INXS 1977-1997


Original Sin (M Hutchence/A Farriss) 1983 and Burn for You (M Hutchence/A Farriss)- INXS 1984

The international profile of the band was building rapidly, Nile Rodgers offered to produce them at New York’s Power Station Studios in 1983, and one of the songs to emerge from the sessions was the slithery funk of Original Sin.INXS38The first line of the song relates to the biblical reference to original sin in Genesis, which infers that we are all born with the original sin of Adam and Eve, and must be baptized to cleanse ourselves. At the suggestion of producer Nile Rodgers (above far right, with Darryl Hall extreme left in the front next to a young Michael),  the song also championed the concept of inter-racial relationships (black boy white girl/ white boy black girl) which was somewhat controversial at the time, and such lyrics as “…play with fire…” and “dream on in the name of love” reinforced the message. Rodgers was one of the world’s most gifted producers, formerly lead guitarist with Chic he had overseen hits for such artists as Diana Ross, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Madonna, Kylie Minogue (below with Rodgers), and Britney Spears.INXS43Rodgers tapped into the swinging, funky DNA of the band for the first time, as the song wound its way around the serpentine bass line of Beers, as steamy horns, funky guitar and Michael’s come-hither vocals were augmented by backing from Kirk Pengilly and Darryl Hall (Hall and Oates), to deliver a memorable slice of hot, sexy pop. While Hutchence and his fellow bandmates thought they were just demoing songs for Rodgers, he was producing final versions for release, and Original Sin was better for its spontaneously funky rhythms and swinging groove.

Rodgers (below with David Bowie), also imparted a commercial sheen and lustre to the song aided by the assured rhythm section of Beers and Jon Farriss, while Pengilly rendered impressive guitar and saxophone flourishes and Andrew Farriss’s keyboard riffs at the intro and the bridge were notable. A slick promo video with the boys astride motorcycles in a fairground in Japan, made this a truly international production.INXS42The band was now a world act of growing stature, this song was their first #1 hit anywhere, charted #1 in Australia and France, #6 in NZ and #58 in USA where it was banned by some radio stations because of the inter-racial lyrics, and the bigots howled it down. The song has been misinterpreted as about inter-racial sex, but for all its apparent steamy sonic suggestions, it was more rooted in the vision of racial harmony as espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King. Michael was inspired to write the song on his first drive through Harlem, as he watched black and white children playing together in the street, and was struck by the disheartening loss of innocence and the acquisition of racial awareness which comes with age.INXS39But the future conquest of the US market awaited INXS when they would chart there with no less than seven top ten hits including four top five hits – What You Need (#5 ’86), Need You Tonight (#1 ’87), Devil Inside (#2 ’88) and New Sensation (#3 ’88) in the period 1986-90inxs2Nile 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 (above) at Richard Branson’s Manor Studio in Oxford (England). On hearing Rodgers 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.inxs 4The 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 (The Models), Dave Mason (The Reels) and Darryl Hall (Hall and Oates) 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 in Australia.

The promo video was shot by Richard Lowenstein over one week, and featured the band touring in FNQ with aerial shots of McKay, Townsville, and Cairns, tropical rainforest, and MH in a sweat-stained T-shirt, his then girlfriend Michele Bennett also accompanied him (above with Michael, and their semi-detached home at 6 Wentworth St Paddington). It was more of a home movie than a promo clip, as Kirk’s partner Karen Hutchinson (below with their daughter April Rose Pengilly) was also on the tour as was Tim’s wife Buffy, and vocalist Jenny Morris a long-time friend of the band (below at right with Michael and Wendy Mathews at left), as well as the I’m Talking front women  Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne who would provide additional 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 the most magnetic, charismatic, and sultry front-man in the business, with a Jagger/Morrison stage persona that was both alluring and brazen. Unlike many of their contemporaries such as Spandeau Ballet, Human League and Flock of Seagulls, who traded in a kind of teasing androgeny, INXS were unmistakably heterosexual, projecting an earthy carnality which was unabashed and eye-catching.INXS40The 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.INXS41Burn for You charted at #3 in Australia and #29 in the NZ, and the album debuted at #1 locally, and charted #6 in NZ, #20 in France and #27 in Canada.

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