INXS was born in Australia in 1980. Originally part of the "new wave" music scene, INXS became one of the most popular bands of the 1980's and early 1990's, and left a musical legacy that surely will stand the test of time.
Neither their self-titled debut nor their second release Underneath The Colours made much noise on the world-wide music scene, but with the growth of MTV and the new art of the music video, their third release Shabooh Shoobah brought some success in America and around the world. Two singles from Shabooh Shoobah, The One Thing and Don't Change were successful in America, and the band was was very well received as the opening act for fellow Australians Men at Work. Additionally, three songs from Shabooh Shoobah were on the soundtrack to the 1984 movie Reckless which starred Darryl Hannah and Adian Quinn.
A great part of the success of the band was their lead singer and public frontman, Michael Hutchence. With a look and performance style often compared to Jim Morrison of The Doors and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, Hutchence had a pure, clean, distinctive voice. Coupled with the band's unique sound which included Tim Farriss' punchy Telecaster guitar licks, a solid rhythm section comprised of percussionist Jon Farriss and bassist Garry Beers, the rhythm guitar and alto saxophone stylings of Kirk Pengilly, and keyboards played by primary songwriter Andrew Farriss, Hutchence quickly became a pop icon and as well as an unassuming sex idol.
INXS' fourth release, The Swing, brought their first #1 single on the Australian charts, Original Sin. The band toured relentlessly and was rewarded with seven awards from MTV. The album also hit #1 in Australia, but was not extremely well received in Europe. Critics called INXS "depressingly definitive example of excruciating, boring, incredibly unimaginative MTV rock." However, The Swing ultimately went double platinum, and the band forged on.
One year later, in 1985, they moved closer to the forefront of the world's music scene with the release of Listen Like Thieves. With performances at the MTV video music awards, Live Aid, and worldwide concert tours in support of their rapidly released albums, INXS was now reaching more and more fans and selling more albums. While still critically panned by European critics, INXS was garnering great accolades from American critics, including Rolling Stone which wrote "INXS rocks with passion and seals the deal with a backbeat that'll blackmail your feet." Additionally, in 1985 Musician magazine lableled INXS "The best live band in the world." Listen Like Thieves topped the American charts at #11 and brought them their first top 5 hit with "What You Need."
If there were any questions remaining about the popularity of INXS, their 1987 release Kick certainly answered those questions with great resolve. Kick brought INXS their first #1 U.S. single, Need You Tonight, as well as three other top 10 hits, Devil Inside, Never Tear Us Apart, and New Sensation. They continued to be a huge success on the then-relevant MTV, sweeping the 1987 awards show, including the "Video of the Year" award for their "Need You Tonight/Mediate" combination video, which became a signature image of the band.
Their follow-up to Kick was titled X, and reached #5 on the U.S. charts. X brought four singles, including two that reached the Billboard top ten. The band was touring in front of enormous sellout crowds, and in late 1991 they released the album and accompanying video Live Baby Live, which was recorded in front of nearly 75,000 at Wembley Arena.
INXS' popularity had peaked and was beginning to decline. Over the next two years they released Welcome To Wherever You Are and Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, but despite critical acclaim and many guest appearances by other top performers neither brought the success to which the band had become accustomed. The band decided to take some time with their families. Hutchence remained in the spotlight to some degree through occasional modeling and acting.
In 1997 INXS released a comeback album entitled Elegantly Wasted. It met mixed reviews, and topped out at #41 on the U.S. charts. During this time, Hutchence was entangled in some personal problems having to do with a relationship with British television host and writer Paula Yates, who happened to still be married to musician Bob Geldof.
Sadly, on November 22, 1997 a generation lost one of its idols, music lost a great performer, and the world lost a troubled yet compassionate man as Michael Hutchence died of what was ultimately ruled a suicide.
In memory of one of my favorite performers of all time, tonight I offer three different videos. First from The Swing is a fun number about world peace and the need for all of us to learn how to love one another called Dancing On The Jetty, performed live for a German TV network. Second, from 1987's Kick but recorded in 1997 shortly before his passing is a live performance of Devil Inside that shows the passion and exuberance of a great performer. Finally, again from Kick is a unique unplugged version of Never Tear Us Apart, the song that was played at Michael's funeral.
I saw INXS perform live five times. They absolutely were one of the best live bands I have ever seen. They truly had the ability to bring their sound from the studio to the stage, and they were electric in their chemistry.
Rest in peace, Michael.