INXS was an Australian rock band, formed as The Farriss Brothers in 1977 in Sydney, New South Wales. The band was comprised of brothers Andrew Farriss, who was the main composer, on keyboards, Jon Farriss on drums, and Tim Farriss on guitar, with bandmates Kirk Pengilly also on guitar and saxophone, Garry Gary Beers on bass, and lyricist Michael Hutchence on vocals.
In the early 1980s, INXS first charted in their native Australia with their self-titled debut album, INXS, and later garnered moderate success elsewhere with Shabooh Shoobah and a single, The One Thing. The release of the single Original Sin, from the LP, The Swing, resulted in the band’s first number one hit. International success came in the mid-80’s and in the 90’s with a series of hit records- Listen Like Thieves, Kick, and X; and the singles What You Need, Need You Tonight, Devil Inside, New Sensation, and Suicide Blonde.
In the 1990s, INXS gained a new audience with the release of Welcome to Wherever You Are. INXS won six Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards including three for 'Best Group' in 1987, 1989 and 1992 and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001. As of January 2014, INXS has sold close to 40 million records worldwide; 15 million of those in the US.
The origins of the band began with Andrew Farriss convincing his fellow Davidson High School classmate, Michael Hutchence, to join his band, Doctor Dolphin. The band was comprised of two other classmates, Kent Kerny and Neil Sanders, and a bass player, Garry Gary Beers- who was a friend from a neighboring town. In 1977, Tim invited Andrew, Michael and Garry to join him and his schoolmate Kirk Pengilly in forming a new band. Tim and Kirk had been playing together since 1971 as either an acoustic duo or in a four-piece band called Guinness. Jon Farriss was soon recruited and The Farriss Brothers were born. The band made their debut on 16 August 1977 at Whale Beach.
Andrew is quoted:
I thought the show went really well, but I think my dad summed it up the next day: “Great show, but everyone was asleep when we left. I think everyone might have been stoned.”
The following year, in 1978, the Farriss family relocated back to Perth, Western Australia so that Jon could continue his studies, the rest of the band followed. There was a brief moment that they performed as The Vegetables,” singing "We Are the Vegetables", before returning to Sydney a short ten months later to record a set of demos. It was by a chance meeting, in the parking lot of a local pub, The Narabeen Antler, that Tim was approached by Gary Morris, the manager of Midnight Oil.
“I remember him coming up to me and saying: “Who are you working for, mate?” and I kind of went, “Oh, we have this band and we're called The Farriss Brothers.” He offered to give us some work supporting Midnight Oil on the spot.
The band began to regularly support Midnight Oil and other local bands. Morris advised that a member of the Oil’s crew suggested that the band change its name. The name INXS was inspired by English band XTC and Australian jam makers IXL.
"I saw a commercial for a brand of jam called IXL. Their ad featured a guy who said: ‘I excel in all I do.’ I'd recently seen the English band XTC when they toured Australia, and I loved their name: XTC – Ecstasy. In that moment, I put all those thoughts together. The name needed to be letters, but make a word. I put the IXL jam commercial together with XTC and the concept of a band that was inaccessible and I had it: INXS”
Pengilly explained that Morris had some other ideas:
“Gary [Morris] was a great marketer, and I think he also had this idea of us being 'inaccessible'. He said we could be on stage in a cage of lights. It was a mystery thing. He told us that unless we wanted to change our ways and become the world's biggest Christian band he could no longer manage us. He wanted us to write songs about Christ and to promote a drug-and-alcohol-free and a no-sex-before-marriage proper Christian lifestyle. He was very convincing and for a moment I think we might have done it. Then he got on to strange terrain.”
“We thought that would be a bit much – but it was a good name.”
The band's first performance as INXS was on 1 September 1979 at the Oceanview Hotel in Toukley, on the central coast of New South Wales, and by the end of 1979, after passing on the Christian band image, they hired Chris Murphy as their manager and continued taking on the Oz pub circuit.
“The night Morris offered them to me; I told him I'd take them midway through their third song. I stood there thinking, 'This is pretty funky.' This kid up front is pretty weird. This band plays really, really well. What Morris didn't realize was that I only intended to take them on as their booking agent. I didn't want to be their manager.”
