When INXS released their Very Best of compilation in October of 2011, there was no indication its release would be anything particularly noteworthy in the group’s history. Arriving almost a year on from their final album, and just over a year before their final concert, it served as another collection of what it was that made the Sydney outfit so globally beloved.
Of course, compilations hadn’t particularly been that successful for the band. While 1994’s The Greatest Hits peaked at #2 on the ARIA charts and went 2x Platinum, 2002’s The Years 1979-1997 repeated the same feat, this time with a peak of #8 on the charts. But this one was different.
Dubbed The Very Best of INXS, it had a humble beginning, charting at #39 upon its release. A few re-entries took place before the release of 2014’s Never Tear Us Apart miniseries, at which point, the compilation peaked at #1. From there, it felt as though the record was a constant figure on the Australian charts. In fact, in 2020, the compilation has since spent 430 weeks in the ARIA Top 100 albums, with 315 spent in the top 50, and seven at #1. In January of 2020, ARIA’s End of Decade charts saw the record named as the Australian Album of the Decade, cementing its place in history.
While fans of INXS see this honour as an understandable milestone for a band whose existence has helped define what music is in Australia, even the group’s members seemed shocked to learn of its recent Diamond certification – that is, a chart award for sales (if you’ll pardon the pun) in excess of 500,000 copies.
“It’s very hard to express the pride and joy I have at this moment,” explained Petrol Records Founder and Chairman, CM Murphy just last week. “It is now 10 years since returning to INXS and with their highest selling album having achieved a Diamond Award and now voted by the people as Artist of the Decade, it brings me to tears!”
With the news being announced at the ARIA Awards late last month, founding members Tim Farriss and Kirk Pengilly spoke to Rolling Stone about their recent milestone, what it means for them as a band, and what’s on the cards for the group.
It’s an obvious question to begin with, but how are you feeling about the Diamond certification of the compilation?
Kirk Pengilly: Firstly, I think we’re just grateful that some of our stuff is still on the radio and people are still listening to our music. In fact, I was just doing another interview and the photographer said, “My daughter’s favourite song in the world is ‘Beautiful Girl’.” And his daughter’s seven years old, and you go, “Wow, that’s pretty astounding to think that a seven-year-old is interested in a song that was recorded in, what 1992 or 1993, and that’s her favourite song.”
Tim Farriss: Like Kirk, I feel incredibly grateful, and amazed, really.
What I think is quite amazing is that no other INXS release has been certified Diamond in Australia yet.
TF: Yeah, we went Diamond in Canada for Kick.
Well I think most people would’ve assumed that would be the one to get this certification, if anything. Did you ever think that this compilation was going to be the one to get it over the line?
KP: It kind of makes sense in that it’s a best-of. That whole concept of releasing a best-of album – which every band does, and it’s usually in every recording contract that at some point there’s a best-of album – it makes sense that that is the one that has gone Diamond as opposed to any particular album. And you know, that’s a testament to the authenticity of our recordings, and great songs by mostly Andrew [Farriss] and Michael [Hutchence].
The recordings aren’t all coloured and crazy, we tried very hard to sound like we did it live when we recorded it, which meant that when we recorded it, it was the whole band playing at once. We always needed a really big studio to make sure we had the whole band playing at once to get that kind of chemistry and [feeling of] working together, playing off each other. So I think that’s a big part of it, the fact that the music is very authentic and pure, and funnily enough, real instruments.
Are you both the type to keep an eye on the charts and watch how things are going? Was there a specific moment when you sort of realised that the compilation was performing as well as it was?
KP: I have to say that after the miniseries came out, which was eight or nine years ago [Ed. note: Never Tear Us Apart premiered in early 2014], I started looking at the ARIA charts, and especially here in Australia, it was crazy.
There was one point, soon after that aired, where we had something like six of our albums in the top ten on the ARIA charts, So occasionally over the years I’ve thought about it and thought, “Oh, I’ll have a little look and see if the album’s still there,” and pretty much predominantly, it always was.
