Our top 10 INXS Songs list looks at a band that arrived on the scene in the early 1980s and became an instant favorite on MTV for many reasons. The first and most important reason was that the band INXS was releasing rock and roll records with an incredibly fresh sound. The band had a rock and roll groove all of their own. There was a mixture of classic rock, soul, and new wave, all intertwined behind a legion of personalities that played off each other perfectly.
The origins of the band INXS began in the Australian pub scene, where they met the manager of the popular Australian band Midnight Oil. The band INXS began opening shows for Midnight Oil and eventually released their first album in 1980 entitled INXS. The band’s sophomore album, Underneath the Colours, was released in 1981. The album sold exceptionally well in Australia, but the band was still relatively unknown throughout the rest of the world.
The album Shabooh Shoobah was released in 1982. It was the band’s first record to be released internationally. The album’s lead single, “The One Thing,” became an instant MTV staple as it fell into heavy rotation on the channel. The album yielded three more singles, but none as famous as the album’s lead-off single.
INXS released their fourth album in 1984 entitled The Swing. The album featured the killer track “Original Sin.” The legendary Nile Rogers produced the record. One year later, in 1985, INXS released their breakthrough album. On the strength of the album’s second single, “What You Need,” INXS had become a household name.
While The Swing album had put INXS on the map, the band’s sixth album, entitled Kick, was released two years later and became the band’s most successful album of their career. Five singles were released from the album. Since its release, the Kick album has gone six times platinum. The band followed up with the biggest-selling album of their career, X, in 1990. Once again, INXS enjoyed incredible success with the album release as the record spawned five singles.
In 1992, Inxs released the album Welcome to Wherever You Are. The band followed up with Full Moon and Dirty Hearts one year later. In 1997, the band released essentially what would be their final album with the original lineup, entitled Elegantly Wasted. The album would be the last INXS record to feature Michael Hutchence, who died the same year the album was released.
Eight years after Michael Hutchence passed away, INXS released a new record with the winner of a singing competition designed to find the new lead singer of INXS. The competition was based on a CBS television show called Rock Star: INXS. The album was called Switch. It was the last studio album INXS ever released of new material.
Our top 10 INXS Songs list focuses on the material INXS released between their third album, Shabooh Shoobah, and their final album, with Michael Hutchence entitled Elegantly Wasted.
# 10 – Elegantly Wasted
We open our top 10 INXS Songs list with the lead single “Elegantly Wasted” from the band’s final album with Michael Hutchence. The album was released in 1997. Bruce Fairbairn produced the record. The song resonated globally, securing the number-one spot in Canada and making a significant impact in various countries, including the United States, Australia, Iceland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Despite not charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. due to specific rules, it reached number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart.
There’s a fascinating twist in the lyrics. Following a spat with Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Hutchence added some cheeky vocals to the chorus, leading to a dual interpretation – it can be heard as “I am elegantly wasted” or “I am better than Oasis.” This lyrical jab stems from a bit of tension at the 1996 Brit Awards and a reported scuffle involving Liam Gallagher.
# 9 – The Gift
“The Gift,” a powerful single from INXS’s 1993 album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, stands out as the album’s first release. Crafted by the collective genius of Michael Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly, Garry Gary Beers, Andrew Farriss, Tim Farriss, and Jon Farriss, this track made waves internationally. It climbed to number two in Portugal, impressed with a number six spot on the US Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, and peaked at number 16 in Australia. The song’s impact was further amplified by its music video, which stirred controversy to the point of being banned by MTV.
The music video for “The Gift” vividly and intensely portrays global crises, ranging from war and terrorism to famine and pollution. INXS makes a bold statement, as if breaking through the TV screen in frustration and anger. The reason for MTV’s ban lies in the video’s inclusion of provocative footage from the Holocaust and the Gulf War.
Richard Lowenstein, the director and a long-time collaborator with the band, sheds light on the concept behind the video. In an interview, he explained that the striking visuals were chosen deliberately to reflect humanity’s capacity for causing chaos and destruction. The video aims to confront the viewer with the harsh reality of global suffering and violence, challenging the growing apathy and acceptance of such disturbing images in the media. This approach underlines the song’s message and the band’s intent to provoke thought and awareness through their art.
