Essential Atlantic: INXS, THE SWING

Thursday, January 21, 2021

In 1983, INXS was ready for a change. The Australian band had established itself on the international stage with their third studio effort, Shabooh Shoobah, and were eager to take it even further. That's when they called in the hit master himself, Nile Rodgers of Chic.

"We'd asked Nile to come and see our show, as we had listened to his album The Land Of The Good Groove and he said he'd like to record with us," keyboardist Andrew Farriss recalled in the liner notes of the 2017 reissue of Kick. "Michael Hutchence and I put together 'Original Sin,' he added in regards to the LP's lead single and centerpiece track. "Nile liked it and we went to [New York's] Power Station to record. Back then, coming out of the '70s, the Chic funk era, you had Talking Heads and Blondie, who were real trailblazers who stayed true to their belief - and we thought we wanted to do that, too."

"The original lyrics were 'Dream on white boy, dream on white girl,'" Nile Rodgers revealed later. "I said, 'Why not make it black boy white girl?' I come from an interracial couple. Psychologically, that makes it a bigger statement. Even when I rang up Daryl Hall from Hall and Oates to sing on it his manager thought it was too controversial. But I think the record would have been bigger had I not talked them into changing the lyrics."

That's right--none less than Daryl Hall himself can be heard singing on the choruses of "Original Sin": "Nile Rodgers asked me to come down to the studio because they wanted me to sing on it for some reason," Hall shared in a video interview from 1984. "I don't know why because they're good singers, they didn't need me, but I did it anyway."

The song was something of an outlier, with INXS making the rest of The Swing with producer Nick Launay. The resulting tracks found the group picking up all sorts of tips from working with Rodgers, displayed in sharper songwriting and leaning into memorable hooks and choruses. From the ramshackle rock of the title track to the smoldering third single, "Burn for You," the album solidified INXS' place among the upper echelon of emerging acts poised for a major breakthrough.

“Michael and I talked about that particular change that we made, moving into funk stuff," Andrew Farris told American Songwriter in 2020. "And we realized, why don’t we try to do that same, funky thing, but just make it tougher sounding? Take the funk thing and join it with rock more, so it’s really slamming. It’s hard and it’s funky.”

In the band's home country of Australia, "Original Sin" was the first INXS single to hit #1. The Swing followed in kind, hitting the top spot of the Australian album charts. Released April 1, 1984, in America, the album made inroads on college and underground radio, with The Swing peaking at #52 on the Billboard 200. In Canada, it reached #27.