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50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #4: INXS

Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe takes a look back at “the perfect embodiment of Australian musical ambition”, INXS.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time - INXS

Enrique Badulescu*; Jarrad Seng*

In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.

In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #4: INXS (by Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe)

Ask any band growing up in Australia when they first thought they could make it overseas, and who knows what they’ll tell you. But for me it was the first time I saw the footage of INXS live at Wembley Stadium. INXS are, in my eyes, the perfect embodiment of Australian musical ambition, and my inspiration.

Despite Michael Hutchence’s allure as Australia’s only bona fide rock star (a tag he probably would have hated), INXS are a sum of their parts; Andrew Farriss’ writing with Hutchence as the muse and vice versa, the solid rock funk of Jon and Tim Farriss, with Kirk Pengilly and Garry Gary Beers driving the band in a way that makes you want to both dance and sing along at the same time. They often get tied to the era they recorded in, but like all waves and trends, INXS keep coming back again and again. Despite the playfulness of their work, they stood for something so much more, pushing boundaries, and creating the first widescreen stereo view of Australia.

It was this widescreen approach that we took into the recording of our third album Black Fingernails, Red Wine. It was 2005, and we had set up camp at a remote recording studio on the East Coast of Australia, an hour-and-a-half out of Sydney at a place called The Grove.

“INXS are, in my eyes, the perfect embodiment of Australian musical ambition, and my inspiration.”

The studio had been built and set up by Garry Gary Beers, the bass player of INXS, and it was with this as our inspiration that we dug down deep and set out to record our most ambitious album yet. We applied the same basic formula: make the songs sound like they’re coming from the future!

Growing up in the late Eighties in Western Australia it was impossible to avoid INXS – their music was on the radio, girls were writing their names on the inside of school desks, and the style and swagger had infused itself into popular culture. Not only in the way guys wore their hair but also over the oceans and into movies like The Lost Boys

But to be honest, as a ten-year-old, I found songs like “Devil Inside” and “Need You Tonight” a little dangerous and overtly sexual. Despite INXS being a huge pop band and appealing to the kids of a generation, there was a lot more going on in the music than they were being given credit for, and it wasn’t just for kids. The songs were about light and dark, giving in to excess and being lost in the night. 

On the album Kick, their most ambitious to date, you could feel the hedonist in “Need You Tonight” or the heartbreak and joy of love in “Never Tear Us Apart”, sometimes both at the same time, which I only related to when I was older.

What INXS meant to me was that it’s okay to be big and bold in your musical statements – you can do something that is cool as well as commercially accessible.

When I got to contribute to Original Sin by singing on the track “To Look At You” in 2010 it was surreal. I got to experience the power of INXS music, but then again haven’t we all?