Classic Track: INXS, "Need You Tonight"

Dec 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson


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“I used a Roland 707 drum machine to program the groove for what became ‘Need You Tonight,’” he says. “What’s on the record is pretty much exactly what I put into the drum machine. What I also tracked from memory was the guitar riff, the bass part—which I played on a keyboard bass—and there was a rhythm guitar part that never actually ended up on the record. There was something about it that sounded right in my head, so that’s why I made the cassette recording of it: ‘I don’t know what this thing is, but there’s something in it.’”

He grabbed the cassette, jumped into the waiting cab and raced to the airport in time to catch his flight. Once in Hong Kong, he drove directly to the Watson Estate, where he and Hutchence worked for the next two weeks on songs for Kick in a demo studio on the property. “The engineer there, whose name I don’t remember, had a good little setup with 2-inch 24-track, and besides the cassettes, I had taken my 707 drum machine with me,” Farriss recalls. “So we came up with the idea of re-creating what I had done [on the cassette demo] and that turned into ‘Need You Tonight.’” Hutchence flipped over the riff and came up with his pleading and sensual lyrics for it. “We also recorded two or three other pieces of music, including ‘Guns in the Sky’ and ‘Mediate’ [which is attached to “Need You Tonight” on Kick and has the identical bpm].”

Thomas and the rest of the group—Farriss’ brothers Jon (drums) and Tim (lead guitar), Kirk Pengilly (sax, guitar) and Garry Beers (bass)—loved what they heard on the 2-inch tape Hutchence and Farriss brought back from Hong Kong and set to work recording the songs in earnest at Rhinoceros. The studio’s unique LEDE control room boasted the first SSL in Australia—a 4000 that engineer Nicholas says one of the very early consoles the British company had made. “They were still hand-making them, and at that point it was really top-end. The mic pre’s were incredible, and the compressors and EQs were just beautiful. I think it had slightly higher-end components than the [later] production models. It was the nicest desk I’ve ever had, and I’d give my right arm to have it today.”

The Kick album was recorded to one of the early an Otari 32-track digital recorders, “but slaved to Studer 800 MK3, which saved our bacon a couple times when [the Otari] said it was recording but actually wasn’t,” Nicholas says.

“In those days, we were tracking everything live,” he continues, “so ‘Need You Tonight’ would have been the band playing it in the main room, and then there might have been some loops that Andrew had that we striped onto the machine, too. I remember the drum, bass and that main guitar part were all done live.”

Farriss adds, “We also had the 707 [drum machine beat] and an Emulator 2 sample of a bass sound I made up from a MIDI keyboard. The guitars were Fenders through some old Marshall amps. Jon would have had a Pearl [drum] kit of some sort and [Remo] Roto Toms. He did some cymbals, toms and fill stuff across the drum machine, as well. Garry added a bass part with a Fender Precision bass, and some of the guitar was overdubbed. It was important that the guitar work have the push-pull of people really playing—trying to get that aggression, that edginess, to come out.”

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