Think of some of your favorite groups over the last thirty years and you can bet that each one of them had somebody that was charismatic. Someone that was the focal point of the group. They didn’t necessarily have to look good, but it helped. Didn’t have to even sing well, but it didn’t hurt. Some examples: Michael Jackson for the Jackson 5, Mick Jagger for the Rolling Stones, as well as Jim Morrison for the Doors. Morris Day was comically charismatic for The Time. For a time in the mid-80s, Michael Hutchence was that charismatic focal point for the group INXS.
INXS and Hutchence had tasted some success in its native Australia beginning as far back as 1980, but wouldn’t find its breakout hit until late in 1985, when the album Listen Like Thieves was released. When the band released its second single “What You Need” early in 1986, the group finally had the big success it was looking for. Today’s 80’s Mania Mondays song is “What You Need.”
It may not look like it, but trust me, the video works. At least it did before I put the link in the post.
For INXS, U.S. success was just beginning when this song was released. While it wasn’t their first charting single in the States, it was the first to take up residence in the Billboard Hot 100 top 5, peaking at #5 in the Spring of 1986. I know I couldn’t wait to hear it when it came on the radio that year; I loved the energy in the song as well as the beat. It sounded like an R&B song that kicked like a rock track, at least to me. Listen Like Thieves then set up the band’s greatest success; the album Kick which was released in 1987. Led by the #1 single “Need You Tonight”, and the video for the song (coupled with album track “Mediate”), Kick contained four top ten singles (“Devil Inside,” “New Sensation,” and “Never Tear Us Apart” being the other three). It also catapulted Hutchence into something of a sex symbol. More attention began to be paid to Hutchence as he began to do modeling and acting work, in addition to fronting the group.
After one more hit album, X (1990), the group’s fortunes in the U.S. began to take a dip. Each successive released proved to be less successful than the one before it, even as they achieved decent success elsewhere. In fact, they were more successful in the 1990s in the United Kingdom than they ever were in the 1980s, while the reverse was true here in the States. After taking a break in the middle of the 90s, the group returned with the album Elegantly Wasted in 1997. Not long after the release of the album, Hutchence was found dead in a hotel room in Sydney, Australia. His death was ruled a suicide, caused by an overdose of alcohol and drugs.
While we’ll never know if INXS could have made a comeback with Hutchence leading the way, we do have their great 80s hits to remember them by. I hope you remember and enjoy “What You Need” as much as I did. As always, thanks for reading and listening.