used very little acoustic guitar in our recording. Backing vocal harmonies on the chorus were helped by our friend Jenny Morris, who was later to tour with us on the following album, Listen Like Thieves. A video was made in the lush rain forests of northern Queensland, directed by a very talented man from Melbourne by the name of Richard Lowenstein.
14. Dancing On The Jetty
A similar attitude in the writing process as "Original Sin." This time I had written the lyric prior to starting the record. The music I had written as a separate piece. I joined them together when I realised the social issues in "Original Sin" lyrically had some similar sentiments to the lyrics that became "Dancing On The Jetty."
The lyrics are about the unstable waters of human relationships, and the jetty referred to in the lyric is symbolic of man's attempts to create bridges over it. The funk rock guitar riff was the beginning of a new style of songs to follow.
15. This Time
The mid-'80s. "Star Wars." I wrote the song with nuclear disarmament in mind.
16. What You Need
We had set out to take the funk dabblings on The Swing and write a dance track with attitude. Michael had a rough lyric idea in mind. I had already been fooling around with the main guitar riff with a drum machine, and the chorus melody we both had a hand in. The bridge (in B) and chorus (E to F#) were natural guitar playoffs around the key of F#. Most of the track was played live in the studio.
Plenty of in-your-face guitar, a stompin' rhythm track, and the use of an acid keyboard bass line gave us a song from outer space compared to other folks in 1985. We had our first Top 5 hit in North America.
Also the beginning of a "three album cycle" with the same producer, Chris Thomas. The video we shot for the song was mostly done with still photography edited together, a motor drive on the camera giving the visual sequence its strange film texture. Lynn-Maree Milburn adding animation where required. The video was directed by Richard Lowenstein. We were not only fooling with the music but fooling with visual mediums as well and it was working.
17. Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)
Michael wrote the lyrics, and I wrote the music. Love those lyrics. Too true.
18. Listen Like Thieves
Garry had come up with the original idea for the song, and we reworked the chords and tempo during rehearsals prior to the recording of the song. Michael wrote the lyrics. We toured this album relentlessly for 14 months.
19. Shine Like It Does
I had written the music pretty much as it was recorded. Michael and I demoed the song at my old flat in Cammeray Sydney. The song featured acoustic guitars and string lines. Michael wrote the lyric. I love the melody of this song, a favourite of mine.
20. Different World
Mid-'80s. A new comedy movie titled Crocodile Dundee was being shot on location in Australia. After being given a script for the movie, Michael and I were invited up to the film set in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory for a couple of days. The idea was to get involved in the film and hopefully get inspired to write a theme song for the movie.
Michael wrote the chorus lyrics, and I wrote the verses and bridge lyric. I put the music down as a rough demo at home in Sydney.
21. Good Times - With Jimmy Barnes
Originally written and recorded by Australian '60s band The Easybeats.
We had always wanted an excuse to work with Jimmy Barnes, who had fronted legendary Aussie group Cold Chisel. The opportunity arose with the movie The Lost Boys, directed by Joel Schumacher, who had also directed our video of "Devil Inside" off the Kick album. I never realised until very recently that this was the only Australian song out on the Mushroom label to ever enter the Australian charts at #1.
1. Need You Tonight
1987. We had finished touring Listen Like Thieves. We had started recording the next studio album, Kick. We took a short break. I had written several pieces of music at home in Sydney. Michael was living in Hong Kong at the time. We had decided to get together in Hong Kong and write. I had packed my bag and called a taxi to take me to the international airport.
While the taxi was approaching I thought I'd just mess around musically for a little while on my 8-track. I suddenly found myself playing the riff and chords that eventually became "Need You Tonight." The taxi driver was oblivious to my creative urges and reminded me that unless I got in the cab I was going to miss my flight. I grabbed the demo and a rough cassette copy of the song and got in the cab.
Sunday, 21st June. I flew to Hong Kong and drove to the Watson Estate, where we were to spend the next two weeks writing. I met Michael and played him some of the music I had already written in Sydney.
We listened to different song ideas, including "Kick," "Need You Tonight," and others. As soon as he heard the music to "Need You Tonight," he immediately started writing the lyrics. Michael was always naturally gifted in his ability to articulate his thoughts poetically on paper.
