Wednesday, 13 July 2016

25 years on from Summer XS

Following the huge international success of their album Kick, INXS toured it extensively starting in August 1987 and running through to November 1988 (including five UK dates during June).  Understandably burned out by the end, the band took a year off during which most members started musical side projects, before reconvening to record X, which was released in September 1990.
INXS, 1991
from left - Jon Farriss (drums/keyboards), Garry Gary Beers (bass), Tim Farriss (guitar), Michael Hutchence (vocals), Andrew Farriss (keyboards, guitar, harmonica), Kirk Pengilly (guitar, saxophone, vocals)
On the strength of Kick, the profile of the band had been steadily rising and it’s perhaps difficult now to remember just how big INXS were at that time.  Kick peaked at number 2 in Australia, number 9 in the UK and number 3 in the US album charts and was certified Platinum in Australia (x7), the UK, the US and Switzerland, was a Gold record in France, Germany and Hong Kong and Diamond in Canada (a category Tim Farris later admitted he didn’t even know existed - it apparently represents sales of 1m).  Total sales to date are approximately 12.8m copies.

X had a lot to live up to and opened well, reaching number 2 in the UK and number 5 in the US charts, racking up plenty of sales along the way - Platinum in Australia (x2), the US (x2) and the UK, hitting Gold in Germany and France.  Combined with the X Tour, it managed to spend an aggregate of eight months on the UK chart, returning to the Top 40 in July 1991.

In 1988, Michael Hutchence met soap-opera star and singer Kylie Minogue and when they ran away together in 1989, it brought the band to a whole new audience and level of publicity.  In 1991, INXS received a Grammy nomination for 'Best Rock Performance by a Group', whilst USA Today reported they were tied for second place as 'musical artists with the most videos played on MTV' (at the time, they had 37 different clips).  At the 1991 Brit Awards in March, INXS won 'Best International Group' (having previously been nominated in 1989) and Hutchence won 'Best International Male'.  They were also recognised as 'Best International Band' at the first Australian Music Awards.

The X Tour kicked off in October 1991 at the Mackay Entertainment Centre in North Queensland.  It hit the UK on November 25th with two nights at London Docklands Arena, a four night run at Wembley Arena, four nights at Birmingham NEC (where Alison & I would see them in 1997 as part of the Elegantly Wasted Tour), one night each at SECC in Glasgow (should have been two but the first was cancelled by weather), Manchester GMEX, Brigton (The Brighton Centre) and Bournemouth (Bournemouth International Centre) before two nights at The Point Theatre in Dublin.  The UK dates ended in January and, in all, the tour played to 1.2m fans through 80 cities over four continents.

After a successful ‘homecoming’ leg in Australia during April and May, INXS returned to Europe for a series of headlining festival shows from 28th June through to 16th July, the highpoint of which (according to most band members) was the 13th July sold-out show at Wembley Stadium.

So the stage was set, with Summer XS taking place six years to the day after Live Aid had been staged at Wembley Stadium, as INXS continued to enjoy rock giant status both in the UK and around the world.  And I was there.
My now slightly sun-bleached ticket - look at that price!
Saturday 13th July 1991 was warm but overcast.  I’d stayed up late the night before to watch the excellent Dogs In Space, which starred Michael Hutchence and was written & directed by Richard Lowenstein, who directed a lot of INXS videos from Burn For You onwards (his latest was Suicide Blonde, from the X album).  I was quite excited, since my then-girlfriend Liz (who had seen INXS at one of their Wembley Arena gigs in late 1990) had talked me into going to see the show and raved about them - slightly older, she was a fan of long-standing.  I knew of them, of course - I started going to nightclubs in 1986 so I was around as Kick broke out - and I bought X on vinyl a couple of weeks before the gig and really enjoyed it.

