Bryget Chrisfield explores the creation, impact, and astonishing legacy of her favourite classic records. This month, it’s the album that spawned INXS’s only Australian #1 single: The Swing.
“The best day of my life. I went to the INXS concert.
INXS (‘The Swing’ world tour)
13 April, 1984 Festival Hall
Sitting on my bed I wonder, ‘What actually happened?’ dribbling from the mouth. After making Lisa repeat the story over and over I decided to get it down on paper so I can remember the night clearly. I began to get frustrated, Michael Hutchence of INXS kept persisting in standing far enough away from me that I just couldn’t reach. Several girls leapt up on the stage and kissed him. He looked so cute wearing his old jeans displaying the cutest arse in history, black leather jacket and shirt (later removed), white singlet with a bird in the corner. That hair, those eyes, oh…
And then finally I couldn’t hold back. During the song ‘All The Voices’ I commenced my struggle to hoist myself onto the stage. With the help of a lovely girl, I was on the stage. I headed for where he originally was, but he had moved. I looked around frantically because the bouncers were but metres away from me. I saw Michael. I rushed towards him and grabbed him around the waist. At first he looked startled, but he turned around and smiled and said ‘Hello’ in a dreamy voice. He put his arm around me and commenced singing once again. I swooned. I danced with him and was bitterly disappointed when the bouncers once again headed towards me.
Michael kept looking down at me… smiling that playboyish smile he does so well. I saw the bouncers and rushed toward the edge of the stage. The bouncers caught up and hurtled me off the stage. Michael watched as I was falling into the audience, said ‘That’s my daughter’. The audience laughed as I was he smallest, youngest girl to go onto the stage. What a charmer! I had the smell of his cologne mixed with his BO on the blue V-neck jumper I wore. What a blissful smell! I put the jumper into a bag and swore never to wash it again. The following days I walked on air. This was the event of a lifetime.”
Clearly 14-year-old-aspiring-music-journo Bryget was stoked about her first-ever stage invading experience. But I also remember feeling disappointed that Michael obviously thought I looked too young to date. I had actually hoped Hutch would catch a glimpse of me in my pinstripe 3/4-length stretch ankle-zip jeans – so tight that I had to lie back on my bed to do the top button up – and instantly fall in love. Still, soaking up the charisma that oozed from his every pore at super-close proximity – even for a few treasured moments – was pretty bloody spesh.
By the time INXS next played Festival Hall, in September 1986, my obsession had blossomed to wag-school-to-loiter-outside-stage-door level. Our little posse was soon rewarded when Michael arrived for soundcheck and got INXS’s tour manager to let us through backstage into the venue so that we could bags front-row spots. When the doors eventually opened, the sight of mad INXS fans bolting towards us before looking disgruntled ‘cause the six primo front-and-centre posis were already ‘reserved’ was priceless.
Photographic evidence of this exists thanks to The Truth newspaper, which sent a photographer around to pap us. The Truth ran a dodgy article headlined Waiting For Their Idols Of Rock the following day, claiming that we were groupies who flew around the country stalking INXS on tour. I cut out the photo as a memento, but threw away the trashy article that was lies, all lies (as if Year 11 students could even afford the flight costs!?).
It’s hard to believe that Original Sin, The Swing’s lead single, is the only INXS track to ever top the singles chart in Australia. The song’s arresting, stuttering opening drum pattern could sound clunky in less capable hands, but Jon Farriss slays. Enter sinister, stalking bass and then inquisitive synth sashays in. Even before Hutchence’s bedroom tenor materialises, “You might/ Know of/ The original si-in” – alongside that funkadelic-yet-coy guitar riff – this song is killer.
Fun fact: Producer Nick Launay used a sampler to enhance Farriss’s drumming: “What I did was feed Jon’s snare sound into [the sampler], then set it up so that every time he hit the drum live, it would play this mini-recording of his drum sound.”
Chances are you’ve already conjured images from the Yasuhiko Yamamoto-directed Original Sin music video, which was filmed in Tokyo, in your mind’s eye: circling motorbikes, trucks backing in and out of shot, a fairground, ‘80s mullets, sunglasses at night, long coats that resemble Driza-Bones…
When Molly Meldrum asked Michael how Nile Rodgers came to produce this INXS track during a 1984 interview, he explained, “We’d always loved Chic… great musicians and great production and stuff. And at that stage we were listening to Nile’s solo album, which really never got a great run here [in Australia], [Adventures In] The Land Of The Good Groove. And funnily enough we did a show in Toronto with Men At Work… Nile came along to a show, and he came backstage and said ‘Hi’, and Tim [Farriss, guitarist] kinda fell on the floor – ‘cause, you know, he loves Nile Rodgers – and [Nile] said, ‘Hey, let’s have a jam,’ and we said, ‘Sure,’ and he said, ‘Look, if we’re gonna have a jam, let’s record it really well. So let’s do it at the Power Station,’ and we thought, ‘Well why don’t we just do a single?’ And he said ‘Yeah’. So he was a fan and that was fantastic. So I think he listened to The One Thing – he was a fan of The One Thing, which was what we were trying to do, you know? That mixture of funk and rock.”