"Need You Tonight" was our first worldwide #1 hit.
2. Devil Inside
Yes, I suppose so. Michael wrote the lyric. I wrote the music in London in early 1987 in a cheap hotel on Edgeworth Road, where I was staying at the time.
Cheap hotels can have expensive outcomes. "Devil Inside" was another Top 5 hit for us worldwide. The song has always been a live favourite for our fans and for us.
3. New Sensation
Sure was. Everybody was listening by the time it was released. We had already had mass exposure with the singles and videos for "Need You Tonight" and "Mediate" off the album Kick, and it was getting intense. Weird scenes outside, inside, and surrounding the gold mine.
I had the music written at home in Sydney and played it to Michael. We talked over the lyric idea, and we worked it and reworked it through till it made sense. One of our most well-known songs. The recording of the song was a fantastic performance by INXS.
The video we shot for the song was one of four videos we shot in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in the old part of the city. We were standing outside on the balcony of a beautiful old building, and it was about 10 outside. Real cold.
At that time it was still under Communist rule. The atmosphere in the city was oppressive and at odds with the Bohemian beauty of Prague.
4. Never Tear Us Apart
Whilst touring in New Zealand I wrote the chords for "Never Tear Us Apart" on piano. Michael wrote the lyric, and we talked it over. When I got home to Sydney I recorded a demo and an arrangement of the song virtually exactly the way the band recorded it. The video was shot in Prague. A huge hit for us worldwide.
Written in Chicago for the Kick album. I had sat down at the piano and started to work on the verse and chorus. Michael joined me and he suggested a chorus melody. The bridge idea came last, as did the verse lyrics. We demoed the song on an old 16-track analogue tape recorder.
I wrote the music to the song "Kick" the day before I wrote the music for "Need You Tonight." I traveled to Hong Kong to write with Michael, and he wrote the lyrics there to the music. Originally, it had an acoustic guitar strumming through the verses, but we decided it was more dynamic to leave it out. Kirk's sax parts create some great drama in the track.
7. Suicide Blonde
Michael said he wrote the lyrics around a 1950s hair dye advert. I wrote the music during 1989 and had been messing around on my sampler with playing blues harp phrases.
I wasn't quite sure what to do with the end result, so I just recorded them in no particular arrangement across the track around the chords and funk feel. Kirk's guitar lines contributed to the moody feel on the recording. A Top 10 hit for us.
Michael wrote the lyrics, and Jon wrote the music. Jon had a great demo he had made of the song when we met to discuss the X album. It was unusual for Michael to sing a verse as high as he did on that recording. When we toured we changed the key from E to A for live shows. A Top 10 hit for us.
Jon Farriss: I had this progression in my head when I was buying a guitar in Dallas 1989. Eventually, when I arrived at our home in Hong Kong that Michael and I were sharing, I wrote the music to "Disappear." Michael could hear the song coming from the studio, and while I was recording it he was writing the lyrics and creating a melody. He came running in and just threw a guide vocal down, and it jelled beautifully with the track.
9. Bitter Tears
1989. The band took a well-deserved break after 18 months of continuous touring and promoting of the Kick album. I had written quite a few new songs during that break, including the music for "Bitter Tears."
By the time we started recording the X album, I was using a computer for the first time to help sequence and arrange the rhythm feels and try new technology. Michael wrote the lyrics and melody. His vocal on the recording hit the nail on the head. Tim's guitar parts rocked.
10. The Stairs
Written for our 1990 X album. I had this thematic chord movement which had an unusual arrangement to it. Michael liked the arrangement when he heard it, and we persevered with building the lyric and melody around it. The introduction seemed self-indulgent at the time but has since grown on me.
11. Heaven Sent
From our 1991 album, Welcome To Wherever You Are. Originally I wrote the song as a 3/4 ballad. The band heard it and rocked it up to make it the recording it became. The vocal effect helped give the track some extra attitude.
12. Not Enough Time
I had written the music at home in Sydney, and Michael had flown in to write with me from France. He told me he had left some lyrics in a cab in Paris. Luckily, he had other lyric ideas with him, and we put them together with the music. We also tried the lyrics and a different melody on a completely different piece of music I had written at the time. Both were interesting, but we chose this one as the better of the two.
