To help celebrate its 30th birthday, here’s a retrospective of the album…
which I wrote about here) in October 1985, the band toured it through until July 1986. After the tour ended, the band had a short break (during which Michael Hutchence appeared in Dogs In Space) before appearing in a series of outdoor concerts across Australia, organised by their manager Chris Murphy, featuring Jimmy Barnes, Divinyls, Mental As Anything, The Triffids, Models and I’m Talking. The band then reconvened with Chris Thomas (who’d they’d worked so successfully with on Listen Like Thieves) to start work on the next album. “We started from where that [album] finished,” Tim Farriss said in interview. “Chris really understood the band by then. He'd flown around the world to see us play. He said, ‘My goal is to make you come across on record the way you do live. And’ - these were his very words - ‘you haven't done that yet.’”
Andrew Farriss agreed. “What Chris brought to us was sort of an extension of what we were already feeling. His attitude was very daring and free. He trusted our vision, and I have to say that his belief in our confidence was so important.”
INXS and Thomas based themselves at Rhinoceros Studios (which the band part owned) in Sydney, where the 180 degree layout meant they could all play simultaneously and see each other. “[They] asked me to use their engineer, David Nicholas, for the recording. I went along with the idea and it was fantastic – there was a direct communication with him.” It was such a successful partnership, the two men worked together for the next eight years.
|gatefold CD cover|
from left - Tim Farriss (guitar), Garry Gary Beers (bass), Andrew Farriss (keyboards/guitar), Kirk Pengilly (guitar/saxaphone/clarinet/backing vocals), Jon Farriss (drums), Michael Hutchence (vocals)
1: Guns In The Sky (M. Hutchence)
2: New Sensation
3: Devil Inside
4: Need You Tonight
5: Mediate (A. Farriss)
6: The Loved One (Clyne/Humphreys/Lovett)
7: Wild Life
8: Never Tear Us Apart
11: Calling All Nations
12: Tiny Daggers
unless noted otherwise, all songs by A. Farriss/M. Hutchence
One of the biggest lessons learned from Listen Like Thieves was that successful singles drove big sales and, as Kirk Pengilly said later in interview, “we wanted an album where all the songs were possible singles”. The huge success of What You Need gave Andrew and Michael the confidence to try something different and whilst on tour in Germany, Andrew suggested an idea. “I felt incredibly confident,” he said later in interview. “Even before I'd started writing for Kick, I knew the audience was there for it. I said to them, ‘If you trust Michael and I to write the whole of the next record, it will be massive. We know what we're doing.’”
Using What You Need as their template, Andrew and Michael sequestered themselves away to start writing. “The melding of funk and rock was always in our heads,” said Andrew, “and we were very excited about the idea of overlaying two types of songs and genres together.” On the subject of focus, he said, “I think what makes the Kick album so dynamic is that we weren’t so much interested in what everybody else was doing as we were on what we wanted to do.”
|Michael & Andrew work on Mystify (frame from the video)|
Devil Inside was written in a hotel on Edgware Road, London. “I wrote the riff and recorded the demo in my room,” said Andrew, “played everything for Michael and he said, ‘Let’s run with it’”.
INXS had already recorded The Loved One (originally written by an Aussie band in the 1960’s called The Loved Ones) in March 1981 as an Australia-only stand-alone single (which I blogged about here). It was Tim who suggested they record it again, this time as a “balls-to-the-wall blues-rock track”.
Never Tear Us Apart was written in New Zealand and demoed with keyboards and guitars but Chris Thomas felt it needed a more formal sound and suggested strings which, as it turned out, fit perfectly with Michael's lyrics.
Chris Murphy had scheduled a European tour to follow the recording but, as with Listen Like Thieves, Chris Thomas felt something was missing. Since this same feeling had yielded What You Need, Andrew and Michael went to Michael’s apartment in Hong Kong with orders “to create a hit single in two weeks”.
as I wrote about here). He demoed it at home in Sydney as a taxi waited to take him to the airport, telling the driver to hang on while he recorded it. “The driver was oblivious to my creative urges and reminded me that unless I got in the cab I was going to miss my flight,” Andrew said in interview. “I made the plane with just minutes to spare and flew to Hong Kong. Michael loved what I played him, said, ‘Give me a pad and a pen’ and wrote the lyrics in something like an hour.”
Andrew wrote the music for Kick the day before inspiration struck with Need You Tonight, though the demo was acoustic and Michael wanted to toughen it up and play it as a straight rock song with plenty of brass. Calling all Nations rounded out the Hong Kong demos and when Chris Thomas heard them, he knew the album was done. The session “produced some really important material,” he said, “and that gap gave them a chance to think and realise what was and wasn’t working. It swung the album around.”