# 8 – Heaven Sent
In 1993, INXS released the album Welcome to Wherever You Are. The album’s lead single was the great track here entitled “Heaven Sent.”It marks the first single off the album. This track, released exclusively in Europe, Japan, and Australia, was penned by Andrew Farriss, a key creative force in the band. In the liner notes of the 2002 remastered edition of the album, Farriss reveals an intriguing insight into the song’s evolution.
He initially wrote “Heaven Sent” as a 3/4 ballad, but when the band got involved, they transformed it, adding a rockier edge that defined the final recording. This shift from a gentle ballad to a more robust rock track demonstrates the collaborative dynamism within INXS. This is what we loved about these guys. They were a band that sounded like everyone contributed their own individual strengths, making the whole better. Hmmm, maybe some other organizations should think like that. I’m not saying who; you know who I’m talking about.
# 7 – What You Need
The hit single “What You Need” was released on the band’s Listen Like Thieves album. The album was released in 1985. It stands as the song that in essence, turned most people on to the great band INXS. It was the album’s lead single in Australia and New Zealand, while in the USA and Europe, it followed “This Time” as the second single. The song marked INXS’s breakthrough in the United States, climbing to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and securing its status as the band’s first American Top Ten hit.
The “What You Need” music video further cemented its iconic status. Employing the rotoscope animation technique offered a visually striking and innovative approach that captured the audience’s imagination. This creative effort was recognized at the Countdown Music and Video Awards 1985, where the video, directed by Richard Lowenstein and Lynn-Maree Milburn, won the award for Best Video. This blend of innovative music and groundbreaking visual artistry exemplifies INXS’s significant impact on the music and culture of the 1980s.
# 6 – Suicide Blonde
The great blues opening of “Suicide Blonde,” which melted into that slick funk groove, defined the best of INXS. A band that blended so many styles of music into their own unique sound owned it on this killer track. “Suicide Blonde” was released on the band’s album X. The record was released in 1990.
# 5 – Never Tear Us Apart
“Never Tear Us Apart” was the fourth single released from the band’s most commercially successful album, Kick. The record was released in 1987. The beautiful staccato Beatlesque strings played throughout the song set up an incredibly emotionally charged vocal by the great Michael Hutchence. It is one of the band’s best songs and one of Michael Hutchence’s most outstanding vocal performances.
Interestingly, the song’s origins were quite different from the final product. According to the liner notes of Shine Like It Does: The Anthology (1979–1997), “Never Tear Us Apart” was initially composed on the piano as a bluesy number, reminiscent of Fats Domino’s style. However, producer Chris Thomas saw a different vision for the song. He suggested a synth-based arrangement, steering it towards the iconic sound that fans came to love.
# 4 – Original Sin
The INXS song “Original Sin” was released on the band’s album The Swing. The record was released in 1984. The dance music and rhythmic master Nile Rogers produced the song’s excellent dance groove. The brilliant producer who arrived on the scene with his band Chic in the 1970s had produced some excellent rock dance records in the 1980s, including David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”
# 3 – Need You Tonight
Of all the INXS Songs on this list, “I Need You Tonight” is probably the most popular one. Released as the first single from their 1987 album Kick. This track is the only INXS single to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Interestingly, “Need You Tonight” was one of the last songs recorded for the album Kick.
In the United Kingdom, “Need You Tonight” experienced a unique journey on the charts. Initially, during its October 1987 release, it reached only No. 58. However, following a re-release in November 1988, the song surged to No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, marking their highest charting position in the UK. This dramatic rise in popularity highlighted the song’s lasting impact and appeal.
The song experienced a resurgence in popularity years later, in February 2014, following the Channel 7 screening of the INXS mini-series “Never Tear Us Apart”. This led to “Need You Tonight” re-entering the charts in Australia, peaking at No. 28 on the ARIA Singles Chart due to a spike in download sales. Further cementing its status in Australian music history, in January 2018, “Need You Tonight” was ranked number 69 in Triple M’s “Ozzest 100”, a list celebrating the ‘most Australian’ songs of all time.
