Classic Track: INXS, "Need You Tonight"

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


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Jon Farriss was tucked into Rhinoceros’ very live-sounding wood-walled drum room, his kit miked with a Shure 57 on snare, Sennheiser 421s on the kick and the toms (top and bottom), AKG 414s for overheads, Neumann U89s as room mics, in addition to “a mono room; some sort of ribbon.” Additionally, two large Yamaha speakers placed behind the kit were occasionally employed to pump samples of claps, kick drum and other sounds into the room for Jon Farriss to play along with. “That way, the samples wouldn’t sound so different from the drum kit,” Nicholas says. “They’d come out sounding like they were in the room.”

In the ample main room, the guitar amps were baffled and Beers’ bass cabinet put in an airlock. Nicholas double-miked the amps with a FET 47 and a Beyer 201 in an X-Y, “ran them up equal level and put them through an 1176 [limiter], and bingo—that’s all it needed; no EQ.”

Hutchence sang some scratch vocals with the band, but his keeper leads were cut later. “We wanted the vocal to be very, very close,” Nicholas says, “so I came up with this idea of using two AKG 451s in an X-Y, so it would be stereo, and then I took a split from that and put it through a [Yamaha] Rev 7 and had it on ‘phase.’ Michael’s vocal track ended up being four tracks, so when it was mixed it sort of wrapped around your head. It sounded amazing. Michael was usually a couple of takes and that was it; we’d comp them together and away we went.” Though some of the lead vocals on Kick were recorded during a week of sessions at Studio de la Grand Armée in Paris later in the process, “Need You Tonight” was cut entirely at Rhinoceros.

Minimal processing was used during the tracking. Besides the SSL pre’s, compressors and EQs, the studio had 1176s, LA4s and reverbs and delays including the Lexicon 224X and the AMS RMX-16.

Kick was mixed on another SSL 4K in London’s Air Studios (the Oxford Street location) by Bob Clearmountain, who was perhaps the most influential rock mixer of the day, having worked on epic-sounding discs by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Chic, David Bowie, Pretenders, Roxy Music, Huey Lewis & the News, Tears for Fears and many others. “I knew the band,” he says. “I had talked to them a couple of times about doing something with them but it didn’t work out. I always liked them, and of course Chris was this amazing producer with incredible instincts.”

Starting with Thomas’ “somewhat mono-ish” automated rough mixes, Clearmountain says that his role was mostly “adding little delays, including some tape delays, panning things more and expanding the dynamics he had already achieved. One of the things that’s fantastic about that album is it doesn’t just sit there. It jumps out and grabs you. I was totally knocked out by ‘Need You Tonight.’ That was an obvious single, as was ‘New Sensation.’ I remember going to work on the tube [the subway] in the morning and I couldn’t get ‘Need You Tonight’ out of my head. It was a fun time to be in London and working with that band.”

Speaking more generally about the making of the album, Nicholas says, “There was a really good feeling in the studio that this was going to be something big. The band had just come off a really successful tour of the U.S. on the back of Listen Like Thieves—which really broke them there—and they were on fire. They were in great form and all the planets were aligned. Chris and I were working well together, the band was happy and it was fun. When you make a record and you have a great time in the studio every day, it comes out on the record.”

“Need You Tonight” hit Number One in the U.S. in the fall of 1987 and was followed by three more Top 10 singles from Kick—“Devil Inside,” “New Sensation” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” The album made it to Number 3, selling more than 6 million copies in the U.S. alone. The 170-date support tour played to more than 3 million people worldwide.

A new, deluxe 25th anniversary Kick box set contains three CDs of music (lot of demos, B-sides, live tracks and remixes); a DVD with promo videos, a making-of documentary and rough “home movie” video tour footage; and a beautiful 80-page hardcover book about the album. There is also a two-CD music-only anniversary set and a limited edition red vinyl release available.

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