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INXS In 20 Songs

uDiscover Music’s In 20 Songs playlist distills the group’s entire career into 20 of the best INXS songs from their remarkable, enduring body of work.

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INXS Kick press shot web optimised 1000 best INXS songs
Photo courtesy of INXS

Learning their craft in tough Sydney pubs and clubs, INXS formed on 16 August 1977, quickly graduating from rock’n’roll’s school of hard knocks. Theirs was, however, and initial slow burn that eventually lit a fuse that exploded globally with the multi-million-selling Kick album, which was unleashed almost exactly 10 years after their formation, on 19 October 1987. Until frontman Michael Hutchence’s death, in 1997, the versatile Australian sextet packed out arenas the world over, moving a phenomenal 50 million albums worldwide and bequeathing a back catalogue of enduring quality from which choosing a bespoke playlist representing the best INXS songs is a tough but extremely rewarding task.

INXS originally sprang from fledgling outfit The Farriss Brothers, based in the band’s native Perth, Western Australia. Middle brother of three, Andrew Farriss (keyboards), and his high-school buddy, aspiring vocalist/co-songwriter Michael Hutchence, formed the band in 1977, pulling in bassist Garry Gary Beers, Andrew’s guitarist brother Tim and guitarist/saxophonist Kirk Pengilly. The youngest of the three Farriss siblings, drummer Jon completed the line-up, and when he graduated from high school the newly re-christened INXS relocated to Sydney to ply the small club circuit – a move which landed them a deal with a local label, Deluxe Records.

Though captured on a small budget, INXS’s self-titled 1980 debut was full of promise, pointing the way towards the best INXS songs to come and spawning the band’s first Australian Top 40 hit, ‘Just Keep Walking’: a jittery but enthralling slice of XTC-ish new wave pop. Though in a similar sonic vein, the band’s second album, 1981’s Underneath The Covers, reflected the growing maturity in Hutchence and Andrew Farriss’ songwriting. It also yielded INXS’s first Australian Top 30 hit, courtesy of the atmospheric ‘Stay Young’, and led to international record deals with WEA in Australia, Polygram in the UK and Atco (later Atlantic) in North America.

Relishing this shot in the arm, the best INXS songs to date were composed for 1982’s Shabooh Shoobah: a consistently fine album which cracked the Australian Top 5 and included several of the band’s evergreen fan favourites, such as the brash, confident ‘The One Thing’ and the urgent, anthemic ‘Don’t Change’, the popular latter number later spawning covers by numerous artists, including Goo Goo Dolls and The Killers’ Brandon Flowers.

With Hutchence drawing considerable praise for his charismatic vocals and dynamic, Jagger-esque stage presence, 1984’s The Swing helped INXS inch ever closer to international recognition. The band’s first Australian No.1 (and also a minor US hit), The Swing presented another nattily-attired set of songs, with the celebratory ‘Burn For You’, glossy ‘Dancing On The Jetty’ and sleek, proto-Kick funk of the Nile Rodgers-produced ‘Original Sin’ among its many state-of-the-art highlights.

Produced by Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, Roxy Music), INXS’ fifth album, Listen Like Thieves (also their debut for Atlantic Records), brokered the band’s much-deserved international breakthrough, going double-platinum in the US and peaking at No.11 on the Billboard 200. Brimming with confidence and snappy pop hooks, Listen Like Thieves contained an abundance of superior dancefloor-friendly pop-rock anthems (‘This Time’, the attention-grabbing ‘What You Need’) and also a few surprises, such as the brassy, soul-flavoured ‘One X One’.

INXS brilliantly alchemised their long-term influences (lithe funk, raunchy, Rolling Stones-esque rock and the sounds of the contemporary dancefloor) and emerged with something cool, stylish and entirely original on 1987’s dynamic Kick – for many fans the album that contains the best INXS songs of all time. A superlative-defying platter which propelled the band to global stardom, the multi-platinum-selling Kick moved over four million copies in the US alone. Its mandatory hit-stuffed stand-outs included the redemptive, Delta blues-flavoured ‘Mystify’ and the classy widescreen balladry of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, while the svelte, sexy funk of signature hit ‘Need You Tonight’ provided INXS with a coveted US No.1.

Stylistically a consolidation, yet still a terrific record on its own terms, 1990’s X again yielded multi-platinum returns. Kicked up an extra gear by former Mike Bloomfield associate Charlie Musselwhite’s earthy harmonica, the album’s slinky first single, ‘Suicide Blonde’, takes some beating even now, though ensuing singles ‘Disappear’ and the grandstanding ‘Bitter Tears’ both came close, while ‘The Stairs’ – a vividly-recounted tale of urban isolation – coaxed out a dynamic group performance and an especially impassioned Hutchence vocal.