Me & Liz, 1991 - I wore that t-shirt a lot!
I picked up Liz and then her friends teenaged daughter (who took her friend), we piled into my Fiat Panda and took off down the M1, listening to an INXS mix-tape Liz had made.  By the time we reached the North Circular, we were all singing along as the signs for Jellyfish, one of the supporting bands, started to appear.  In fact, they were on pretty much every lamp-post we passed.

We parked in the multi-storey next to the stadium, crossed the bridge, found our gate and settled down as we waited to be let in.  The girls were chatty, Liz & I talked and watched the world go by, we went on memorabilia buying sprees and ate our lunch.  Finally the gates opened and we legged it - it was the first time I’d ever been to Wembley so of course I took the opportunity to run onto the (covered over pitch) and pretend I was representing England.  As did so many other blokes my age it became silly.

The four of us made our way towards the front and found some seats to the left of the stage, close enough that we could see people up there (if not clearly), though the huge video monitors would also come in handy as the day wore on.  The festival feel was maintained by having a whole host of bands on the programme which started in the early afternoon (INXS came onstage at about 8.45).  Another of my main reasons to go was the fact that Debbie Harry was playing and I’d been a Blondie fan since the late 70s, though I'd been too young to get to any of their concerts.

The Summer XS line-up was:
Jellyfish - don’t remember anything of their set at all, though they were apparently “a melodic San Francisco rock band” (and got in trouble for plastering their posters everywhere)
Roachford - who were excellent, I went onto the pitch for a dance when they played
Jesus Jones - didn’t like them before I went, didn’t like them any better when I left
Deborah Harry - who I adored.  I left the girls in the seats and pushed my way as far to the front as I could possibly get and then rocked out with the best of them.  She played 11 songs and ended her set with the superb “Atomic”.  Fantastic.
Hothouse Flowers - who were better live, I thought, than when I’d heard them on the radio

The INXS show was being recorded as part of the Live Baby Live project, under the supervision of Mark Optiz and the band’s manager, Chris Murphy decided it should be filmed as well.  In an interview at the time, he said that although he thought X was good “the band had grown lazy, the news songs were too slick and too much like Kick.  I was worried.  I knew I had to do something to bring it back to the basics, back to the strengths of the band.  Doing the film and releasing the live record accomplished that.  It was a way to remind the public of how powerful INXS was live, in case they’d written them off as a band who only released pop songs.”

INXS spent £250,000 filming the concert whilst Murphy convinced Polygram, their European record label, to stump up the rest.  On the night, the fact the band was barely breaking even on the show weighed heavily on Andrew Farriss, though he has since revised his opinion.  “I am so glad we did it,” he said in interview with Anthony Bozza.  “Thank God we did, that same band is not here any more.  Michael is not here any more.”  Andrew was so overcome with expectation of the event, he famously escaped to a bathroom where he spent ten minutes alone, enjoying a beer and smoking a cigarette.  In documentary footage, Michael Hutchence comments that the gig is making £1m and he was only getting £5k of that.