“They hated it, absolutely hated it,” he said. “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.” Worse, the Australian and European labels didn’t get it either.
Kick, therefore, became INXS’s biggest challenge. “I don’t know where I got the strength,” a shocked Murphy said, but decided the best way to deal with it was to do it themselves. He took inventory of the band assets and made the executive decision to gamble them to break the record in America - on the understanding that if they won there, the rest of the world would follow. He didn’t tell the band but hired a promo team and used guerilla tactics, gaining favour from inside Atlantic (though the rock people didn’t know how to market it, nor did the funk team) and in the end it was Andrea Guinness, the head of college radio promotions, who became his ally, saying she could make it a hit. Murphy organised a string of concerts at colleges and, as an excellent live act, the band won over the fans, the reception pushing Atlantic Records into adding Kick to their schedule.
When it was released, Kick was an instant hit and Murphy’s gamble (he didn’t tell the band about it until much later) had been a resounding success - after years of building their reputation, INXS were suddenly one of the biggest bands in the world.
Once the tour was over, the band members took a year off, pursuing individual projects and enjoying time with family and friends. Michael collaborated with Ollie Olsen on the Max Q album and appeared in Frankenstein Unbound (as Percy Bysshe Shelley), Andrew produced Jenny Morris’ Shiver album and toured it, Tim produced a documentary called Fish In Space and contributed to the music along with Kirk and Jon whilst Garry toured with Absent Friends
The album yielded 5 singles:
Devil Inside, backed with On The Rocks, was released on 13th February 1988
Mystify, backed with What You Need (12” remix), was released on 15th March 1989
All five singles also had accompanying videos (as did a couple of the ‘b’ sides)
Mediate was directed by Richard Lowenstein and is a deliberate homage to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues (which worried the band). It was filmed, without permission, outside a steel mill in Newcastle, Australia and captured in three takes. Lowenstein said, “the only person who was supposed to have rhythm, Jon Farris the drummer, messed it up and couldn’t get his placards [turned over] in time! We had to speed it up, you can see it speed up and slow down if you watch closely.”
Devil Inside was directed by Joel Schumacher and filmed in Balboa, California. Kirk Pengilly didn’t like it as he felt it was “too American”. For me, I think it now stands as the archetypal 80s video.
Mystify was directed by Hamish Cameron and created whilst filming the In Search Of Excellence documentary.
The videos were collectively released as KICK: The Video Flick which also included behind the scenes footage. It was released in the UK by Channel 5 video and I still have my VHS copy.
“Sometimes we think, ‘How'd we get here without being a pack of assholes?’ It's pretty rare. That's what it's about: respect for your position and appreciating it. . . . And I know we're going to keep going. We may burst our own bubble, but I don't think we're going to let anybody else do it for us.”
- Michael Hutchence, Rolling Stone magazine interview, issue dated 16th June 1988
“Generally speaking, I suppose making Kick was the best fun I’ve ever had – it was the pinnacle.”
- Chris Thomas, interviewed in 2002.
Kick was certified 7x Platinum in Australia (the second biggest selling album on the Australia charts for 1988), Diamond in Canada, Gold in France, Germany and Hong Kong, Platinum in Switzerland, 3x Platinum in the UK and 6x Platinum in the US showing total sales of around 14m units.
INXS were nominated as Best Group at the 1988 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Awards. At the 1989 awards they won for Outstanding Achievement and Best Group while Never Tear Us Apart won Best Video and was nominated for Single Of The Year. The band would be inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2001 alongside The Saints.
Kick received a nomination in the 1988 Grammy Awards and INXS was nominated as Best International Group at the 1989 Brit Awards.
At the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, INXS was the night's biggest winner and nominee, with five awards from nine nominations. Need You Tonight received eight nominations and won five (Viewers Choice, Video Of The Year, Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video and Best Editing In A Video) whilst Devil Inside earned one nomination (for Best Editing). New Sensation was nominated at the 1989 Awards.
|Receiving their platinum album - manager Chris Murphy is standing |
between Garry and Andrew in the pale brown suit
Personally, I think Kick is INXS’s best album and sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did 30 years ago, full of energy and excitement, superb musicianship and a crisp, clear production.
Happy 30th birthday Kick and thanks for all the good times.
Story To Story: The Official Autobiography, by INXS and Anthony Bozza
Chris Thomas Interviews
The 100 Greatest Bands of All Time: A Guide to the Legends Who Rocked the World edited by David V. Moskowitz
News.au: 25 Iconic Australian Videos
Tour information (oocities)
Music Radar.com - Andrew talks KICK, track by track
Mix Online Classic Tracks
Rolling Stone article - INXS: New Sensation
X tour programme
Sales certification figures