Murphy ended up being an adept business manager and negotiator. By early 1980 the band had signed a five-album record deal with Sydney Indy label, Deluxe Records, run by Michael Browning, the former manager of AC/DC
Simple Simon to Shabooh Shoobah
INXS released their first singles, "Simple Simon" and "We Are the Vegetables", in Australia and France. Simple Simon had its debut TV performance on Simon Townsend's Wonder World. Their self-titled debut album, INXS, was recorded at Trafalgar Studios in Annandale, Sydney; it was co-produced by the band and Duncan McGuire, with all songs attributed to the entire band, at the insistence of Murphy. The band recorded their album from midnight ‘til dawn, usually after doing one or more performances earlier that evening, to stay within the $10K budget Deluxe Records had afforded them. The album was released in October 1980. It featured "Just Keep Walking" which was their first Australian Top 40 single and the album peaked in the Top 30 of the Kent Music Report for Australian albums.
“I'm not a great fan of the first album. It's naïve and kinda cute, almost. It's these young guys struggling for a sound. All I can hear is what was going to happen later and it's probably an interesting album because of that. "Just Keep Walking" was the first time we thought we'd written a song. And that became an anthem around town. It's funny, I remember kids in pubs saying it and hearing it on the radio the first time. We'd never heard that before.”
“After a year of playing pub gigs, I made sure that INXS only did tours, whether it was just a few cities or across the whole of Australia. We choose a theme, made posters, printed T-shirts, and gave it a mood that created excitement. It made an INXS show into an event, not just another pub gig.”
In 1981, they signed Gary Grant as their tour manager, who then became co-manager a year later. Between touring commitments, the band released their third single in May 1981, The Loved One, which was a cover of a 1966 song by Australian group The Loved Ones. The song was recorded at Studio 301 in Sydney and produced by Richard Clapton; it peaked in the Top 20.
“Richard had never produced before and wasn't sure if he wanted to. I didn't care; I knew his songwriting
capabilities would be a good influence to give INXS more structure. In the early days the band would jam in rehearsal until a song just happened. Then they'd stand in front of an audience and play that song and see whether or not the audience jumped around. Then they'd go back and chop it up until it worked. And if it continued to work live, they'd go and record it.”
In October 1981, their second album, Underneath the Colours, was released and became a hit in Australia peaking at No.15
“Most of the songs on Underneath the Colours were written in a relatively short space of time. Most bands shudder at the prospect of having 20 years to write their first album and four days to write their second. For us, though, it was good. It left less room for us to go off on all sorts of tangents.”
In January, 1982, INXS toured New Zealand as a support act for Cold Chisel. Murphy became convinced their future no longer lay with Deluxe Records. RCA (who distributed Deluxe) had employed, music lover Rockin’ Rod Woods, who had been promoting Eric Clapton, Split Enz, and some of the world’s biggest acts.
Woods was passionate about the band and brought key music people along to their gigs. He encouraged RCA to sign them worldwide because, up until this point, Deluxe had failed to attract international interest. RCA showed little enthusiasm. INXS decided to record a new song, The One Thing, at their own expense, with Mark Opitz at Paradise Studios. The song turned out so well that Murphy hired Opitz to produce three more songs. Murphy approached WEA Australia with copies of the songs, which landed INXS record deals in July 1982 with WEA for releases in Australia, South East Asia, Japan and New Zealand, Atco Records (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records) for North America, and Polygram Records for Europe and the UK.
Murphy and the band weren't entirely convinced that Opitz could produce an entire album that would attract international interest, so prior to recording their third album, Pengilly, Hutchence and Andrew Farriss traveled to UK and the US with the intention of selecting a suitable producer. They soon found that many of the producers they were interested in were not only unavailable but also advised them that Opitz’s work on their single was as good as they could wish for.
“Bob Clearmountain said to us, 'I love your music and I would definitely work with you guys, but I don't have any ideas better than the guy who recorded these for you. The best advice I have for you is to go back to Australia and record the whole album with him.
In mid-1982, they commenced recording at Rhinoceros Studios, with Opitz.
Mark was the first producer that was able to capture some glimmer of what the band felt it was like live. Prior to us, Mark had done bands like AC/DC, Cold Chisel, The Angels. Big guitar sounds, mighty drum beats.
