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With a career spanning 25 extraordinary years, INXS are undoubtedly one of the world’s great bands. With more than 30 million records sold worldwide, countless awards from their peers and fans, platinum certifications, and a history peppered with outstanding achievements, the band are arguably Australia’s most successful rock export.
From their first gig as the Farriss Brothers in Sydney’s Northern beaches in August 1977, Michael Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly, Garry Gary Beers, Tim Farriss, Andrew Farriss and Jon Farriss quickly won Australian then international acclaim.
Throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s INXS were a consummate global rock band with a musical distillation of strength, sensitivity, unity and intelligence. Asked to describe their own music, the members would use such terms as “white boy dance music”, “big, basic dirty noise”, “intoxicating little songs”. Critics were more eloquent. They spoke of certain songs’ “blend of instrumental colours, the silky glide of vocal melody over sinewy rhythms” and of an overall “spare, elegant funk” and “dense, glossy beauty.”
Determined, dedicated and sure-footed, INXS propelled themselves out of the frantic new wave, indie label environment of Sydney, Australia at the end of the 70s with such energy and resilience that in less than a decade they were being hailed by major music journals as being, with U2 and Guns N’Roses, one of the three biggest bands in the world.
With each step of their path to the upper strata of international music carefully considered and deftly executed, they performed before gauchos in Buenos Aires, Royals in Melbourne and teens in Tokyo, on their way to number one American singles, headlining before 75,000 at Wembley Stadium – a show captured and released on DVD in the shape of “Live Baby Live” – , playing to 100,000 at Rock In Rio, seven MTV awards, three Grammy nominations, and albums which hit #1 all over the world.
By the time they had charted their fourth hit down under, with ‘The One Thing’ in 1982, INXS had overcome the tyranny of distance to make their way into the American Top Thirty with the same song – the first of 17 Billboard hits, 7 of which were top tens. Britain came on line a little later, with their 23 hit run commencing with ‘What You Need’ in 1986. There were six consecutive Top Ten UK and US albums
In Australia INXS celebrated their first number one single with ‘Original Sin’ in December 1983, beginning a phenomenal run of 38 top 40 hits. The Swing in April the following year was the band’s first Australian number one album, the first of 7 to reach the top 3, four of which charted at #1 (The Swing 1984, Listen Like Thieves 1985, Kick 1987, X 1990).
“It’s incredible that a bunch of friends should end up such good players – never thrown anyone out, never needed help” vocalist Michael Hutchence marveled around the time of the ten million selling Kick album. “We know each other so well. I find that rather frightening. Andrew and I may write most of the songs but this is a real band. It’s not two writers and four dumb musicians; it’s a very active, competitive, democratic group of people. We’re a band that sounds very much like a band, a live band, that’s who we are, where we came from. ”
The death of Michael Hutchence in November 1997 had a profound impact on the members of INXS, who had been close friends and collaborators for two full decades. The future for the band was very much uncertain.
One year on they teamed up with vocalist Jimmy Barnes (with whom they had scored a top twenty UK hit in 1991 with ‘Good Times’ from the film The Lost Boys) to reprise that collaboration at the 25th Birthday concert of Australia’s Mushroom Records in Melbourne, slaying the audience with the strength and good-natured tone of their performance. Six months later, with guest vocalist Terence Trent D’Arby, they returned to the concert stage, before 90,000 and a vast television audience, to officially open Sydney’s Olympic Stadium with a blistering performance. “They rose to the occasion with a performance that defied critics who would have them simply disappear,” said one review. “A triumphant return to the performance arena” said another.
Although the five musicians had involved themselves in a wide array of songwriting, production and playing projects (Andrew Farriss, for instance, has produced albums for indigenous Australian band Yothu Yindi) the desire to return to full performance as INXS could not be denied.
A May 2000 concert – the first with Jon Stevens on vocals – saw 1200 loyal fans scrambling for tickets. It was received so warmly by public and media alike that 2001 the band head out on a 13-date Just For Kicks tour of Northern Australia. The Life Ball in Vienna in June became INXS’ first performance outside Australia in three years. By August, the band was back in Europe for five more shows (Germany, Poland, Romania, Ireland). In September they played before 90,000 in the Melbourne Cricket Ground at the nation’s premier sporting event, the Australian Football Grand Final. What had begun as a tentative venture into the possibility of life after a shattering death had taken on a momentum very much of its own.
Next up INXS received the ultimate accolade from the Australian music industry when band members were inducted into the ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) Hall Of Fame. Australian Test Cricket captain Steve Waugh and vocalist and former INXS backing singer Jenny Morris made the presentation at the Awards night in Sydney on 3 October 2001. Band members received a lengthy standing ovation from the 3000-strong audience.
Just a year into the new century it was obvious that the unmistakable INXS sound was finding a whole new audience. The UK DMG Dance chart saw ‘Precious Heart’ by Tall Paul & INXS (with sampling from ‘Never Tear Us Apart’) rise to Number One. Around the same time the Italian-originated European sampling hit I’m So Crazy by Par-T-One used INXS’ debut Australian hit ‘Just Keep Walking’ as its bed – not just that 1980 song but its original seat-of-the-pants foot stomping section. Most recently Australia’s remix masters Rogue Traders had a Top Ten chart hit with a remix of ‘Need You Tonight’ renamed as ‘One Of My Kind’, a track now set for international release.