TF: From my point of view, I’ve never been one to watch with eager anticipation, because it’s not that I don’t care, but I don’t want to jinx it or something. But I’ve always gotten phone calls from record companies or publicists or whatever saying, “Do you realise… this?” or “Do you realise… that?”, or a crate of champagne arrives when you’re number one somewhere. That’s sort of been more the way it’s been for me. So it’s always a nice surprise – that’s the other great thing about not following it. But I’m really grateful that it has been that way.
INXS have released a number of compilations over the years, but what do you think it is about this one that really pushed it over the line and resonated most with people?
KP: It’s really hard to know. As I mentioned, I think the TV miniseries obviously had an effect and reinvigorated people’s perception, or reminded them that we existed, perhaps. So I think it was partly that, but also, y’know, we’re also still kind of alive and active doing different things, and I think that keeps us – to some extent – in the eye of the media and stuff like that. So it’s hard to pinpoint any particular thing, but I don’t know, maybe it was just our time?
TF: We still get quite a bit of airplay, too, which helps.
As you mentioned before, there’s younger fans listening to your work, and I feel that says a lot about the INXS fanbase, too. There’s obviously a lot more newcomers to the band, which might even indicate there’s more Diamond certifications down the line as they continue to get acquainted with the back catalogue.
TF: That would be great.
KP: Yeah, some of it could be because of streaming services, like Spotify and that. [You] select a song and say “Make a playlist from this” and all of a sudden, what do you know, a couple of INXS songs are in it. So I think that probably has been really helpful in getting our music out there as well.
Prior to the Diamond certification though, ARIA named it the “Australian Album of the Decade” as well. I’m assuming that’s not the sort of thing that you thought all of the last decade was leading up to, were you?
KP: No, nor would we have expected it. Certainly not. It’s very cool, you know. I think we got the “GOAT Award” recently on one of the network radio stations, Triple M, which is… what does it stand for? I don’t know…
TF: “Greatest of All Time”. I only know that because of the cricket [laughs].
KP: So you know, it’s just astounding, and I think we’re all super proud of all this stuff. Just the fact that I’m sure when we were recording these records, we never thought we would be doing this 30, 40 – or however old some of the songs are – later, having conversations about achievements now.
What is currently next in the world of INXS? There’s been talk of the upcoming musical, but is there anything else that’s currently underway?
KP: Well, Tim’s currently going through all his memorabilia because he’s just moved house.
TF: Yeah, I’ve just discovered all the things that I’ve had stored away for the last 30 years, basically, and it’s quite amazing, and quite overwhelming. It reminds me of how much we did, how much we worked, and how hard we worked. I mean, I’ve got boxes and boxes and boxes of t-shirts that were released in so many different countries around the world, from Mexico to Costa Rica to Japan to… you name it. Italy, Europe… Tour t-shirts.
It’s terrific how many tours we did – it’s a wonder that we’re all still alive. We worked incredibly hard for the success we had, and I don’t think many bands toured as much as we did. Maybe with the exception of AC/DC. But internationally, from Australia, I don’t think there’s – well, I know there isn’t – as many bands that toured as much we did.
KP: But I think to answer the question, other than the musical – which we won’t have much to do with – there’s not really, as far as I know, much else on the cards. Although I would say that one little pet project that I’ve always wanted to do is… When we used to release vinyl singles back in the day, we used to have B-sides on the opposite side of the A-side of the record, and they were always little pieces of music that we would individually put together.
Maybe sometimes they were put together with the help of some of the other guys in the band, but it was sort of a little juxtaposition to the commercial stuff we’d release for radio. And just arty and out there, and really crazy bits of music – we’d all have a go at doing the B-side for the singles. But other than that, they’ve never been released, so one day I’d love for us to release unreleased B-sides, or something like that. It could be a really interesting thing for fans or collectors out there.
But other than that, we’ve got no plans to tour, and no plans, really, to record any new music. We can’t really. I mean, we all live in different parts of the world and we can’t travel.
Well who knows, we might one day be talking again when the compilation of unreleased B-sides goes Diamond.
TF: [Laughs] I’ve also wanted to do a thing with our videos as well, and put together a compilation of everything we’ve ever done on video – including home movies, rare television appearances… That’s something I’d really love to do something like that.