INXS 1977 – 1997

INXS26

Stay Young – (M Hutchence/A Farriss) 1981 and One Thing (M Hutchence/ A Farriss) and Don’t Change (M Hutchence/A Farriss) 1982 – INXS

The band would ultimately hit their stride when they emerged from Studio 301 (Syd), with their second album Underneath The Colours, produced by Richard Clapton in his production debut, from which they lifted their third single, Stay Young, in 1981 the band were simultaneously touring and recording relentlessly, still fronting over 300 gigs a year.INXS29It was early days for the band and although there were indications of the slithery, funky, post-New Wave grooves that they would ultimately aspire to; and undoubtedly Michael Hutchence was a sexy engaging front man, Stay Young was a typical slice of New Wave synth-inflected jangly 1980’s guitar pop, funky keyboards, and sinewy bass. INXS36Recording Hutchence’s vocals for the album proved to be challenging, as recalled by producer Richard Clapton (above) in his memoir The Best Years of Our Lives (2014) “Michael was extremely nervous and couldn’t perform to anyone’s satisfaction … I’m one of the few people outside the band who witnessed firsthand just how emotionally and psychologically fragile Michael was… I had to pledge to Michael that I would get the extra $10,000 to hire the Paradise Studios so he could record his vocals “live”, and without other band members being present.”

The beach party promo video, shot on Sydney’s northern beaches with the Spit Bridge in the background, was a jerky home movie and the lyrics were banal, but it charted #21 locally and the album #15, which featured abstract artwork of a linocut by Brit Cyril Power entitled Folk Dance, they would soon revert to promoting their own images in future artwork, as they more aggressively  marketed themselves to a global audience.INXS28In January 1982 INXS toured New Zealand as support act for Cold Chisel,  their lead singer Jimmy Barnes introduced the band to cocaine, up to that time marijuana had been their recreational drug of choice. Manager Chris Murphy was now convinced that the band’s future no longer lay with Deluxe Records, who had no success in attracting international interest in the band. RCA who distributed for Deluxe were aware of the band but to further stimulate record company interest, the band agreed to self-fund a new recording to showcase their talent. Producer Mark Opitz (below) went into the Paradise Studios (Syd) with the band to cut the single One Thing which was released in July 1982 and climbed to #14, Murphy took it to record companies to try to seal a recording contract.INXS37By mid-1982 Chris Murphy had landed a support slot for INXS on a UK tour with XTC and an international distribution deal with RCA, he just needed Deluxe to stump up the costs of getting the band to the UK. Murphy’s requests were rejected by Michael Browning, so he did what all good manager’s do and mortgaged his family home to buy out the Deluxe contract and fund the UK tour. WEA/Atlantic/Atco saw the band’s potential and signed them to a lucrative record deal, this afforded the band unfettered access to broad international markets and a distribution and promotional network that would underpin their future global success. More importantly, it ensured that INXS never relinquished ownership of all their music or even music videos, to another corporate entity, INXS Inc. was off and running.INXS30Their third album Shaboo Shoobah, was recorded at Rhinoceros Studios (Syd) with new producer Mark Opitz, the album title is an onomatopoeia, (a word that mimics the sound of the word it describes – sizzle, cuckoo, splash, for example) which was a rhythmic chant conceived by Tim Farriss during the recording of the song Spy of Love on this album. One Thing had already been pre-released in Australia but when it was lifted off the album it took the group into the US top 30 for the first time in mid-1983, it made the Canadian top 20 and cemented the INXS sound, genuine definable slinky rock, with a sexy new-wave groove, that became a dance-club favorite, they were no longer just another New Wave band. They had also become MTV-savvy, the promo video for One Thing was a stylish contemporary take on a Victorian banquet, lots of well-coiffured models, including Michael’s girlfriend Michele Bennett, and Young Doctors stars Karen Pini and Susan Stenmark, lustily devouring meat from the bone, figs and other delicacies with a real carnal intent – the message was not lost on the fans.

The second single off the album was Don’t Change, again the lyrics are uninspiring, “I’m standing here on the ground…The sky above won’t fall down” so far so good, Newtonian physics have not yet been disproved … “See no evil in all directions/ Resolution of happiness/Things have been dark for too long,” and clearly Hutchence had not yet joined Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Dylan, Cohen or Simon in the pantheon of gifted lyricists.INXS27But musically the song is interesting, from the sparse opening keyboard riff by Andrew Farriss, to the vocal harmonies of Kirk Pengilly, which wind their way around the lyrics, imparting light and shade and a beguiling wistfulness to the song, which was not immediately obvious in the written words.

Don’t Change charted at #14 and the album was a huge success, #5 locally and remained on the charts for 94 weeks! Scott Hicks directed the promo video inside an aircraft hangar near Adelaide, front man Hutchence was luminous and lithe and delivered his barely serviceable lyrics with such power and animal grace that you never noticed the commonplace nature of the words.

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