This week I thought we’d do something a little different. At this point half of you will probably stop reading, but I hope that those of you who hang in will join me in taking a look at one of the best albums of 1987, INXS’ Kick. My love affair with INXS started as a young lad parked in front of MTV and seeing “Don’t Change” and “The One Thing” in heavy rotation. For the next few years I’d catch a new single and think it was pretty cool, but I never owned anything until I saw the video for “Need You Tonight/Mediate”, and that was it. Done. Luckily I got the tape for Christmas a few months later, and it is every bit as good and powerful now as it was then.
“Guns In the Sky” begins with some grunting by the Rock God himself, Michael Hutchence, and at just over two minutes long it’s almost like musical blue balls before the iconic beginning of “New Sensation” kind of gets this party started, so to speak. That guitar line is etched in my head forever, and the live version released a few years later is just fantastic. Jon Farriss’ tribal drums and Garry Gary beers’ seductive bass serve as the driving force behind “Devil Inside”, and Michael’s delivery could bring women the world over to the edge without laying a finger on them.
The aforementioned “Need You Tonight” is next, and if “Devil” had the ladies at the edge, this one brought them to their happy place in droves! Dripping with sexual energy, this was a deal closer from day one. “Mediate” is one of my all-time favorites although I still can’t sing it without messing up a few times, and I’m sure you guys flub it, too! Kirk Pengilly’s haunting saxophone outro is the stuff of legend, and that wasn’t even HIS biggest moment on the disc. The blues-tinged “The Loved One” is our side one closer, and although not a single, it was still one of their most popular songs live. Why? Because the album sold SIX MILLION COPIES! And it was the kind of record you listened to start to finish, that’s why. Tim and Andrew Farriss sound like they’re jamming in some smoky hall somewhere leading the band.
Side two opens with “The Wild Life”, a song with some of the funkiness retained from 1985’s Listen Like Thieves album, and then comes THE signature song for a lot of people…”Never Tear Us Apart”. From the massive drum stops and starts to Kirk’s fierce sax solo, this is a piece of audio gold, and I still smile at the memories I have of this one. “Mystify” is another favorite track, and I can remember singing “Mystify, mystify meeee” for days on end. And God forbid someone say the word mystify in my presence. Oh yeah, I break into the song, and I’m not ashamed, either!
The title track “Kick” does just that. It smacks you in the face with a size 10 boot then takes off running. It’s got just the right amount of attitude and sass and that’s what makes it so great. The guitar in “Calling All Nations” is almost like the little brother of “New Sensation”, and it has this robotic voice in certain parts that I had to keep rewinding over and over, thus annoying anyone and everyone who had the misfortune to be in the car with me for a few years. “Tiny Daggers” is such an amazing song that you almost wonder why it’s not featured earlier on the record, but when you listen to it, you get it. It belongs at the end. The arrangement sounds like a send-off, and the tempo is fast, ending things on a little bit of a dancey note.
This was the best of times for INXS, as they achieved a level of success many would kill for, culminating in a sweep of the MTV Video Music Awards in 1988. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end for Michael Hutchence. He was struggling with his demons and the pressures of being the “face” of the band. He was pulled in a thousand different directions, and subsequent albums failed to reach the same sales and chart positions as Kick. There’s more to it that I won’t go into here out of respect, but just over a decade after releasing that landmark album, Michael Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room in Sydney on November 22, 1997. My band was scheduled to play that night, I dedicated our set to him, and it was one of the hardest shows I’ve ever had to get through, as Michael was an inspiration to me as a singer and a frontman. I do consider myself lucky to have seen INXS live twice, in New York in 1991, and in Philadelphia in 1993. And despite a slew of heavy metal releases in 1987, Kick will still be one of my favorites from that year. R.I.P. Michael…we miss you.
For my friend and fellow music lover, Paula. ~dc