In October 1982, Shabooh Shoobah was released internationally on Atlantic/Atco Records, peaking at No.52 on the US Billboard 200 and No.46 on the Hot Pop Albums chart. In Australia, it peaked at No.5 and remained in the albums charts for 94 weeks. The single, The One Thing brought them their first Top 30 hit in United States peaking at No.30 on 28 May 1983, it was a Top 20 hit in Canada, and peaked at No.14 in Australia. The One Thing was their first video to air on the fledgling MTV and significantly added to the ultimate success of the single.
INXS undertook their first US performance in San Diego in March 1983, to a crowd of 24 patrons. Their first tour was as support for Adam and the Ants, then support for Stray Cats, The Kinks, Hall & Oates, and then The Go-Go's. INXS played alongside many of their contemporaries on New Wave Day in May 1983, at the US Festival in Devore, California. It was during this time that Grant, their co-manager, relocated permanently to New York to ensure a continual presence in the northern hemisphere.
Three tracks from Shabooh Shoobah were featured in the soundtrack for the 1984 film Reckless. The band then traveled to the UK to begin sessions on their fourth album with Nick Launay at the Manor Studios in Oxford
Original Sin to Listen Like Thieves
Following a performance in Toronto, Canada, the band was approached by producer Nile Rodgers which led to the September 1983 recording of Original Sin, originally titled "Brand New Day," at New York's Power Station Studios.
“We were fresh off the road. So we had the basic song completed and we'd been playing it live in the set. He was talking to us through the headphones, kind of saying things that were meant to encourage us, and we figured he was just getting levels and stuff on the whole band playing together, but after we'd run it down a couple of times he said: 'OK, come in and have a listen'. We went in and the control room was sort of full of people dancing. Apart from adding background vocals and the sax solo, we were finished. We didn't even know he was recording.”
The album, The Swing, released in April 1984, received much more significant attention from around the world with Original Sin becoming their first No.1 single. The song was highly popular worldwide with fans and reviewers yet Original Sin was largely ignored in the UK, where INXS was described in the New Musical Express as a "depressingly definitive example of excruciating, boring, incredibly unimaginative MTV rock.”
“Nick was always going to be the main production force behind The Swing. We had a really genuine interest in the stuff that he had done and we knew he was the right guy for us at the time. It was funny, actually, because we arrived at the Manor, which is up in Oxford, and we basically walked in and said, 'Nick, we've recorded one song for the album'. And he was like: 'Oh yeah, where did you do that?' And we said, 'New York.' "Who'd you do it with?' 'Nile Rodgers.' And his face just went white because he was a major Nile Rodgers fan himself. So he said 'Well, 'suppose we'd better listen to it', and we put it on and he was just blown away. I think that started poor old Nick off on a bit of a – he wasn't as secure and confident as he probably would have been.”
During 1984, INXS toured non-stop, performing across Europe, the UK, the US and Australia and by December, The Swing, went double platinum- and became one of the five biggest domestic albums in the history of Australian music at that time. In March 1985, the band re-entered Sydney's Rhinoceros Studios to record their next album, Listen Like Thieves.
“Chris was one of the most talented, most eccentric and demanding people you'd ever want to meet. ...from the moment you walked into the control room, there was no doubt you were in the presence of greatness. INXS met their match with Chris Thomas. He was the only producer they've ever had who told them what they needed to hear.”
“This is what we've been trying to do one way or another for a few years now, that is, to make an album that is purely just form and function of the songs. It has no artistic pretentions.”
As the band was finishing the recording sessions, Thomas told the band that the album was not good enough and still had no "killer" track.
“We'd already finished the album but Chris Thomas told us there was still no 'hit'. We left the studio that night knowing we had one day left and we had to deliver "a hit". Talk about pressure.”
It was then that Andrew produced a demo tape of a funk song he had been working on Funk Song No.13. That song evolved it into What You Need.
“Then Andrew brought in three demos – two songs that had been completed and he played me a thing that was just this riff – dink, dink, dink-a-dink-and it was great. I thought, 'I could listen to that groove for ten minutes!' I said, 'Let's work with that groove.' So we went with that and in just two days it turned into the song that eventually broke them, What You Need.”
While the band was recording, WEA released Dekadance, a limited edition 12" Vinyl and cassette only, EP of INXS remixes from their albums The Swing and Shabooh Shoobah.
On 19 May 1985, INXS won seven awards at the Countdown Music and Video Awards ceremony. They performed Burn for You, dressed in Akubras (hats) and Drizabones (outdoor coats/oilskin jackets). They performed five songs for the July 1985 Oz for Africa concert, in conjunction with the Live Aid benefit. Two INXS songs, What You Need and Don't Change, were also in the BBC broadcast and are contained in Live Aid's four DVD boxed set, released in 2004.