Rodgers didn’t just inject his special brand of funk into Original Sin, he also suggested a lyrical twist within the chorus that would result in the song being banned from a number of US radio stations. “The original lyrics were, ‘Dream on white boy/ Dream on white girl’,” Rodgers has admitted. “I said, ‘Why not make it black boy, white girl?’ I come from an inter-racial couple. Psychologically that makes it a bigger statement. Even when I rang up Daryl Hall from Hall & Oates to sing on it, his manager thought it was too controversial. But I think the record would have been bigger [it peaked at #58 Stateside] had I not talked them into changing the lyrics.”
On providing backing vocals for Original Sin, Hall later reflected: “I don’t know why, because they’re good singers; they didn’t need me, but I did it anyway”.
Original Sin also topped the French charts, and when tour manager Gary Grant roused Hutch from a post-revelry slumber – in a Rome hotel room, as INXS were on tour at the time – to share this milestone, he recalls: “Michael jumped out of bed completely naked, and began singing, ‘We’re Number One! We’re Number One!’ He was marching around the room with one arm raised, bellowing as loud as he could. He strode right out onto the balcony, and directly across from our room, on the roof of a church, a dozen nuns were kneeling there, saying their prayers that morning. It was amazing – I don’t know if they heard him before they saw him, but all of them stopped their prayers and turned in unison to look at him, just completely stunned. It stopped Michael in his tracks for a moment. Then he just smiled, waved at them, and shouted, ‘We’re Number One!’”
The Swing topped the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart for five non-consecutive weeks and remained in the Top 100 for a jaw-dropping 104 weeks (over two years)! After releasing Original Sin, INXS relocated to the UK to record the rest of The Swing with Launay, who admits, “Original Sin was so incredible that when I heard it, I just thought, ‘How on earth am I going to follow this?’” In the band’s illuminating official autobiography INXS: Story To Story, Launay reveals: “The Swing was supposed to be their Talking Heads album. It was supposed to be their Remain In Light. We didn’t talk about it, but it was clear that that’s what we were doing.”
Following the success of the INXS: Never Tear Us Apart mini-series, The Swing returned to the ARIA Albums Chart in February, 2014.
I Send A Message’s accompanying music video, shot in Japan alongside the Original Sin clip, was also directed by Yamamoto. In his book Murphy, INXS’s manager Chris Murphy writes: “Yasuhiko Yamamoto, the Japanese director, wanted to shoot a video in a Buddhist temple. But before we were allowed, I had to visit the temple at 5am every day for a week so the monks could check and see if my vibe was right. Luckily it was.”
The film clip for The Swing’s third single, Burn For You, was the first of many that Richard Lowenstein directed for INXS. This music video intersperses concert footage with behind-the-scenes snippets and splashes of hand-painted animation, which would become an INXS/Lowenstein signature, and captures INXS on the cusp of international superstardom. Michael was keen to work with Lowenstein after clocking a film clip he directed for Hunters & Collectors: Talking To A Stranger.
INXS were on tour in North Queensland when Murphy set up the meeting, so Lowenstein flew up especially from Melbourne, with his small crew, to meet the band. “I came face to face under the Queensland sun with six bronzed males and their girlfriends, wearing Hawaiian shirts and board shorts,” Lowenstein remembers – quite the contrast to his pasty, black-clad film crew! – of this career-defining meeting that took place poolside at their hotel. “The most effusive of these males stood up and loped over, shaking our hands with an eager puppy-dog gleam and a smile to die for. He said his name was Michael.”
Lowenstein went on to direct 16 INXS film clips, cast Hutchence as the lead actor in his cult film Dogs In Space (read our deep dive into that endeavour here), and also directed Mystify: Michael Hutchence to commemorate his late friend. During the Q&A that followed the premiere Melbourne screening of Mystify at the Astor Theatre, Lowenstein explained why he made the film: “I sort of felt like I owed [Michael] something… I didn’t recognise the legacy that was left behind – and of course I recognised the music and the filmed concert stuff and everything, but, you know, when I’d see documentaries/dramas, I’d just go, ‘Nah, I don’t recognise anything.’ And so I did feel that I personally… owed him a legacy that gave him some respect, even if only for the person he was. And also it’s partly an apology for not taking notice more at the end” – Lowenstein clearly regrets not persevering, since trying to keep in touch with his famous friend became increasingly difficult.
Towards the end of Lowenstein’s moving doco, a magnificent piece of footage captures the Hutchence/Andrew Farriss collaborative magic. Perched side by side on a piano stool, Hutchence and Farriss tweak the arrangement for the film’s namesake song, Mystify – on the fly – and it’s a privilege to watch.
During a 1988 Saturday Morning Live interview, Jono (Jonathan Coleman) referred to the Hutchence/Farriss songwriting nucleus of INXS as “the Lennon/McCartney of the ‘80s”. Farriss first met Hutchence while rescuing him from a school bully. It was Michael’s first day at Davidson High, he was wearing the wrong school uniform and also getting picked on due to his ‘posh’ voice (Michael grew up in Hong Kong so had an offshore accent). Farriss intervened with the help of a giant friend and the rest is history.
“The six of us grew up together,” Kirk Pengilly writes in INXS: Story To Story’s foreward. “We were family, half of us through blood and the other half through shared spirit and vision.” And it’s fair to say these six schoolmates from the northern suburbs of Sydney went on to conquer the world.