Thirty years ago, rock’s landscape changed forever. Classic Rock looks back at an amazing 12 months…
U2 - The Joshua Tree (March)
Moments before U2 took to the stage for the second night of their Joshua Tree 30 tour in the US (May 14, 2017), Bono sat down to talk about his band’s 1987 album. You should be touring the new album, Songs Of Experience, but instead you’re about to perform songs from The Joshua Tree which are thirty years old.
Bono: The world changed! Songs that we wrote in the first half of 2016 suddenly didn’t seem relevant in the light of the political upheaval last year. But these songs from 1987 took on a new relevance. So we’re doing this Joshua Tree 30 tour while we get ready to finish the new album.
What is it about The Joshua Tree songs that make them so relevant today in 2017?
Just look back to what we were singing in 1987 [he begins to sing from In God’s Country]: ‘Desert Sky, dream beneath a desert sky/The rivers run but soon run dry, we need new dreams tonight.’ Those songs now sound like they were written for this very moment. We really do need new dreams tonight! This is the way I feel now; the way I think everyone feels with all that is going on. If there’s an original idea out there we sure could use it. I think both the political left and right are a little stuck for solutions now.
What was the response to the songs on the opening night, in Vancouver?
There’s this new realisation playing these songs again, that after thirty years they don’t belong to us any more. They belong to the people who went through stuff when they heard them first. The audience reaction is very different this time. People are possibly remembering who they were when they first heard them.
Although you play the album track by track during the show, you start off by playing some songs that were released before The Joshua Tree. Why is that?
We wanted to show people how we got to The Joshua Tree. So we play a few songs from the War album and also The Unforgettable Fire album – songs such as Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year’s Day and Pride.
The original songs contained lyrics which were critical of the then US Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Do they work the same way this time with president Donald Trump?
It is my belief that there has been a hostile takeover of the Republican party – the party of Lincoln – by Donald Trump. While the people who voted for Trump are very welcome at the shows, the President himself is not.
Whitesnake - 1987 (April)
Classic Rock revisits Whitesnake’s hit-stuffed, game-changing seventh album 1987
Classic Rock once referred to 1987 (in America it was known simply as Whitesnake) as “the album that took David Coverdale from Redcar to Rodeo Drive”. Certainly few records have changed careers quite as dramatically as the seventh studio album from the former Deep Purple frontman.
Coverdale had spent almost a decade building his career from Purple’s ashes, with a band that really had been a band in the truest sense, but by 1984’s Slide It In, the US edition of which featured the former Thin Lizzy pretty boy John Sykes on guitar, he appeared to have hit a glass ceiling.
“In 1984 I broke all attendance and merchandise records in Europe, but I still lost three grand,” Coverdale moaned as he upped sticks and relocated to Hollywood. One by one the band’s longer-serving members were let go, sometimes ruthlessly. With not just one but both eyes on MTV, image was every bit as important as a player’s musicianship, and it seemed Coverdale decided some of them just didn’t look the part.
Together Coverdale and Sykes crafted an extraordinary slice of radio rock that bore scant comparison to the blues-laden years of yore. However, perhaps the biggest irony was that it took a re-recording of a song that had first appeared on the Saints & Sinners album, co-written with ’Snake guitarist Bernie Marsden, one of the men Coverdale had forced out (“Left, fired, whatever you want to call it,” Marsden once said of his exit), to prise open the cookie jar. Complete with tweaked lyrics – the word ‘hobo’ had been replaced by the more America-friendly and less open to misinterpretation ‘drifter’ – Here I Go Again topped the US singles chart in October 1987.
Coverdale married Tawny Kitaen, star of the videos for Here I Go Again, Still Of The Night and über-ballad Is This Love. Middle America clutched Coverdale and 1987 to their often artificial 38DDs. “The bigger my hair became, the more records I sold,” he exclaimed in 2000. “The 1987 album still holds the record at Warner Brothers – 365,000 copies between ten a.m. and midday in one morning.” The final total sales figure was eight million.
Of course this was due in so small part to John Sykes. Eight of the nine songs on the album’s UK edition were credited jointly to Coverdale and Sykes; Crying In The Rain, another reworking from Saints & Sinners, was witten solely by Coverdale (the remake of Here I Go Again was omitted from the UK edition).
Alas, for all of its commercial pulling power their relationship crackled due to tension, and we are unlikely to see it repeated.
In 2006, Sykes spoke of “twenty years of dick-dancing around with Coverdale”, and when Classic Rock asked him about the possibility of a reunion, the guitarist quipped: “I dunno, man. We might be better off setting up a boxing match instead. Back then we had great chemistry, but even then he wanted to go it alone and grab all of the glory himself.”