An essential part of the process of re-evaluation of the pivotal music of INXS has been the preparation of quality retrospective projects. In 2001 the band involved themselves in the creation of the North American double disc set Shine Like It Does (1979 – 1997).
The following year, anthology packages were released worldwide to celebrate the band’s 25th year together. Definitive INXS, carefully and specifically prepared for the British/European market, featured 15 UK chart hits, two Australian/US hits from the band’s emergent years (‘Just Keep Walking’ and ‘Original Sin’), a cover of Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ from a film soundtrack, and two previously unreleased tracks from the INXS vaults (‘Salvation Jane’ and ‘Tight’).
In Australia The Years 1979 -1997 a 41-track double CD, also including ‘Salvation Jane’ and ‘Tight’, extensive liner notes and photography gallery, was certified Platinum and had a lengthy stay in the Australian ARIA Top 40 charts.
In the US, The Best Of INXS featured 21 tracks, including the US top 10 hits: ‘Need You Tonight’, ‘New Sensation’, ‘Devil Inside’, ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, ‘Suicide Blonde’, ‘Disappear’ and ‘What you Need’, plus ‘Salvation Jane’ and ‘Tight’.
“A lot of 2001 was spent working out what we could do, wanted to do and needed to do,” explains Andrew Farriss. “Playing shows in Australia broke the psychological barrier. It was a tricky year because we weren’t quite ready to go out – it was a cleansing process that made everything in 2002 possible.”
By the middle of 2002 the inevitable and inexorable return of INXS to the international concert arena saw the band depart for South, Central and North America on a full-scale tour reminiscent of their legendary ’80s jaunts around the planet. Two brand new songs featured in the set. The response was overwhelming, the band re-igniting the love affair that had once existed with fans and media.
Next up was the band’s first tour of the UK in more than five years through December 2002. After a Christmas break, the band returned to Latin America, headlining the huge Vina Del Mar Festival in Chile, broadcast to a global audience of 180 million. The band also appeared on the country’s music awards program to receive the public-voted People’s Choice Antorcha Silver Award – one of the Chile music industry’s most prestigious awards.
Playing live again in the worldwide arena was an important step for the future of INXS. The band has showed they are back with the same extraordinary focus and cohesion when once enabled them to straddle hemispheres with a sound of absolute integrity and innovation. A sound that sold over 30 million records.
Currently INXS have 39 active tracks on rotation on US radio, with totals spins of 11,967 since January 2004 and are releasing the I’m Only Looking best of compilation two-disc DVD distributed by the Warner Music Group in the USA and Universal Music around the rest of the world in June 2004.
Never a band to shirk change, INXS embrace the digital revolution with two download-only releases initiated by their record company. Live Volume One sees the six-piece transform from pub band to stadium monster while the Bang The Drum EP unearths a previously unreleased Hutchence-vocaled studio gem from the EW period.
2005 opens with the announcement of INXS’s plans for the year ahead – INXS Rock Star. In conjunction with Mark Burnett Productions, the band will search for their new singer using an “unscripted drama” TV series. The global search will take in 20 cities across 6 continents and go to air globally from mid-July.
Canadian-born singer JD Fortune was chosen as the new lead singer for INXS, and their new album “Switch” launched an extensive world-tour.
In 2005 INXS embarked on a “risky venture” to do a world wide search for a new lead singer through the use of a reality based TV show called “RockStar INXS.” It was presented to Mark Burnett in 2004. Mark loved it and lured CBS in the USA to take on the show with a large budget to boot. It aired live all around the world and was the first TV show ever to have worldwide, live voting. The show was a huge hit for CBS as well as in many countries around the world outside the U.S.A. including Canada, Asia and Australia.
In early 2005, Kirk and Tim travelled the world to all the auditions for RockStar INXS, hand picking about 100 singers out of thousands that were then whittled down to the 15 that ended up on the show. Kirk quips, “it was a fantastic way to find a new lead singer and have someone else foot the bill. It could have gone horribly wrong but it went horribly right…” INXS chose JD Fortune, a charismatic Canadian performer with “all the goods.”
The day after the shows finale, they went straight in to Westlake Studios in LA and recorded possibly INXS’ most diverse album to date, “Switch”, very fitting in today’s “iPod World.” The album was recorded and delivered to the Record Company in under 5 weeks. The Band then embarked on nearly 2 years of non-stop sell-out shows across the planet. It was then time for the Band to take a well earned break.
During the 2 year hiatus, the Band periodically stepped into Studios around Sydney, experimenting with all sorts of music and at one of these sessions invited James Ash (Rogue Traders) in to work on a rework of the Shabooh Shoobah hit, “To Look At You.” This was the start of the record they have now spent the last year working on to be released later this year. The band state “we haven’t been this excited about an album since we recorded “Kick.” The album contains a different singer on just about every track and the rumours have been flying high as to who the singers will be.
2010 looks to be an exciting and busy year for INXS. They were invited to perform at one of the Medal Ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Selling out the 20,000 seater before announcing who would be singing, INXS fired up the valve amplifiers to perform their first live show in over 2 years. JD Fortune was the surprise guest vocalist as well as the band introducing Deborah de Coral, a rising recording star from Argentina.
The Band also performed at the “After Party” at the end of the Winter Olympics, then headed home to finish working on the last few recordings for the album. They also made 2 surprise appearances at the Rob Thomas shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Performing 2 songs as Rob’s encore, Never Tear Us Apart and Don’t Change, INXS showed the audiences how it’s done and they loved every minute of it.
More to come as news unfolds…