The music video for “Need You Tonight” also garnered significant acclaim. In 1988, it won five MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of The Year. The video’s impact and creativity were further recognized when it was ranked at number twenty-one on MTV’s countdown of the 100 greatest videos of all time.
# 2 – New Sensation
Once again, we return to the Kick album on this Top 10 INXS Songs list with the killer single “New Sensation.” As the third single released from the album (and the second in the UK), it showcases the collaborative talents of the band members. Andrew Farriss crafted the music, while the charismatic Michael Hutchence penned the lyrics. A defining feature of “New Sensation” is the signature saxophone solo by Kirk Pengilly. You can’t forget the riffs he played on the track.
The release of “New Sensation” was staggered, with it first hitting the UK market on 29 December 1987, followed by a worldwide release in 1988. The song achieved impressive chart success, peaking at No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100, No. 9 in Australia, No. 25 in the UK, and reaching the top spot in Canada. The opening line of the track, “Live, baby, live,” would later find another moment in the spotlight. It was used in the title of INXS’s 1991 release Live Baby Live, showcasing the band’s knack for creating memorable and enduring phrases.
The “New Sensation” music video further added to the song’s legend. Filmed on the roof of the Municipal House in Prague, it offered stunning visuals. The video was directed by Richard Lowenstein, a frequent collaborator with INXS.
# 1 – The One Thing
As we reach the number one spot on our top 10 INXS Songs list, we return to the first INXS Song we ever heard. The band’s lead single from their third album, Shabooh Shoobah, has remained our favorite INXS song throughout all these years.
Shabooh Shoobah, INXS’s breakthrough album, made a significant impact in the United States following its release in February 1983. It climbed to number 46 on the Billboard 200 album chart, marking a notable achievement for the Australian rock band. A key driver of the album’s success was the single “The One Thing,” which became INXS’s first Top 40 hit in the US. Peaking at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the period of May–June 1983, the song captured the attention of a broad American audience. Its appeal extended beyond mainstream charts, as it was a major hit on album-oriented rock radio, reaching the number 2 position on the Billboard Top Tracks chart. Additionally, “The One Thing” secured a top 20 spot in Canada, further indicating its widespread popularity.
The music video for “The One Thing” played a crucial role in amplifying the song’s success. Directed by Soren Jensen, the video presented a visually captivating scenario featuring the band members enjoying a lavish banquet with a group of beautiful models. This included Michael Hutchence’s then-girlfriend Michele Bennett. The video’s appeal was heightened by its decadent and somewhat provocative imagery, interspersed with clips of the band performing.
Jensen’s connection to Hutchence was through his mother, Patricia, who worked as a make-up artist on the Australian soap opera “The Young Doctors,” where Jensen was an assistant director. Adding to the video’s allure, models Susan Stenmark and Karen Pini, who also appeared in “The Young Doctors,” were featured in the video.
Notably, the music video for “The One Thing” was INXS’s first to be aired on MTV, the then-fledgling music channel. Its frequent rotation on MTV contributed significantly to the single’s chart success in the United States.
Reflecting on the video’s creation, Tim Farriss, a member of INXS, recounted the unconventional and somewhat wild nature of the shoot. The band indulged in a feast with sexy models and Playboy centerfolds, adding an element of eccentricity by having valium-fed cats roaming around the set. This unconventional approach not only created a memorable and distinctive music video but also played a part in propelling “The One Thing” to a top 40 hit in America and setting the stage for INXS’s subsequent success and their tour opening for Adam Ant.
Reader’s Number One Choice
# 1 Don’t Change
When we first published this list and posted it on our Facebook pages, we got a lot of heat for not having “Don’t Change” on the list. It’s not easy to pick ten songs from a band that music fans love. There will always be songs that dont make it. This one should have. Sorry about that. We dont get any pudding tonight now. The song Don’t Change was released on the album Shabooh Shoobah. It was the album’s closing song.
Top 10 INXS Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024
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