And yet, whether premeditated or pieced together through vanity or selfishness, the 1987 album still sound every bit as good today as it did when it was first released.
Anthrax - Among The Living (March)
Guitarist Scott Ian on Anthrax’s Among The Living
At the start of 1987, Anthrax had some catching up to do. The previous year had been thrash metal’s annus mirabilis, with landmark releases from Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, and the New Yorkers were in danger of being left behind.
“We weren’t worried,” guitarist Scott Ian insists today. “We’d played some of the songs from Among The Living on tour before we recorded the album and we’d seen how they were going over.”
As it turned out, Anthrax’s third album marked their jump to the big time. The success of 1985’s Spreading The Disease had landed them a deal with Island Records, leading to a big-name producer (Eddie Kramer) and glamorous recording studios in Miami and The Bahamas.
“But we still didn’t have a pot to piss in,” says Ian. “We weren’t drinking cocktails at sunset and living the Robert Palmer lifestyle.”
Among The Living certainly sounded more expensive than anything they’d made before. Musically it swung between gritty realism (anti-drugs tale Efilnikufesin (NFL)), Native American rights anthem Indians and cartoony thrash (Caught In A Mosh, I Am The Law). Both the title track and A Skeleton In The Closet were inspired by horror writer Stephen King.
“I’ve never met him, but he’s talked about Anthrax in interviews,” says Ian. “He’s said he’d crank Anthrax up loud so people would leave him alone when he sat to write. He name-checked us in a Dark Tower novel.”
Ironically, one of the most memorable songs wasn’t on the album. I’m The Man was a jokey hip-hop pastiche B-side that laid clear Anthrax’s long‑standing love of rap. “A lot of our peers would make fun of us for wearing Public Enemy T-shirts. There was an aggression to the beats that moved me in the same way metal did.”
Anthrax may have been slightly late to the party with Among The Living, but the album completed the Big Four jigsaw when it was released in March 1987. “Four or five of those songs have never been out of our set,” says Ian now. “I guess that shows it had staying power.”
Motley Crue - Girls Girls Girls (May)
For the first five years of their inelegantly wasted career, Mötley Crüe fooled most of the people only some of the time, putting cliché nasty-but-nice MTV metal over real-deal sweet-spot rock-fucking-out every time.But then suddenly, in May 1987, Mötley Crüe did something truly cock-joggling and unexpected and released Girls Girls Girls, a genuinely outstanding hookers-and-blow rock record. There’d always been the hookers and the blow, of course, only now it came wrapped in some of the greatest rock anthems of the 80s.
Gone were the stiff metal godz poses of their earlier albums. The war paint on their over-rouged faces finally given way to guitar-round-the-knees, hand up the skirt, arctic cool grooves.
It was the ‘outrageous’ video for the single Girls Girls Girls that set off the alarm. Set in a strip club with an endless parade of pole dancers doing their thang, honey, it became a talking point for every wrong-headed religious nutball in America. Like, where else would you set a Crüe video, dude? Viewed from a 21st-century perspective where real porn is a swipe of the phone away, the gals fawning over the leering presence of the band in the GGG video look positively tame.
It was hilarious at the time and it’s even funnier now. More seriously, though, not only did the album give Mötley Crüe their first huge international hit, it also became one of the touchstone albums of 1987, the year the real 80s rock revolution came kicking and screaming into life.
Heart - Bad Animals (May)
Good things come to those who wait. Or so the old saying goes. And it took Seattle quintet Heart well over a decade to become an overnight sensation in the UK. “With the original 70s band, over in the UK we were known as a heavy metal band,” remembers Howard Leese, Heart’s guitarist from 1975 to 1997. “The only thing they had really heard over in England and Europe was Barracuda.” Heart had been a substantial draw in the US since their debut album in 1976, yet despite a couple of forays to the UK and Europe this side of the pond had yet to be won over with their Led Zeppelin-esque fusion of folk and hard rock. But things – and Heart – had changed radically by the time 1987 rolled round.
Two years earlier, the band – now consisting of Ann and Nancy Wilson, Leese and rhythm section Denny Carmassi and Mark Andes – had undergone a reinvention for the MTV age. Gone were the acoustic guitars, the folksy lyrics, the Zep allusion, and in their place was the Heart album, full of big hair, big, glossy videos, big choruses and big hit-single smashes from outside writers (including their first US No.1 single, These Dreams). The band were bigger than they’d ever been at home.
