10 Fascinating Facts About INXS
Over the course of the 1980s, INXS went from fledgling Australian pub rockers to global superstars. Although frontman Michael Hutchence died in 1997, and the band finally called it quits in 2012, INXS remains hugely popular. There’s a widescreen 4K Ultra HD restoration of the band’s 1991 concert film Live Baby Live coming to theaters, as well as a new documentary, Mystify: Michael Hutchence. In celebration of this INXS resurgence, here are 10 facts about the band.
1. INXS was a band of brothers (and three other guys).
Like the Bee Gees, who also formed in Australia, INXS featured three brothers: Andrew (keyboards), Jon (drums), and Tim (guitar) Farriss. Rounding out the sextet were Garry Gary Beers on bass, Kirk Pengilly on guitar and saxophone, and of course, Michael Hutchence on lead vocals.
2. Midnight Oil’s manager came up with the band's name.
The group was known as The Farriss Brothers (and for a little while, The Vegetables) before changing its name to the much cooler INXS. That suggestion was made by Gary Morris, manager of Aussie rock heroes Midnight Oil. Morris was inspired by IXL, a brand of jam, and the English new wave band XTC, who’d recently toured Australia. Although INXS is read as “in excess,” Morris wanted the band to market themselves as “inaccessible,” the adjective that seems to have inspired the moniker.
3. INXS was almost a Christian band.
Not every idea Gary Morris had was a good one. During his brief stint as INXS’s manager, he tried to sell the boys on hardcore Christianity, which he’d embraced after attending a Billy Graham crusade. “He wanted us to write songs about Christ and to promote a drug-and-alcohol-free and a no-sex-before-marriage proper Christian lifestyle,” bassist Garry Beers wrote in the band’s official autobiography. These were the guys who would later write “Devil Inside” and “Original Sin”—they didn’t go for it.
4. They didn’t go global until their third album.
INXS were strictly an Aussie phenomenon until their third album, 1982’s Shabooh Shoobah. It gave the group their first entries on the Billboard Hot 100—"The One Thing" and "Don’t Change"—and reached #46 on the Billboard 200. It also became INXS’s first Top 5 album at home in Australia.
5. Nile Rodgers changed a key lyric in the band’s first #1 hit.
INXS recorded their fourth studio album, 1983’s The Swing, with super-producer and former Chic bandleader Nile Rodgers in New York City. Rodgers played a key role in shaping “Original Sin,” which later reached #58 in America and became INXS’s first #1 single in Australia. First, he asked his buddy Daryl Hall to sing backup on the chorus. Then he suggested Hutchence change the line “dream on, white boy/dream on, white girl” to “dream on, black boy/dream on, white girl.”
“I come from an interracial couple,” Rodgers said. “Psychologically that makes it a bigger statement. Even when I rang up Daryl Hall to sing on it his manager thought it was too controversial. But I think the record would have been bigger had I not talked them into changing the lyrics.”
6. The head of Atlantic Records thought Kick was trash.
When INXS first played their sixth album, 1987’s Kick, for Atlantic Records president Doug Morris, the response was less than encouraging. “He put his feet up on the desk and closed his eyes from the minute the record went on to the minute it finished,” said the band’s longtime manager Chris Murphy in 2017. “When it stopped, he said, ‘I’ll give you $1 million to go and record another album. This is not happening, this is sh*t.’” Morris couldn’t have been more wrong. Kick reached #3 on the Billboard 200 and spawned four Top 10 hits, including the #1 smash “Need You Tonight.”
7. Andrew Farriss annoyed a cab driver while writing the band’s biggest U.S. hit.
INXS was nearly done with Kick when producer Chris Thomas decided they still needed a few more songs for the album. He convinced Andrew Farriss to meet up with Hutchence in Hong Kong, where the singer had an apartment, and write some new material. While waiting for a cab to the Sydney airport, Farriss came up with a tasty guitar riff. He rushed to record a demo, complete with drum machine, while his frustrated cab driver looked through the window.
After 40 minutes of tinkering, Farriss got into the car, made his flight, and presented Hutchence with the tape. The frontman loved the track and dashed off some lusty lyrics in minutes. They called the song “Need You Tonight,” and in January 1988, it became INXS’s first and only #1 song in America.
8. There was some speculation over the cause of Michael Hutchence’s death.
Hutchence was found dead on November 22, 1997, at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Double Bay, Sydney. The coroner’s explanation was suicide by hanging. At the time, Hutchence was reportedly in a depressed state due to several factors, including an ongoing custody dispute between Paula Yates, the mother of his daughter, and Yates's ex-husband, rocker and Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof. Yates later questioned the official cause of death and suggested Hutchence had died from autoerotic asphyxiation. Further complicating matters, another of Hutchence’s exes, model Helena Christensen, reveals in the 2019 documentary Mystify: Michael Hutchence that the singer suffered wild mood swings as a result of brain damage he suffered when a cab driver punched him outside a Copenhagen restaurant in 1995.
9. INXS tried to carry on with several other lead singers.
After Hutchence’s death, INXS took about a year off before returning to the stage. They did so in November 1998 with Jimmy Barnes of the group Cold Chisel on lead vocals. The following year, they enlisted singers Terence Trent D’Arby and Russell Hitchcock for a concert celebrating the opening of Stadium Australia. From 2000 to 2003, Jon Stevens of the band Noiseworks took the helm, and in 2005, the group used the reality series Rock Star: INXS to audition a new frontman. The winner, Canadian singer-songwriter J.D. Fortune, toured with the band from 2005 to 2011. The last man to grab the microphone was Northern Irish singer-songwriter Ciaran Gribbin, who joined in late 2011 and stayed on until INXS’s final show in November 2012.
10. For their final show, INXS opened for Matchbox Twenty.
In November 2012, during the final show of a tour supporting American pop rockers Matchbox Twenty, INXS announced they were calling it quits after 35 years. It may have seemed like a random and non-glamorous finale to their career, but the show was in Perth, Australia, where the band had lived in the late 1970s. INXS ended the concert with one of their most beloved singles, “Don’t Change,” with Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas helping out on vocals.