Never Tear Us Apart: An obituary to INXS

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th November 2012.

Aussie music fans were not at all stunned last week with the not particularly shocking announcement that INXS were calling it quits after 35 years as a touring act. On the final night of a tour supporting Matchbox Twenty in Perth, drummer Jon Farriss informed the Perth crowd that they were witnessing the last live performance of the band that at one time were Australia’s biggest musical exports.

My earliest memory of INXS involves dancing along to Original Sin during a sleepover at a mate’s house. The year was 1984. The album was Throbbin ’84 (on cassette). At the time, neither of us even knew how to pronounce INXS. As far as we were concerned they were “ink-sus” (rhyming with sphinxes).

A few years later, MTV arrived on our shores, though not as we know it today. Pay TV was still a few years away. MTV first aired in Australia as a three hour late Friday and Saturday night music show on the Nine Network, hosted by Richard Wilkins, complete with mullet. Each year, as a special, the MTV Music Awards was also broadcast. I still have the 1986 awards on videocassette somewhere which features an in form INXS performing What You Need.

In 1987, INXS released Kick and the rest is history. Selling over ten million copies worldwide, Kick is a perfect forty minutes of pop. Featuring the singles Need You Tonight, Devil Inside and Never Tear Us Apart, the album launched the band into the stratosphere and for a few short years INXS was arguably the biggest band in the world. I really must put the special edition Kick 25 reissue on my Christmas wish list. I love that album.

Flashforward to the mid-nineties and INXS had begun to lose their shine. Creatively the band had not been able to match Kick and sales had slumped. It was during preparations for their “comeback” tour in 1997 that Michael Hutchence committed suicide in a Sydney hotel room. I had front row centre tickets for the first of these comeback gigs at the State Theatre. What a bummer.

Rather than retire the INXS name, the remaining members continued to tour with a succession of singers, making them one of those rare creatures in the music industry: a band that transformed into their own cover act.

I finally caught INXS (with ex-Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens) live in Cardiff on a double bill with Blondie. It simply wasn’t the same. Michael Hutchence had a unique stage presence and charisma that was irreplaceable.

A little later, a new singer, Canadian J.D. Fortune was promoted to vocal duties via a TV talent search. Although his Michael Hutchence impersonation wasn’t bad, J.D. only lasted one album before being dropped for Irishman Ciaran Gribbin.

As far as I’m concerned, INXS ceased to exist in 1997 with the death of Hutchence. It has taken 15 years for the other band members to understand this but I think deep down most fans would agree with me. Just like The Doors without Jim Morrison or Queen without Freddie Mercury, INXS were simply not the same without their charismatic frontman.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 08:50  Leave a Comment  
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‘Cause you gotta buy Faith

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th January 2011.

This year will see the re-release of George Michael’s iconic solo debut Faith. Originally released way back in 1987 to critical and popular acclaim, the album spawned many memorable hit singles such as Faith, I Want Your Sex, Father Figure, Monkey and Kissing a Fool. With sales in Australia exceeding 350000 copies (that’s five times platinum) and twenty million copies shipped worldwide, there are plenty of us out there who might be nostalgic enough to replace our worn out cassette and vinyl editions with the remastered and repackaged CD editions.

Faith was a truly solo effort from the former Wham! frontman. Not only did he write and produce every track bar one on the album, he also played almost every instrument. Amusingly, this probably wasn’t much different to his Wham! days as it is alleged Michael’s partner in crime and “guitarist”, Andrew Ridgeley, usually had his instrument turned right down, Linda McCartney style, during live performances. I guess at the time, we also thought he was singing about women, but that’s a different story.

To help George earn back all of the money he spent on his extended Australian holiday after his tour of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne last year (Grindr must be expensive), you’ll have the choice of the standard remastered 2 disc edition, the 2 disc plus DVD deluxe edition and for the ultimate fan, the super deluxe collectible edition, complete with a vinyl copy of the album, sleeve notes, rare pictures, replica tour pass and a hardcover book.

I’m not entirely certain why, with the exception of financial reasons, Sony or George Michael would choose to celebrate Faith’s twenty fourth anniversary and not wait another year for the quarter century. With this dubious timeframe, let’s have a look at some other albums that are also celebrating their pewter anniversary (there is no symbol for the twenty fourth so I made one up) and also deserve the remastered super mega deluxe and a cherry on top edition treatment.

INXS’s Kick is easily their best recording to date. Fusing their previous rock sound with a dance groove, they used the power of the music video to sell millions of albums on the back of such strong singles as Need You Tonight, Devil Inside, New Sensation and Never Tear Us Apart. Now sadly languishing around the nostalgia scene with multiple best of compilations on the market as well as a dodgy reinterpretations album, INXS have become their own cover band. A deluxe double disc edition of Kick was released in 2004 to celebrate its (drum roll please) seventeenth anniversary.

John Mellencamp, then John Cougar Mellencamp, also released The Lonesome Jubilee in 1987. A rock, folk and country hybrid, it produced the hit singles Cherry Bomb and Paper in Fire. With steel guitars, accordions and violins featured, this album pioneered the country rock sound that led the way for Shania Twain, Taylor Swift and Cameron Daddo. A remastered edition of The Lonesome Jubilee with a whole one extra song was released in 2005 (its eighteen anniversary).

Midnight Oil’s Diesel and Dust was ranked by Rolling Stone as the thirteenth best album of the eighties. With a strong environmental theme and a focus on the plight of the Aboriginal communities, this concept album was spearheaded by the singles Put Down That Weapon and Beds Are Burning. On its twenty first anniversary in 2008, a remastered edition of the album was released with a bonus documentary DVD. Personally, I think the Oils should follow George Michael’s example and celebrate its twenty fourth anniversary with a deluxe edition including some actual diesel and dust, plus a bonus insulation bat.

The demise of the vinyl album also saw the death of the gatefold sleeve and all the pictures, notes and goodies that came with it. There’s not much you can say in a CD booklet. Great albums deserve to be celebrated and polished up for re-release but perhaps only at significant milestones. Deluxe editions allow collectors and fans to access B sides, demo versions and memorabilia (at a price) but don’t wish too hard, 2011 sees the tenth anniversary of Nikki Webster’s Follow Your Heart album.

Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 19:34  Comments (1)  
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