SPECIAL FEATURE

 

 

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Burn for You (M Hutchence/A Farriss) 1984 and What You Need (M Hutchence/A Farriss) 1985 INXS

 

Nile Rodgers had produced Original Sin with the band in New York but the remaining tracks that would comprise The Swing album would be recorded with Nick Launay at Richard Branson’s Manor Studio in Oxford (England). On hearing Rogers production of Original Sin Launay was intimidated by the quality of the record, but he was also a rising star with a growing reputation, having produced albums for Midnight Oil, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and Public Image Limited, and he would ultimately  coax a polished yet vibrant funky/disco-inflected sound from the band, as exemplified on the Hutchence/Farriss composition, Burn for You.

The song was originally demoed by Andrew who played every instrument on the rough cut that he brought to the recording session, the blissful romantic ambience of the song was obvious, the recording begins with an Andrew Farris keyboard intro followed by guitars, drums, female backing singers and further sustained keyboard riffs. Backup vocals on the album were contributed by Jenny Morris, Sean Kelly, Dave Mason and Darryl Hall who had also lent vocal support to Original Sin the year before, Burn for You hit #3 locally and was the 25th biggest-selling record of the year.

The promo video was shot by Richard Lowenstein and featured the band touring in FNQ with aerial shots of McKay, Townsville, Cairns, tropical rainforest, and MH in a sweat-stained T-shirt, it was more of a home movie than a promo clip, which also featured Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne on backing vocals.

The Swing confirmed the band’s status internationally except in the UK, where they were criticized for being boring and overly contrived, but they would dominate that market in the future as well, whilst all the while Michael Hutchence continued to emerge as one of the most magnetic, charismatic, and sultry front-man in the business.

Unlike many of their contemporaries like Spandeau Ballet, Human League and Flock of Seagulls, who traded in a kind of teasing androgeny, INXS were unmistakeably heterosexual, projecting an earthy carnality which was brazen and eye-catching.

The Swing album was also notable for the way the band embraced the new synthesizer technology of the Yamaha DX7 and the enrichment of drum sounds using triggered samples from the same drums via an AMS 1580 Sampler. These were early days in the use of such digital technology but INXS proved to be artful appropriators of new sound techniques throughout their career, incorporating the legendary Akai MPC-60 mini-music production studio into their live performances as early as 1988.

 

Burn for You charted at #3 in Australia and #29 in the NZ, and the album debuted at #1 locally.

Listen Like Thieves was the band’s seventh album in six years and it marked a return to anthemic rock that would completely capture the US market, it also flagged the international emergence of the odd couple songwriting partnership of Farriss and Hutchence, the introspective, analytical, somewhat shy Andrew and the mercurial, unpredictable, social butterfly Michael, who would collectively write the hit songs for the band.

 

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Producer Chris Thomas had already worked with Brian Eno, the Sex Pistols, and Roxy Music and   felt that the band had yet to capture the intensity and emotion of their live performances on record. After apparently completing the album, Thomas requested one more killer track to spearhead the attack on the charts, Andrew Farriss had already completed a demo track whose working title was Funk Song No.13. He combined this with two other tapes that were works-in-progress, and after allowing about 24 hours for Hutchence to write lyrics and Farriss to complete the arrangement, the finished song was presented to Thomas who approved. The song that almost got away became What You Need which took the group back into the top #2 in Australia and broke the band in the USA when it hit top #5 on the Cashbox charts.

Distorted open-tuned chords intro the song in a nod to the Beatles Hard Day’s Night, followed by a staccato of snare drums, then keyboard, sax, and guitars, followed by yet another very sustained sax solo from Kirk Pengilly, it was absolute chart fodder for US radio stations and soared into the top 5 there and #2 in Australia.

By the time What You Need was released the sure-footed and focused INXS were on the way to becoming one of the top three bands in the world with their slithering, sexy, intoxicating white boy dance music that would ultimately be lapped up by buyers and critics alike – even in the UK.

 

 

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