Backtracks: INXS – Kick

The idea came from Gary Morris, the manager of Midnight Oil. He suggested that the Farris Brothers change the name of their band to INXS, making them somewhat ‘inaccessible’, a mix inspired by the British band XTC and Australian jam makers IXL. The two bands were touring together in 1978, making the rounds on the Oz pub and club circuit. The three Farris brothers, Jon, Tim, and Andrew agreed, as did fellow band members Kirk Pengilly, Garry Gary Beers and Michael Hutchence. Morris also advised INXS to adopt a Christian Rock sound and live a clean life. The group took the new name idea, ignored the lifestyle advice, and in September 1979 debuted as INXS. They hired a new manager, Chris Murphy, who promptly landed them a five-record deal with Deluxe Records, a label fronted by Michael Browning, a former manager of AC/DC.

The first INXS album, INXS, came out in Australia in October of 1980, and had impressive local impact which eventually led to increased record sales. Albums two, three, and four, Underneath the Colours from ’81, Shabooh Shabooh of ’82, and The Swing in ’84, brought even greater commercial success. With the single “What You Need” charting in 1985, the fifth studio release Listen Like Thieves got the attention of stateside ears and rose to Number Eleven on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Recording for Kick began in late 1986 in Paris and Sydney, and guitarist Pengilly remarked, “We wanted an album where all the songs were possible singles.” When the album hit the shelves in October 1987, Atlantic Records was extremely unhappy with the results. INXS manager Martin recalls “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.”

Although Atlantic’s protests continued, Kick was released in October 1987, and the album presented the band with almost instant, worldwide popularity. It peaked at Number One in Australia, number 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200, made spot 9 in the UK, and 15 in Austria. It was a strong and progressive, confident album that produced four Top 10 U.S. singles, “New Sensation”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “Devil Inside” and “Need You Tonight”, which topped the charts.

When it first hit the airwaves it seemed to be playing nearly non-stop; two or three times an hour it was on the radio, one of the singles. It began to become annoying, a bit too much. The entire album is certainly worth listening to, and it is more than a “decent” front-to-back effort. I would buy it (again), and it deserves a place in almost any music collection.


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