INXS had started out as a new wave act, but gradually moved in a more straight-ahead rock-oriented direction through the first half of the 1980s. Listen Like Thieves was released in October 1985, and was approved of by critics reaching No.3 on the Australian charts and No.11 on the US charts. With the release of Listen Like Thieves, the band had developed a rock sound influenced by Led Zeppelin and XTC, but remained true to the band's original roots in Aussie pubs. It was also the first album to feature songs written by a combination of band members, with Andrew and Michael becoming the primary songwriters in the years to follow. The first US single from the album, This Time, stalled at No.81 in late 1985, but the next single, What You Need, released there in early 1986, became a top five Billboard hit, bringing INXS their first break-out US success. The single was also a top 20 hit in Canada, and reached No.2 in Australia but only No. 51 on the UK charts.
"INXS rocks with passion and seals the deal with a back beat that'll blackmail your feet.”
--Rolling Stone Magazine, 1985
In August 1985, they toured ahead of the albums’ release, touring South America before returning to Melbourne to play for Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales at a concert in Australia; it was filmed and later released on home video entitled Living INXS. An edited version of the concert was played on MTV on their Saturday night concert series. In November, December, January, and February, INXS toured North America, Europe, and New Zealand. The band then took a two-month break, during which time, Andrew Farriss wrote and produced the song You're Gonna Get Hurt for Jenny Morris (who had previously been a backing vocalist with the band), and Hutchence was featured in Richard Lowenstein's second feature film, Dogs in Space. Lowenstein had previously produced the video clip for Dancing on the Jetty. A song from the movie, Rooms for the Memory, written by Ollie Olsen, with vocals by Michael Hutchence, charted- and although the movie was received well by critics, it was not a commercial success.
In May 1986, the band once again toured the United States, performing 42 shows, followed by 32 European shows, including support for Queen at their Live at Wembley '86 concert, and 12 Australian shows. America's influential Musician magazine called them "the best live band in the world."
Good Times to Kick
During an eight-month break, before beginning work on a new album, INXS’ manager Murphy decided to stage a series of major outdoor concerts across Australia, featuring INXS, Jimmy Barnes, Models, The Divinyls, Mental as Anything, The Triffids, and I'm Talking. In promotion of the tour, INXS recorded two songs with Jimmy Barnes of Cold Chisel, the cover song Good Times, and Laying Down the Law which Barnes co-wrote with Beers, Andrew Farriss, Jon Farriss, Hutchence and Pengilly. Good Times was used as the theme song for the Australian Made series of concerts in the summer of 1986–1987. It peaked at No. 2 on the Australian charts, and months later was featured in the Joel Schumacher film The Lost Boys and its soundtrack, which peaked at No.47 in the US on 1 August 1987.
After the success of What You Need and Listen Like Thieves, the band knew their new material would have to be even better, according to Pengilly,
“We wanted an album where all the songs were possible singles.”
They recorded Kick in Sydney and Paris, it was produced by Thomas again, but Atlantic Records was not happy with the result, as manager Chris Murphy remembers:
“They hated it, absolutely hated it. They said there was no way they could get this music on rock radio. They said it was suited for black radio, but they didn't want to promote it that way. The president of the label told me that he'd give us $1 million to go back to Australia and make another album.”
Despite Atlantic's protests, Kick was released in October 1987 and provided the band with worldwide popularity; it peaked at No.1 in Australia, No.3 on the US Billboard 200, No.9 in UK, and No.15 in Austria. It was an upbeat, confident album that yielded four Top 10 US singles, New Sensation, Never Tear Us Apart, Devil Inside and No.1 Need You Tonight. Need You Tonight peaked at No.2 on the UK charts, No.3 in Australia, and No.10 in France. INXS toured heavily behind the album throughout 1987 and 1988. The video for the 1987 INXS track "Mediate" (which played after the video for "Need You Tonight") replicated the format of Bob Dylan's video for Subterranean Homesick Blues, even in its use of apparently deliberate errors. In September 1988, the band swept the MTV Video Music Awards with the video for Need You Tonight/Mediate winning in 5 categories.
