If you were of a certain age in the 90s, you’re likely very aware of INXS. While they didn’t get much attention in the internet age, their legacy is profound.
Musicians like Bono and R.E.M’s Michael Stipe site lead singer Michael Hutchence as an inspiration. And we hear their music is making a comeback.
But if you’re unfamiliar with INXS, you may not know where to begin with their music. Join us as we explore more about the band and find out if the 80s or 90s INXS was better.
Let’s hit it!
The Story of INXS
INXS was an Australian alt-rock band that hit worldwide success in the late 80s. But their origin story started back in the mid-70s. Andrew Farris and his two brothers played in several high school bands. Classmate Michael Hutchence joined Andrew’s band, Doctor Dolphin, proving to be a highly talented lead singer.
After playing pubs as The Farris Brothers in 1978, they changed their name to INXS. By early 1980, they had a five-album record deal. Clearly, the name change made the difference!
INXS was on a roll in the 80s, releasing four successful albums in a row. Shabooh Shoobah spawned four singles in 1982. The deal was sealed as soon as viewers got their eyes on Michael Hutchence, thanks to MTV. By the time Kick arrived in 1987, INXS were international superstars.
This great Aussie band is the third-highest-selling Australian band in America. Accolades include the 1991 Brit Awards for Best International Group. In addition, they received six ASCAP awards for most performed songs, three Grammy nominations, and multiple MTV awards.
INXS’s Best-Known Songs of the 1980s
INXS soared in the 80s. With over 15 well-charting singles, it’s hard to pick just three. But these great songs topped the charts and remain dance floor staples to this day.
The One Thing
This 1982 hit by INXS is about sex, women, and sexy ladies. The innovative and subtly provocative music video helped fly this single straight up to #2 on the charts.
MTV was new, and creators had room to be highly creative and fun. For example, the One Thing video features all band members dining with models at a lavish banquet. The gorging of food by the end makes you wonder what they’ll do next.
Need You Tonight
INXS hit the big time with Need You Tonight. It was their first #1 single in the United States. College radio quickly took to it; before long, INXS was a global phenomenon.
Need You Tonight is a song about precisely what the title states. It’s a booty call. The use of synthesizers and a drum machine give it a slick vibe. And the stop-jangle guitar riff feels like an invitation all on its own.
Don’t Change might be our favorite INXS song. First, you hear those 80s synth keyboards. Next, you’re jumping up and dancing for joy. The lyrics describe the idea of never giving up on yourself. Resolve to be happy and rally everyone to do the same.
Don’t Change was the second single off 1982’s Shabooh Shoobah. The album was the first INXS album to be released worldwide.
INXS’s Best-Known Songs of the 1990s
Although the bulk of INXS records came out in the 80s, the band produced some great hits in the 90s. Here are three we think you should know.
Elegantly Wasted is the title track of INXS’ tenth album. The single has a sort of late 90s polished yet trashy sound, which suit the lyrics well. Hutchence wrote them during a period when happiness and fame seemed hard to coexist.
Hutchence was known as one of the sexiest men alive during the early 90s. But by 1996, fellow artists like Noel Gallager of Oasis were taking public jabs at him. The lyrics “we’re better than Oasis” were his way of jabbing back.
Despite its title, Suicide Blonde has nothing to do with sadness or despair. Hutchence was voraciously in love with his girlfriend, Kylie Minogue. So after she mentioned dying her hair suicide blonde, he took the words and ran with them.
Suicide Blonde is a classic sassy INXS single about lust and flare. It topped the charts quickly after its release in 1990.
By My Side
This orchestral love ballad was a sleeper when it came out in 1991. In fact, it barely grazed the charts. But it quickly became a fan favorite. Andrew Farriss wrote the lyrics while on tour and realized he was missing his family.
By My Side describes someone surrounded by strangers, putting on a fake face to get through the workday. Or night. It’s also easy to sway along with INXS and sing, “I wish you were here, by my side.”
What Was INXS’s Best Album?
The answer depends on how you define the word “best.” If we’re judging by chart success, Kick wins, hands down. This 1987 record generated five massive singles, including Devil Inside and Mystify. But it was Need You Tonight that blasted INXS into worldwide fame.
Kick is certified six times platinum. It’s also been reissued and remastered over the years due to its overwhelming popularity. This album focused on fun, abundance, and love. It has that 80s alt-rock vibe, with just enough funk to keep it unique. Hutchence’s breathy yet powerful voice is more seductive than ever.
But we’d also like to give INXS’ 1982 album Shabooh Shoobah an honorable mention for its status as an alt-rock cult classic. And their fourth album, The Swing, wins for the best album to listen to on the road.
What Happened to INXS?
Hotel staff found the deceased body of Michael Hutchence on November 22, 1997, aged 37. Even though the coroner ruled it a suicide, speculation circled for years that it was accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation.
Hutchence’s behavior became erratic in the mid-90s. A 1992 motorcycle accident and subsequent traumatic brain injury most likely triggered these years of mental anguish. Unfortunately, Hutchence had kept his accident a secret from everyone.
Singers like Terence Trent D’Arby and Jon Stevens stood in for Hutchence starting in 1999. But it seemed like no one could replace him.
Reality show producer Mark Burnett turned struggle into opportunity and created the 2005 reality show Rock Star: INXS. Competition winner J.D. Fortune sang for INXS throughout 2011. Although the new lineup worked for a while, the band decided to stop touring in 2012.
Interest in INXS kicked up after the 2014 docuseries called INXS: Never Tear Us Apart. In addition, the 2019 documentary Mystify sheds light on the struggles Hutchence faced after his brain injury.
So, Was INXS Better in the 80s or 90s?
INXS had quite a career. They experienced their height of stardom in the early 90s, coasting on the success of their album Kick. But things quickly took a downturn. The tragic loss of lead singer Michael Hutchence affected fans and fellow musicians alike.
Looking back, we think 80s INXS is better than 90s INXS. Their four albums released between 1982 and 1987 are the best and include so many great hit songs.
What’s your favorite era of INXS? Let us know in the comments below!