The global breakthrough came with Bad Animals, the catalyst for the album’s success being a little ballad called Alone, written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. Singer Ann recalled hearing the song for the first time. “We were still resistant to the idea of outside writers,” she wrote in her autobiography, “but once Ron [Nevison, producer] played a cassette of Alone I needed no further convincing. I hadn’t written it, but it felt like my song.
“When it came to recording, Ron did his magic. He used extreme dynamics between the verse and the chorus, and our excellent drummer Denny Carmassi made the song more dramatic. Ron asked me to delay a moment before singing the chorus after the second verse, and to ad-lib. I wasn’t sure what to sing, so I let out a scream. It ended up being exactly the primal emotion the song needed to make it rock. I’d been singing Led Zeppelin songs for years, and now I had my own Robert Plant moment on record.”
Alone was a huge hit in the US, and became the second-biggest-selling single of the year in the UK.
“It was dramatic for us too, going from playing little theatres to three nights at Wembley,” Leese says of Heart’s eventual Brit breakthrough. “We all loved the British bands and the music, so never breaking through over there at first was a little bit disappointing. We really wanted it at some point.”
And in 1987, with the release of Alone and its parent album Bad Animals, they finally got it.
Marillion - Clutching At Straws (June)
Fish looks back at his swansong album with Marillion: Clutching At Straws
Marillion were never supposed to be pop stars. But that was the unlikely situation they found themselves in when they started recording their fourth album, Clutching At Straws.
“Kayleigh had been a huge hit,” their former singer Fish says of the band’s massive 1985 single. “But that put unforeseen pressure on us all. We were out on the road all the time – and I mean all the time. Drugs were coming into the picture. We weren’t getting on. And that’s what drove us apart.”
Where 1985’s Misplaced Childhood album had been Marillion’s commercial breakthrough album, Clutching At Straws was the sound of a band trying to deal with the aftermath. Misplaced Childhood had come together smoothly; this time around, writing sessions were tense and unproductive. “It was just awful,” says Fish. “People were getting tetchy.”
These tensions manifested themselves in the music, whether that was the downbeat melancholia of Warm Wet Circles or the anti-fascist anthem White Russians. Alcohol and drugs were prominent lyrically, frequently viewed through the eyes of the central character, Torch, a disillusioned, dissolute writer – and a barely disguised surrogate for Fish himself.
The remnants of Marillion’s prog rock beginnings had all but vanished by Clutching At Straws. This was a grown-up rock record, one that dealt with the eternal topics of romance, angst, death and the fleeting nature of youth. Even the seemingly upbeat single Incommunicado curled a sneering lip at the shallowness of fame, something Marillion had become increasingly familiar with. This was the sound of a band who hated what they had become.
Ultimately, Clutching At Straws proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and Fish quit the band the following year. Despite the acrimony that surrounded his departure, he retains fond memories of the album.
“Clutching At Straws is a brilliant album,” Fish says. “I prefer it to Misplaced Childhood. It’s very honest, very open, to the point where you go: ‘Fucking hell…’”
The Replacements - Pleased To Meet Me (April)
By 1987, Minneapolis band The Replacements had recorded a clutch of excellent records for their home-town indie label Twin/Tone, the best of which was 1984’s raggedly wondrous Let It Be, one of the all-time great American alt.rock albums. In ’86 they had signed to Seymour Stein’s Sire label (home also to the Ramones and Blondie) and made Tim, on which the songs of Paul Westerberg, their iconic, maverick frontman, became more well-honed and approachable. Afterwards, doomed co-guitarist Bob Stinson got his marching orders for regularly being too drunk to play them.
Their next record, Pleased To Meet Me, was the most comfortable marriage of The Replacements’ trailblazing but slipshod beginnings, and marked a new-found, fragile maturity. Recorded as a trio and produced by Dylan/Rolling Stones acolyte Jim Dickinson in Memphis, it moved between stinging rockers such as I.O.U., acoustic ballad Skyway and the brass-led R&B of Can’t Hardly Wait. Mostly, though, it recalled another great cult band that Dickinson had produced, Big Star, whose leader Alex Chilton both guested on and had a song named after him on Pleased To Meet Me, and who ultimately crashed and burned.
Pleased To Meet Me sold 300,000 copies, but The Replacements ground to a halt after two further, more downbeat albums. A reunion in 2013 ultimately fell apart too, sealing the band’s legacy as eternal nearly-men. “We were a band that was cool,” Westerberg reflected in 1993, “but that also made all the wrong moves.”