Murphy hired David Mallet to film the concert and he used sixteen 35mm cameras, including two on roving helicopters, to capture everything.  At the time, Mallet was an up-and-coming talent who’d cut his teeth on promo videos for Queen (Bicyle Race in 1978 and I Want To Break Free in 1984, which Brian May credits with the band losing US fans), Blondie (Hanging On The Telephone in 1978), a host of Bowie videos (including the iconic Ashes To Ashes in 1980) and many more.  His work on Bowie’s Glass Spider tour in 1988 and Madonna’s Blond Ambition in 1990 convinced Murphy he was their man.  Mallet also shot the video for Shining Star in 1991 and has since gone on to a strong career in concert films.
By the time INXS came on stage, I was ready.  Opening with two big songs from Kick got me into it straight away and they followed up with a few songs from X that were fresh in my mind but it was Original Sin that locked it for me, vibrant and alive with the all-out jam session at the end.  I do remember loving the rest of the gig, I remember being invigorated by the whole thing though I must confess that most of my memory of the show itself now comes from the DVD.  But no matter - as Mark Opitz said in interview, the band were incredible on the night and they were.  In fact, watching the film again (as I did when I wrote this post), they were clearly on fire and for a first gig by a band relatively new to me, I couldn’t have asked for anything better!
Lately (with a beautiful sax part opening from Kirk Pengilly) followed Original Sin in real life but it was never filmed (it’s an extra on the DVD).  Then came The Loved One, which remains one of my all-time favourite songs and it was launched with an introduction from Hutchence.  “This is a big gig.  Really happy to be here, la-di-da-di-dah - this is the biggest pub we’ve ever played.  Is this what they call a fucking rave or what?
The show is superb - in sound and vision - and Mallet’s cameras catch it well, with plenty of highlights to savour.  During the opening to Mystify, the crowd sing along so Hutchence stops and holds out the microphone towards them and they bounce around once the band kicks in.  How cool must it be to see an audience do that for one of your songs?  There’s the moshpit run during Wild Life, the crowd going mad for Suicide Blonde, Hutchence kissing Andrew Farriss at the start of What You Need (which also includes the "play the fucking riff, Timmy!” incident).  Kick, Need You Tonight and Never Tear Us Apart sound huge and the set concludes with the best version I’ve ever heard of Devil Inside - the band always used to close on Don’t Change and whilst that would have been good, it really works well as it is.

“We had already headlined at plenty of stadiums and festivals, but this was different. Wembley is the most prestigious stadium in Europe - if not the world - and it was going to be magical. There were 16 cameras, 72,000 extremely psyched people and some great opening bands and we were ready to turn Wembley Stadium into the biggest pub on the planet.”
- Kirk Pengilly

“For us as Australians, Wembley was always thought of as one of those place you knew you that you wanted to play - if you were lucky.  To even have the opportunity to perform there was a dream.  There were something like 200 people backstage which was a bigger crowd than some of the pubs we'd played in! It was nuts and I couldn't really take it all in.”
- Andrew Farriss

“This gig was a prize; it meant that all those years of touring, playing gigs the world over paid off this one night.  We had played many concerts that were bigger but selling out Wembley Stadium was a prestigious hallmark for us, especially considering England’s affection towards INXS took years to develop.”
- Jon Farriss

“When we took part in Live Aid in 1985 it was made all the more special knowing that our performance was being projected onto the large screens at Wembley Stadium.  Wembley was the pinnacle of venues around the world, the place you read about in music magazines growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.  To sell out Wembley Stadium was certainly a dream come true.”
- Garry Gary Beers

“It was INXS Day on BBC Radio, MTV, you name it, we were everywhere you looked or listened, it was kind of surreal, which is always a good thing.  The whole gig was kind of like a big pressure cooker of 'let's see just how nervous we can make the band', but the tension had the opposite effect on me. I had to struggle to keep the smile off my face.”
 - Tim Farriss

Selling out Wembley Stadium was a big deal - AC/DC are the only other Australian band to do the same.  INXS had played the venue before, supporting Queen during the “Kind Of Magic” tour in July 1986 (which I didn't see, though had the opportunity to - really wish I had done now).

According to Billboard magazine, the concert grossed £1,426,617 and the audience was a sell-out capacity of 73,791.

The day after arguably one of their biggest gigs ever, the band and Mark Opitz recorded Shining Star (which Andrew Farriss had written on the road) at London’s Metropolis Studios.

* * * * *
Live Baby Live, the live CD and concert film video, were both released on 11th November 1991 (when I bought my copies). The film, which looks glorious but isn't in widescreen (presumably since TV's weren't set up for that then)  is well-edited and perfectly captures the scale of the event (shots of the crowd and stadium) without missing any of the intimate bits - such as the little nods between Kirk Pengilly and Tim Farriss (plus the fabulous ear signals during What You Need as Hutchence sings “Hey you, don’t you listen” and Kirk gestures to Tim, who had screwed up his riff).  It also captures the sheer energy of the show, the tightness of the musicianship and the real sense of camaraderie amongst the band.  For me, watching it on VHS back in the day was a revelation - I thought I’d picked up a lot from the video monitors (and I thought Kirk was the coolest thing ever in his red suit and black shades) - but I clearly hadn't.  I'm happy to say that even now I still find new bits every time I watch it.