During 1989, Hutchence collaborated with Ian 'Ollie' Olsen on a side project, Max Q, which the two had previously worked together on in Lowenstein's film Dogs in Space. The rest of the band also took a break to work on side projects, but soon returned to the studio to record the follow-up album to Kick.
X to Elegantly Wasted
In October 1990, INXS released X which was produced by Thomas again and it peaked at No.3 in Australia, No.5 in the US, No.2 in the UK, No.5 in Switzerland and No.10 in Sweden. It followed in the same vein as Kick, but with added harmonica to some songs. X scored hits with Suicide Blonde and Disappear (both Top 10 in the US) Suicide Blonde peaked at No.2 in Australia, No.11 in the UK and in Switzerland. Other singles from X were Bitter Tears and By My Side but they had less chart success.
Michael Hutchence's romance with Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue brought the group a new audience of fans. INXS performed at Wembley Stadium on 13 July 1991, during their Summer XS tour stop in London to a sold out audience of 74,000 fans. This performance was recorded and filmed to become their live album, Live Baby Live (a video version was also released under the same title), which was released in November 1991 and peaked in the Top 30 in both Australia and UK album charts.
Welcome to Wherever You Are, produced by Mark Opitz and released in August 1992, was an experimental album using sitars and a 60-piece orchestra while adding a much more "raw" sound to their music. It received good critical reviews and went No.1 in the UK and in Sweden, No.2 in Australia and Switzerland, and No.3 in Norway, but had less chart success in the US peaking at No.16. Single releases from the album included Taste It and Baby Don't Cry which were Top 20 successes in the UK, but had less success in the US and Australian markets.
Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, produced by Opitz again, was released in November 1993 and peaked at No.3 on the UK charts, No.4 in Australia, No.8 in Sweden, No.9 in Switzerland, No.14 in Norway, but did not reach the Top 50 in the US. The title track featured The Pretenders Chrissie Hynde and another track, "Please (You Got That)", featured Ray Charles. The band made a full video album for the record using unknown Australian students to direct with help by Richard Lowenstein. Full Moon, Dirty Hearts received mixed reviews and was the last record under INXS' contract with Atlantic in the States. The band took time off to rest and be with their families, while Michael remained in the public eye through modelling and film acting.
In 1997, the group released a comeback album titled Elegantly Wasted, which garnered mixed reviews. It fared respectably in Australia, Canada, France, the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland with only marginal success in the US. However, their chart placement had very little effect on their rabid fans that hungered for more. The untimely death of Michael that year was devastating to the band, his family, friends, and fans worldwide.
In the transitional years between 1997 and 2004, the band played many events with guest singers until they announced their search for a permanent replacement for Michael. In 2004, a new reality series, Rockstar: INXS was launched to accomplish this task. KICK’s own, Cory Massi, was a contender during the audition phase. The series premiered in 2005 and Canada’s JD Fortune was ultimately chosen as the new front for INXS after 11 weeks of competition. The song, Pretty Vegas, whose lyrics were penned by Fortune during the competition, went on to reach No.5 in the charts. They went on to record their final album, Switch. There were a number of bizarre incidents and news reports during JD’s tenure- including statements by him that he was fired at a Hong Kong airport. Nevertheless, Fortune did front the band on most occasions from then until September 2011 when an official announcement was made on INXS’ website that Fortune had once again left the band.
INXS announced during a concert on 11 November 2012, at the newly opened Perth Arena, while supporting Matchbox Twenty, that they would no longer be touring. Kirk Pengilly stated that it was appropriate to finish where they had started 35 years earlier. Jon Farriss admitted: "I'm getting teary" before the band performed their biggest hit, Need You Tonight. =(
There is much speculation on the death of Michael Hutchence, who on 22 November 1997, was found dead in his Sydney Ritz-Carlton hotel room. Many of us still believe, despite official reports, that his death was an accident. However, on 6 February 1998, after a lengthy coronial inquest, New South Wales State Coroner- Derrick Hand concluded in his report that Michael’s death was a suicide fueled by a deep depression and under the influence of drugs and alcohol. No matter the circumstance- Michael Hutchence remains a beloved and well-revered icon who is sorely missed.
Please visit the Official Michael Hutchence Website. It is Michael’s sacred site, dedicated to his memory and celebrating his life. It was started by his parents, Kelland and Patricia Hutchence, now both deceased, and is maintained by good friends, Mario and Jacqui Ferrari and Dennis Patterson.