January 1988: INXS Scores No. 1 with "Need You Tonight"

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Bob King/Redferns

INXS' one and only No. 1 hit "Need You Tonight," the single that launched the band to superstardom, almost never happened.

Inspired within a taxi cab, the band's principal songwriter Andrew Farriss handed a rough demo, recorded impromptu, to frontman Michael Hutchence, who swiftly put together the lyrics of "Need You Tonight." The pair returned to Paris to complete the recording sessions with the band for their sixth album Kickwhich included pop-rock fused key tracks "Kick," "Calling All Nations" and "Need You Tonight" that would christen the INXS anthem to the mainstream. 

INXS Cover art

With the services of legendary Bob Clearmountain, a heralded mixer within the world of rock, the band finalized the album in high spirits. Band manager Chris Murphy gathered the Atlantic Records team to showcase what he intended to release as the first single of INXS' sixth album, Kick, fully convinced that "Need You Tonight" would trigger the label's enthusiasm and support. 

As the playback came to a smooth finish, Murphy was stunned as he was faced instead with the label's lackluster response, during a low-key meeting with Atlantic's radio promotions executives, "just [staring] at their feet and [grumbling]," he recalled to Billboard

Then the only woman - who was also the youngest staffer onboard - loudly interjected, "This is a No. 1 record," breaking the room's deafening silence. The solo vote of confidence came from Andrea Guinness, who oversaw college radio promotions.

With or without the label's backing, Murphy would channel his disappointment toward a determination to continue his efforts. With college radio spinning "Need You Tonight" in support, Murphy booked a college tour on his own financial standing, and with sold out shows rapidly multiplying across the country, "Need You Tonight" began its major breakthrough through the US. 

Atlantic would add the album to its fall roster and despite the album's struggle of a start, Murphy's big bet on the single would pay off tremendously. 

 “I risked every dollar they had and every dollar I had on that tour,” Murphy recalled to Rolling Stone. “If it failed, there would have been a mutiny. It would have been the end of everything and I knew it.”

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