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. Above L-R – Jon Farriss (drums), Kirk Pengilly (guitar, sax vocals), Gary Beers (bass guitar), Michael Hutchence (lead vocals), Andrew Farriss (keyboards, synths), Tim Farriss (guitar, vocals).
The first line of the song relates to the biblical reference to original sin in Genesis, which states 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, 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. Below L-R -INXS and Nile Rodgers, Rodgers and Kylie Minogue, Rodgers and David Bowie
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, and Britney Spears. He tapped into the swinging, funky DNA of the band for the first time, the song winds its way around the serpentine bass line of Beers, as steamy horns, funky guitar and Michael’s come-hither vocals are augmented by Kirk Pengilly and Darryl Hall, 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 is better for its spontaneously funky rhythms and swinging groove.
Rodgers also imparted a commercial sheen and lustre to the song aided by an 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.
The band was now a world act of growing stature, the 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 mis-interpreted as being 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 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 their future loss of innocence and the acquisition of racial awareness which came with age, and parental influence.
But 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 (#! ’87), Devil Inside (#2 ’88) and New Sensation (#4 ’88) in the period 1986-90.
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 (above centre) 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.
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 (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 music video was more of a home movie than a promo clip, as Kirk’s partner Karen Hutchinson was also on the tour (far right above with their daughter April Rose Pengilly) as was Tim’s wife Buffy, and vocalist Jenny Morris, a long-time friend of the band, as well as the I’m Talking front women Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne who would provide additional backing vocals. Below L-R Wendy Matthews, Michael Hutchinson and Jenny Morris; Zan Abeyratne and Kate Ceberano; Tim and wife Bethany (aka Buffy)
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, and 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 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 brazen, alluring, 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 technologies 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, and charted #6 in NZ, #20 in France and #27 in Canada. Cover art for the Australian release of the single Original Sin, reflected Japanese themes of contrasting black and white, organic forms of water lilies, and Japanese calligraphy on the side which referenced the band’s extensive travels in Asia during this period, the official video for the song was also shot in Japan