Track Listing:

"Guns in the Sky"
"New Sensation"
"I Send a Message"
"The Stairs"
"Know the Difference"
"Disappear"
"By My Side"
"Hear That Sound"
"Original Sin"
"The Loved One"
"Wildlife"
"Mystify"
"Bitter Tears"
"Suicide Blonde"
"What You Need"
"Kick"
"Need You Tonight"
"Mediate"
"Never Tear Us Apart"
"Who Pays the Price"
"Devil Inside"

On the re-issue, there’s an excellent 40 minute behind-the-scenes documentary which shows the band in preparation for the gig with a real sense of nervous excitement about them all, which is refreshing to see.

The Live Baby Live album reached number 8 in the UK, number 3 in Australia and number 72 in the US (though it sold over 1m copies there).  Shining Star, the single recorded directly after the concert and the only new material on the album (it’s heard over the closing credits of the DVD), was released on 2nd November.  It reached number 31 in the UK, number 21 in Australia and 14 in the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.  The CD single was backed with live versions of Send A Message (from Summer XS), Faith In Each Other (Sydney 1990) and Bitter Tears (Paris 1991).

The album - produced by INXS and Mark Opitz - featured several songs recorded at Wembley, as well as highlights from gigs in Paris, Dublin, Glasgow, Rio de Janeiro (“Hey, hey Rio?” before launching into Suicide Blonde), Montreal, Spain, Switzerland, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Las Vegas.
Track Listing:

"New Sensation"
"Guns in the Sky"
"Mystify"
"By My Side"
“Shining Star”
"Need You Tonight"
"Mediate"
“One X One”
“Burn For You”
“The One Thing”
“This Time”
"The Stairs"
"Suicide Blonde"
"Hear That Sound"
"Never Tear Us Apart"
"What You Need"



Summer XS memorabilia - taken from the DVD insert

The Radio One broadcast is available on YouTube as are most of the songs, many of them through the official INXS channel.

As I mentioned above, this is the song that did it for me...
Still one of my all-time favourite songs...
Listen to that crowd!
"Play the fucking riff, Timmy!"
This is how to close a show!

Part of the DVD documentary, showing the audience gathering.  I wonder if I'm in one of those shots?

An excellent gig and an excellent memory, a great band at the top of their game and I'm chuffed to have been there.


sources:
band interviews from the Live Baby Live DVD re-issue liner notes, no credit (released by Sanctuary Visual Entertainment)
INXS: The Official Inside Story Of A Band On The Road, text by Ed St. John
Gig information from Billboard Magazine
Story To Story: The Official INXS Autobiography, by INXS and Anthony Bozza

16 comments:

  1. Reading your story was almost like being there myself! Thank you so much for sharing it with the world!

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  2. I was there that day too. I have vague recollections of getting to the stadium and watching the support acts.

    I'm so glad the gig was released on video as it gives everyone who was there that day a permament remimder of a truly memorable and amazing concert.

    Thanks for writing such an excellent report of the day.

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Did you spot yourself on the documentary?

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  3. Hi - I was there too and remember River City People opening the show. It sticks in my mind because I had seen them a few weeks before in a tiny club where I was so close to Tim Speed ( the guitarist ) that his sweat nearly fell on me & then the next time I see them is at Wembley. This is almost certainly the best DAY of music I have ever been to - as you say Roachford was great too. I love Hothouse Flowers & have seen them live but don't remember them playing. Would have been nice if they had added one song from each of the support acts to give a flavour of the the whole day - it was like a festival than just a concert. I will never forget it.

