10 Fascinating Facts About INXS

INXS's Michael Hutchence in Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019).
INXS's Michael Hutchence in Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019).
Dogwoof

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.

Michael Hutchence of INXS in 'Mystify: Michael Hutchence' (2019)
Dogwoof

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.

London Calling: The Clash Is the Subject of a New Exhibition at the Museum of London

Paul Simonon's Fender Precision bass, which he smashed onstage at New York City's Palladium on September 21, 1979.
Paul Simonon's Fender Precision bass, which he smashed onstage at New York City's Palladium on September 21, 1979.
© The Clash

On September 21, 1979, when British punk legends The Clash tried to amp up the crowd at The Palladium in New York, security guards pushed fans back into their seats.

According to guitar-makers Fender, this frustrated Clash bassist Paul Simonon so much that he smashed his cherished Fender Precision bass on the stage, creating possibly the most famous rock ’n’ roll photo opportunity of all time—which would also serve as the cover art for the Clash's groundbreaking third album, London Calling.

preliminary sketch of the clash's london calling cover album art
A preliminary sketch by Ray Lowry for the London Calling cover artwork.
© Samuel Lowry

To celebrate this December’s 40th anniversary of its release, the Museum of London has curated a free exhibition that features many of the band’s belongings, images, music, and even Simonon’s surprisingly well-preserved broken bass.

It’s not the only iconic instrument on display—you can also see Mick Jones’s 1950s Gibson ES-295, which he used to record the album and the music video for its titular track, and Joe Strummer’s white 1950s Fender Esquire from the same era. And, if you look closely at Topper Headon’s drumsticks, you’ll notice that they’re stamped with the words “Topper’s Boppers.” According to NME, it’s the only item of Headon’s that’s still around from the London Calling days.

topper headon's drumsticks from the clash
Topper Headon's drumsticks.
© The Clash

The exhibit also includes sketches from artist Ray Lowry that depict scenes from the London Calling tour, photos taken by Pennie Smith (who snapped the London Calling cover image), a doodle-heavy track listing for the four-sided double album written by Jones, and many other items.

the clash at london calling video shoot
The Clash at the London Calling music video shoot along the River Thames.
© Pennie Smith

mick jones's track listing for the london calling album
Mick Jones's handwritten track listing for the album.
© The Clash

And, of course, any rock ’n’ roll display wouldn’t be complete without at least one leather jacket—the Museum of London is showcasing Simonon’s jacket from the late '70s.

Paul Simonon's leather jacket
Paul Simonon's leather jacket.
© The Clash

If you’re a little farther than a train ride away from London, there’s time to make some travel plans: The exhibit is open until April 19, 2020.

[h/t NME]

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images
Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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