Guns In the Sky
Need You Tonight
The Loved One
Never Tear Us Apart
Calling All Nations
Guitarist Tim Farriss goes track by track on the album that changed INXS—and modern pop—forever.
It is easy, with the benefit of hindsight and history, to chart an artist’s commercial and creative evolution, to divide a long career into distinct periods and surmise how one led to another. But for the artists themselves, the experience is a blur, especially given the view from inside a wild, world-beating run like the one Aussie pop powerhouse INXS was on circa their fifth album, Listen Like Thieves, in 1985. “Each record was kind of an era for us that blended from one to the other,” guitarist Tim Farriss tells Apple Music. “We were just touring our nuts off. The world certainly knew who we were, and the fans and the general public wanted us to succeed. We could feel that sort of thing, and we knew what our strengths were.” Refining those strengths—namely, a preternatural talent for big-tent, danceable pop-rock anchored by slick, studio-polished grooves—meant maintaining continuity for Kick, which would become the biggest album of the band’s career, selling some 20 million copies worldwide and yielding four Top 10 singles in the US alone. Chris Thomas would again produce, and the songwriting would be carried by Tim’s brother Andrew and frontman Michael Hutchence, who was comfortably growing into the job of swaggering international sex symbol.
And to best wed those studio-polished grooves to the vibe of a tight live band that had played together for nearly a decade, they rehearsed the new songs at the iconic Sydney Opera House. “It felt like we were tourists,” Farriss remembers. “There was this aura of excitement and breaking out, but of course that meant we were stuck in this giant vacuum of energy and spiraling motion. I don't know how we fit it all in, when I look back. I don't know how we're still alive even.” Thirty-three years after his band’s most defining and enduring work, Farriss tells the stories behind each song below.
Guns in the Sky
“I bought my son, who was like six at the time, a miniature Flying V electric guitar, and I just happened to have it in the studio. And I was mucking around with it, and plugged into my Marshalls. And when it came time to do the solo in ‘Guns in the Sky,’ I just picked it up and a had a bash, I could slur the strings so much. It was always a real sticking point for me, because it was almost impossible to play on a normal guitar, but I couldn't tour with my son's guitar that I'd given him for his birthday.”
“That was one song that Michael was all over on vocally from the get-go, whereas some of the others, he was working on them still in the studio.”
“We were rehearsing that, and when we came to the chorus, I kind of suggested that he just kind of whisper it, and then Michael came up with that: ‘The devil inside, devil inside.’ It was an interesting song for us because of the arrangement—the dynamics drop down for the chorus, which is kind of the opposite of what you do.”
“The whole recording of Kick was just great fun and exciting, and we could tell. We also had a break in the middle of recording it because Chris said, ‘We've got half the record. Andrew and Michael, go off and write together. And now you know what we've got and the way it's starting to sound. Come back with what you think the record needs.’ This was one of those—and it was just classic Michael. That was one song lyrically where he had it pretty much sorted out in the studio.”
The Loved One
“Well, I got in big trouble for this one. Chris was saying, ‘We need something that's different from everything else in this record. Maybe a cover or something.’ We did ‘The Loved One’ [in 1981], and it was a song by a band called The Loved Ones. I played it to Chris saying, 'This is the only cover we've ever recorded.' And he goes, 'Great. Let's record it again.' And then everyone looked at me and went, 'No. We've already done that.' But we'd all gotten so much better after touring for years and years, we came to change things around a bit. The Loved Ones were absolutely stoked because we'd done it twice on a successful album. When we were recording [1993's] Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, we went back and revisited some of those very early songs and rerecorded them. I should try and find that someday.”
“I don't have a great deal of memory about that particular song, but I do remember how much fun we had recording it. This is very typical us: Even though essentially Michael and Andrew wrote the songs, it's still a total band collaboration in the way it's actually played, and there were bits written by all of us.”
Never Tear Us Apart
“Andrew had the idea for the ballad and we put the strings down on an emulator. And I had my favorite Telecaster, and that for me was a great thing, because it's just my guitar on it—everyone in the fucking band played guitar, I was lucky to be the only guitar playing on two of the tracks.”
“That was another song that Andrew had the keyboard part. Kind of a lumpy old piano song, that one. I remember they had a pretty clear direction in their head on that song, and Michael really loved the chorus. I remember the way it would come out of the chorus and then back into the verse and rocked out. Kirk [Pengilly] might have tried to play sax on it at one point, too. But then he has a really great rhythm guitar line on it, and knowing him, he would have thought, ‘Well, I can't do both live, so I'm just going to do one.’ Because Kirk in particular was absolutely anal about whatever he did in the studio he wanted to be able to do live.”
“Michael really wanted to have a Motown feel; Motown was something we all grew up listening to. We put the big horns on that, too. I think we pretty much knew we were going to call the album Kick. We might have had the song written and just decided that's a great name for the album.”
Calling All Nations
“I just love that song. We used to carry these huge video things around because they were big back then, and record personal stuff on tour and that. I put a little vignette together using the guys' personal footage from that time called 'For Your Eyes Only.' I don't know how to get a copy of that, but 'Calling All Nations' was one of the main pieces of music I used on it because it's just my favorite. We ended up calling the tour Calling All Nations—it was about coming down to the party.”
“I think we recorded that song in probably two days. It's pretty quick for us. We would play the last three songs on the album together live on that tour, too, so there was a bit of a race to the end. We thought we were exhausted after touring Listen Like Thieves, but we were really exhausted after touring this.”