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    1. Thanks Steve - and you're right, it was more like a festival! Great day!

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  4. Never posted anything b4, just felt the need. What a day! Though can't believe it was that long ago. To share that experience with so many. Hope everyone had a great time,as I did. The whole concert was amazing and Inxs were the icing on the cake.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it! It doesn't seem all that long ago really, does it. Glad you had a great day too!

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  5. was nice to read this, was an amazing gig. I was almost as excited about Jesus Jones as I was INXS, both were amazing.

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  6. Thanks for the memories Mark. I'm sitting here with friends in Sydney discussing the best concerts we've been to and of course summer XS sprung to mind. A good friend and I were there and remember the mad dash across the Wembley pitch, making it to the front row & staying there, squashed up against the safety barrier for 10 hours refusing to give up our spot for anyone until we could rock out with INXS. Such a hot, sweaty experience for two 17yr old boys from the suburbs!

    I have the DVD too & despite being in the front row and pausing it 1000 times I can't see us anywhere - but the memories are all there. Thanks for bringing it all back ��

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    1. That's fantastic, thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it! Were you over here for the summer?

      Ironically enough, I got notification of this yesterday when I was back in London and we were just about to watch "Dogs In Space" as part of the Regent Street Cinema's OzFest season!

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  7. Hi Mark,

    Love your post! Was just about to ask if you minded us sharing it, and perhaps using the picture of your ticket on social media to promote an Oz Film Fest one-off screening of Live Baby Live, and then I see you came to see Dogs in Space in the Summer!

    So, yeah, we're putting Michael Hutchence back up on the Regent St Cinema screen, along with the rest of INXS, for a screening of the Wembley concert on the afternoon of October 22nd, partly to tie in to the celebrations around the 30th anniversary of Kick. It should be pretty amazing.

    Anyway, if you don't mind, I'd love to share your post with our Twitter followers, and perhaps use that image of your ticket, if that's okay?

    I look forward to your reply, and I hope you might be able to make it down to the Regent St Cinema on October 22nd to relive the magic all over again!

    All the best,

    Steve
    Oz Film Fest

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    1. Hi Steve

      Please share away and you're more than welcome to use the image of my ticket, that'd be fantastic! Loved the cinema and the screening of "Dogs In Space" and the "Live Baby Live" showing sounds fantastic, I'd love to see that on the big screen (especially as I'm planning a big blogpost for Kick!).

      Cheers
      Mark

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  8. It was my 2nd ever gig, I was 18 years old in the summer of 91. Still have the ticket stub and the same black t-shirt. When the gates opened, my best friend and I also raced towards the front. I recall the gates opened soon after 11am, with Jellyfish taking the stage about an hour later. It was a long day. And a hot one! I remember the crowd being sprayed with water to help keep everyone cool. Roachford were outstanding. I remrmber thinking that Debbie Harry looked old, but she was probably only about 40! We fought our way out to the right of the stage to go and buy some food and a pint, then miracoulosly managed to fight our way back to our same spot about 6 or 7 metres from the front of the stage. I too have watched the film many many times, expecting to see myself in the crowd, but to no avail! I remember INXS starting with Guns In The Sky - and everyone lurching forward. We did well to keep on our feet as if we had fallen we would have been trampled. Then New Sensation started and everyone started jumping. It was exhilarating! After so many hours on our feet, the concert seemed to pass quickly once INXS had taken the stage. It may be 26 years ago, but I remember it clearly. Without doubt the best gig I have ever been to, and I have been lucky enough to see the likes of Prince, Madonna, U2 etc. My over-riding memory is just how tightly everyone was packed in. I guess health and safety concerns these days limit the amount of people on the floor, at least without safety barriers. I do miss the old Wembley stadium!

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment Marchaco and for leaving your memories here, it clearly was a wonderful day for so many people! Did you get to see INXS again? And like you, I miss the old Stadium...

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