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How INXS Kick-started their career

From BBC - November 24, 2017

Five albums into their career, INXS had clawed their way up from Australia's pub circuit to the US top five.

But no one was prepared for the success of their sixth album, Kick, a sensuous blend of funk, rock and pop that sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

Heralded by the slinky single Need You Tonight, Kick finally broke the band in the UK, and made a star of singer Michael Hutchence.

Incredibly, though, their record label initially refused to release the album.

According to the band's manager, Chris Murphy, he had a nailbiting encounter with Atlantic Records president Doug Morris when he first took the album to New York.

"He put his feet up on the desk and closed his eyes from the minute the record went on to the minute it finished," Murphy recalls in the sleeve notes for a new, deluxe edition of the record.

"When it stopped, he said, 'I will give you a million dollars to go and record another album'."

Luckily, wiser heads prevailed, and Kick produced an enviable five top 40 hits in the UK - Need You Tonight, New Sensation, Never Tear Us Apart, Devil Inside and Mystify.

As the album turns 30, INXS keyboard player and chief songwriter Andrew Farriss looks back at the making of the album.

Nile Rodgers helped them find the funk

INXS started in 1977 as a plucky pub band, with Michael Hutchence joining his schoolfriend Andrew Farriss on stage with his brothers, Tim and Jon. Their early singles fused the swagger of the Stones with the frenetic energy of punk - but they were not much to write home about.

But by 1983, the band had become obsessed with Chic star Nile Rodgers' solo album, Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove, and persuaded him to work on a song they'd knocked up called Original Sin.

"We recorded that in New York," Farriss recalls. "Nile played guitar, Darryl Hall sang backing vocals and a couple of guys from David Bowie's band put instrumental bits on it as well. No pressure!"

Original Sin gave INXS their first number one in Australia, prompting them to pursue a fusion of pop and funk on their next album, Listen Like Thieves.

The lead single from that album, What You Need, gave the band their first taste of chart success in the US, essentially acting as a dry run for what came next.

"What You Need led to us being very confident on Kick and to say, 'Let's put this on a plaque, nail it to the wall and call it our own thing'," says Farriss.

"Which is really what we did."

Farriss and Hutchence took control of the sessions

Previous INXS albums had featured contributions from all six members of the band. But after the success of What You Need, Farriss informed the others that he and Michael would write all of Kick by themselves.

"It was not an aggressive thing," he says. "We were on a tour bus somewhere in Europe and I said, 'Why do not you give Michael and I a crack at doing all the tracks?'

"The idea was that we had tended to write the singles - so why do not we do all the songs and we might get more singles?

"And they said, 'Yes, sure, it sounds like a good idea to us'.

"I will never forget that because, for Michael and I, feeling like we had that support was a very generous thing."

Mystify could have sounded very different

The deluxe version of Kick contains an early version Mystify that features heavy drum loops and a very different melody - and none of the finished version's sex appeal.

Farriss says this early draft, which he recorded with Hutchence on a tour stop in Chicago, was evidence of a new way of working.

"On that tour we realised that, even though we had these songs we'd been working on, we needed to experiment with them before we got into the studio.

Songs were finished in the basement of Sydney Opera House

Farriss wrote Need You Tonight in a panic

Never Tear Us Apart became a standard

Kick sold by the bucketload

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