13. Taste It
From Welcome To Wherever You Are. Michael listened to a groove that I had written. He spent some time trying vocal melody ideas on it. I added some more chords, and we talked over an arrangement. We joined them together, and it was an important track on the album. A great live song for INXS.
14. Beautiful Girl
When my first daughter, Grace, was born I looked at her and the song title became obvious. From Welcome To Wherever You Are.
15. The Gift
1993. One of the first songs written for our album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts. Jon had written the music, and Michael wrote the lyrics. An interesting lyric of Michael's, cryptic and ambiguous. An important track for the album. The video we shot for the song is still one of our best.
Jon Farriss: I wrote this song in the South of France with Michael. I took my portable digital studio from L.A. over to his villa above Cannes. I started with the verse guitar riff then wrote the chords around that. We wanted to create a theme for the upcoming album, a style that was new but still INXS. Michael had been working on the lyrics prior to that session, and his words fit perfectly with the melody.
16. Please (You Got That . . .) - with Ray Charles
Michael and I had written two songs in particular with vocal duets in mind. One was the title track of the album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts (with Chrissie Hynde) and the other was "Make Your Peace." We were in Paris working on some overdubs for the albums, and we heard Mr. Ray Charles was recording in the same studio. We thought it unlikely that he would sing the song with us, but we gave him a copy of the song to listen to anyway. To our surprise, Ray said he liked the song but the key was way out of his range.
We were running out of time so instead of rerecording it, we switched songs and suggested he listened to "Please . . ." instead.
He immediately warmed to this one, and Michael and he shared the vocal parts, recorded in Ray's studio in Los Angeles in 1993. We later made a video with Mr. Charles and also appeared on David Letterman's show playing the song live with Mr. Charles and INXS.
17. The Strangest Party (These Are The Times)
At times, yes. Originally, I had written the music for the previous album, Full Moon, Dirty Hearts. We wrote two new songs to go on our "Greatest Hits" album, and this was one of them. Michael wrote the lyric about life as we know it, and, given his passion for a party, I'm not surprised.
18. Elegantly Wasted
1995. Michael and Paula's life together had become a sick fascination for the London tabloids. I was living in England at the time, and I called him up to ask him if he was OK. He said he wanted to write a new bunch of songs and vent his frustrations through our music. One of the songs became "Elegantly Wasted."
We wrote the music together and recorded it in Ireland. The interesting thing about the lyric is he was very sober and focused when he wrote it. I think it was directly aimed at the media's ability to invade their privacy and sanity.
19. Let It Ride
The song was written in Dublin, Ireland, by Michael and I for our 1997 album, Elegantly Wasted. We both enjoyed working on this song during those sessions.
The outro section has an unhurried, meandering feel which we let go on till it just fell apart. It's a great lead vocal of Michael's.
20. Don't Lose Your Head
Considering the turmoil surrounding Michael's life at this time, he was very focused about the song writing we were doing for our album Elegantly Wasted. At that time he felt it was an important release for him to get his feelings out through the songwriting process.
I had been working on the chords already and he liked them, so we blended his passionate vocal delivery over a funk rock groove. I think he was partly singing about another singer and also about himself. Michael's vocal work throughout the recording of Elegantly Wasted was some of his best, and it shows what a great singer can do. One of the greatest ever.
The vocal on this recording was done in one take with no overdubs or editing. In fact, most of the album was done this way, and by the time we got to Bruce Fairbairn's studio in Vancouver, we had already recorded most of the lead vocals and quite a few of the guitar parts without realizing it.
Perhaps the people to watch out for the most are the ones who tell you they're OK.
Used in the 1997 film Face/Off, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.
"Searching" was one of the first songs Michael and I wrote for Elegantly Wasted. Michael had very specific ideas about his lyrics for the song and how he wanted to sing it, which helped me to put the chords and feel together. During the writing and arranging of the song we had a long lunch break and talked through the vocal and backing music carefully before recording it. After lunch we put it together, and Michael's vocal recording was the first and only take he did. His vocal performance surprised both of us, and we decided to keep it.
INXS would like to thank all our fans in the United States and Canada for your support for our music and for knowing how to party. Our North American touring through the '80s and '90s have been some of the best experiences of our lives. Thank you.