Listen Like Thieves (M Hutchence /A Farriss) 1986 and Good Times (H Vanda/ G Young) – Jimmy Barnes and INXS – 1987
Between 1982-86 INXS cut a swathe across the USA, incrementally building their record sales with each album released, and regularly upstaging those acts for which they opened, often sending them into breakup oblivion – the Stray Cats, Adam Ant, the Go-Gos, Men At Work, and Hall and Oates. By this time Michael had begun an intense relationship with the Go-Gos lead singer, Belinda Carlisle. (below)The title track Listen Like Thieves was the fourth single released, and it epitomized the pattern of taut melodic refrains that permeated their fifth studio album, on the title track a constant sonic throb provides the rhythmic bedrock, with choppy, attention-seeking guitar riffs dropped in at the chorus, to underscore the conspiratorial ambience of the song “Everybody’s down on their knees/ Listen like thieves/ But who needs that/ When it’s all in your hands…” The lyrics suggest that people are surrounded by corporate media and tabloid influence, which can through conformist propaganda promote uncritical groupthink, essentially bring us “to our knees”, in an act of submission, while “listen like thieves” is a metaphor for eavesdropping, listening through a wall or keyhole, trying to find the answers, because we aren’t confident about thinking for ourselves, so we seek the answers from others, and then regurgitate them as our own. Unlike their Australian compatriots Midnight Oil, INXS were not overtly politically outspoken, and tended to cloak their social and political agendas in opaque metaphors, but they were known to be committed to such causes as environmental protection, aboriginal land rights, and social justice.
Listen Like Thieves was a top forty hit in Aust (#28) and charted #46 in the UK and #54 in the US, and the album was further buoyed by several other classy minor songs in Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain), and One X One, the band also gained valuable exposure when they played the Australian leg of the Live Aid concert that year. The promo video for the song was directed by Richard Lowenstein and created an anarchic and dystopian scenario as the band performs the song on a darkened stage in front of a group of gun-toting post-apocalyptic desperadoes, seemingly controlled by a hideous crone who presides over the proceedings, it had a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome ambience, a movie that had been shot in Australia and released the year before in 1985.Good Times was an under-rated Vanda /Young composition which had been released by the Easybeats in 1968 featuring guest vocalist Steve Marriott, lead singer with the Small Faces, charting #18 that year. Jimmy Barnes and INXS (Michael Hutchence) (together below), teamed up nineteen years later for a rousing version of the same song which still paid homage to three famous women from earlier rock songs – Boney Maronie (Larry Williams 1957), Long Tall Sally (Little Richard 1956), and Short Fat Fanny (Larry Williams 1957). Recorded in Sydney at the Rhinoceros Studios and produced by Mark Opitz with all the INXS band members involved (except Tim Farriss) plus Peter Kekel on piano. Barnes recalled that he spent two booze and drug-fueled days in the studio with INXS, and that he and Michael Hutchence didn’t sleep for the whole time, it hit #2 locally, #1 in NZ, #18 in the UK and #47 in the USA, for Barnes highest US chart position.
The song became part of the soundtrack for the Joel Schumacher movie The Lost Boys and was also used to promote the Australian Made concert series in 1986/87 ( performers included below were from left to right – Jon Farriss (INXS), Sean Kelly (Models), Chrissie Amphlett (Divinyls), Chris Bailey (Saints), Dave McComb (Triffids) and Greedy Smith (Mental As Anything). Good Times has been covered by such diverse acts as Shocking Blue, Jessica Mauboy, and Meatloaf who changed the lyrics and re-titled the song Runnin’ For the Red Light (I Got A Life).In March of 1986, Michael made his movie debut in Richard Lowenstein’s Dogs In Space, in which he played Sam Sejavka, real life punk rock singer from Melbourne in the late 70’s, who had struggled unsuccessfully with heroin addiction.(below with co-star Saskia Post).
Richard had written the movie with Michael in mind, positive that he could carry it off, and Michael did not disappoint him, receiving admirable reviews for his performance and entering the local top ten with a solo effort entitled Rooms For The Memory in Jan. 1987.