With musical trends changing rapidly, the band’s eighth studio album, 1992’s Welcome To Wherever You Are, was issued while grunge and alt.rock were ripping up the mainstream. INXS responded to the challenge by broadening their palette of sounds, creating a satisfying record long on diversity and invention, boasting many of the best INXS songs of the 90s: the key tracks including the Eastern-tinged ‘Questions’, the driving, anthemic ‘Heaven Sent’ and the lavish, swaying pop of ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ – the latter brought to life with help from the 60-piece Australian Concert Orchestra in Sydney.

With Welcome To Wherever You Are, INXS became the first Australian band since AC/DC in 1980 to score a UK No.1 album, and the record picked up some of the best reviews of INXS’s career, with British broadsheet The Independent dubbing it “their best record by some distance”. Opting to record a quick follow-up, INXS pieced together their final album for Atlantic during sessions on the Italian Isle Of Capri. Long overdue a reappraisal, the album they emerged with, Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, was a vivid, energetic record, and its stand-out tracks, the swaggering, blues-imbued titular song and ‘Please (You Got That…)’ featured decisive guest slots from Chrissie Hynde and the legendary Ray Charles, respectively.

With 1994’s self-explanatory The Greatest Hits winding up their deal with Atlantic Records, INXS took a well-deserved break after almost 15 years of almost constant writing, recording and touring, but they emerged refreshed with a new deal with Mercury/Polygram and a comeback album, Elegantly Wasted, in 1997.

Overseen by Canadian producer Bruce Fairbairn (Aerosmith, The Cranberries), the album featured the band again honing inspiration from wild rawk and sinuous funk grooves, and its best tracks, ‘Searching’ and the monster groove of ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’, suggested that INXS were back in the hunt for the duration prior to the tragic death of Michael Hutchence in November 1997.

Devastated by losing both their close friend and one of the greatest frontmen of their generation, the remaining members of INXS inevitably then retreated from the music scene for a time in the late 90s and early 00s.

Though Michael Hutchence could never realistically be replaced, INXS did make a welcome return to the studio for 2005’s Switch, helmed by Canadian-born vocalist JD Fortune, and later revisited their earlier catalogue for 2010’s Michael Hutchence tribute Original Sin, which featured contributions from guest vocalists including Brandon Flowers, Tricky and Nick Harper. Both releases have added an intriguing footnote to an already substantial rock’n’roll canon which is destined to grow in stature and delight new fans for many decades yet to come.

Follow the INXS Top Songs playlist for more of the best INXS songs.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. axel kolkmann

    August 18, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    unforgettable music from downunder

  2. Steven C

    August 18, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    This band dominated my life, even after they were gone and are a constant in my playlists. Proper live music has never been the same

  3. Flappa

    August 18, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Playing inxs 4 eva

  4. richard m

    August 19, 2017 at 3:51 am

    Phenominal live shows…rock and roll roots all the way….fortunate to see these Rock Inovators twice in Texas…still have all there vinyl and ticket stubbs…Keep ROCKIN iNXS…definitely on all my playlist!

  5. Mario

    August 19, 2017 at 9:40 am

    The best Rock forever.

  6. Sarah stevens

    August 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Listen Like Thieves was the cassette that spawned the beginning of my exploration into music. Before that I was only really listening to my parents stuff (which was pretty good, considering) and the radio.
    And then there was Kick. What an album. I’m so blessed to be able to say that I was lucky enough to see Michael Hutchence head INXS twice.
    What a presence this man had on stage. I’m yet to see him equalled.
    And it makes me so happy when I hear my kids singing along to one of their tunes- I feel like I’m doing parenting right!
    Proud to be an Aussie.

  7. Donna Gough

    August 19, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I am a massive fan of INXS since I was 12years old and I still am to my dying days I will never stop worshiping the greatest band of INXS
    My little granddaughter is only 15 months old and she will start dancing and singing every time she hears INXS playing on the radio tv cd iPod phone
    God love her so rest assured there is hope for the younger generations to come that have been brought up with actual decent music that you can understand and will always relate to in everyday life.
    From a loyal and devoted massive number 1 fan
    I still have the ticket from their concert at the Sydney Entertainment Center in 91.
    Danced non-stop and screamed my lungs out for the whole two hours could not speak for at least a week after it but it was certainly worth it that’s for sure. One of my biggest wishes is to maybe meet INXS and get some photos with them especially John and I know that it won’t be the same without Micheal to be there but I am sure he has never left the rest if the guys yet and never will
    there is no way of knowing what or when a person is thinking and feeling when they are in so much pain and hurt and they don’t know how to get themselves out of it
    Live on in your music and family and fans
    God bless xxxxx

  8. Jess

    August 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    “Underneath the Covers” ????
    (Pssst… its “Colours” )

  9. Ana

    August 24, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    INXS was a groundbreaking band with a unique sound and identity. I saw them on TV for the first time in 1991 and their songs became the soundtrack of my life. INXS has so much talent, charisma and charm, that they will never lose relevance in music. Many people are just discovering them and their legacy will live on. Thank you for your music and your talent.

  10. lucy

    September 27, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Loved them before
    Love them now
    Love them tomorrow.
    This is my band 4ever.

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