John Mellencamp - The Lonesome Jubilee (August)
More than a decade into a sometimes schizophrenic career, the artist first known as John Cougar, and then John Cougar Mellencamp, had hit paydirt with his eighth album Scarecrow in 1985. That had established him and his band as America’s heartland rockers of choice. “When we walked out on stage,” Mellencamp said some 30 years later, “there wasn’t a better band in the world. I don’t care who you name – U2, the Rolling Stones – we were better. And we knew it.”
For his next album, Mellencamp wanted to make a record that expanded his sound to take in trad-American folk and country colours, and that also summed up the blue-collar mood of his country at the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
When released in the summer of 1987, The Lonesome Jubilee was Mellencamp’s most richly sketched and influential records. The sound, and the homespun wisdom weaved into songs such as Paper In Fire and We Are The People, set a template for the next generation of country rockers.
It went on to become Mellencamp’s best seller, and was also the beginning of what proved to a long retreat from the mainstream and towards his current status as a cult-ish, grizzled old coot hailed by Johnny Cash as one of America’s 10 greatest ever songwriters.
Def Leppard - Hysteria (August)
Vega singer Nick Workman on Def Leppard’s “pure killer” Hysteria
“It’s fair to say I should have a T-shirt that says ‘Def Leppard ruined my life’. Up until I heard Hysteria, I was full-on set on being a footballer. In the school summer holiday in 1987, I heard Hysteria. It was a ‘stop me in my tracks’ moment. I loved music before then, but nothing had made my jaw drop. Then I heard Women and thought: ‘What the fuck is that?!’
“From that moment onwards I was hooked. It was the whole vibe of the album. It was like a soundtrack, it was so cinematic. Even now when I put Hysteria on, I can close my eyes and it takes me back to the sights and smells of when I first heard it. It’s the only album that does that to me. From that moment onwards, football went on the back burner and it was all about ripping up my jeans. The football boots went away, the scissors came out and the jeans got wrecked!
“For me they were the first rock band that became mainstream. I loved that every song was different on that album. The fact that every song had three choruses was amazing as well. The whole of side one was released as singles; every song on the album is pure killer. I’ve always loved Armageddon It… Gods Of War is a masterpiece, but the whole album is great.
“Even now, when we’re doing a new Vega album I listen to Hysteria to hear where they put certain things and how they worked the guitar parts.
“I think the album has aged really well because it’s just an album of good songs. You could say that Mutt Lange toned it down, guitar sound-wise, but it’s an album that’s in its own genre and its own time zone.
“There’s a bit of snobbery around Leppard and Hysteria and I don’t know why that is. I think in America Hysteria is held in higher regard than it is in the UK. In the UK there’s that snobbery, but bollocks to it.
“I’ve told Joe about the impact Hysteria had on me. I told him about the bollocking I got from my parents for ripping up a perfectly good pair of jeans to look like him, hoping he would chuck a few quid my way to replace them, but he never did – like a proper Yorkshireman [laughs].”
R.E.M. - Document (October)
Speaking to Rolling Stone on the eve of the release of Document, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck said: “We wanted to make a tougher-edged, loose, weird, semi live-in-the studio album. I don’t see this as the record that’s going to blast apart the chart, although you never know. Weirder things have happened.” Buck got it one part right. His band’s fifth album was more musically strident and direct than any of its predecessors, yet it also gave R.E.M. a Top 10 single in America with the brooding The One I Love, and went on to become their first platinum-seller.
Up until Document, R.E.M. had established a reputation as the American indie-rock band most likely to succeed, founded on a series of evocative-sounding records wrapped up in Buck’s ringing guitar and singer Michael Stipe’s oblique lyrical imagery.
Document was recorded in under a month in April 1986 in Nashville with future Nirvana producer Scott Litt. By and large, its 11 tracks ran to less than 40 minutes. Finest Worksong gets the record off to a raw, straight-ahead, clanging start, and the rest follows mostly in that vein. Stipe used fire as a recurring theme to stir up a singular vision of a world shot to hell, matched by Buck’s squalling guitar, most specifically on the breathless It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).
Within 14 months of Document’s release, R.E.M. had signed to Warner Bros and made the similarly user-friendly Green. Next, in 1991, they unleashed Out of Time, Losing My Religion… and ascended to become the most heralded band in the world.
Aerosmith - Permanent Vacation (August)
Although Permanent Vacation was a pivotal release for the band and generally accepted as the record that brought Aerosmith back to the top of their game and into the mainstream, its phenomenal success came as a direct consequence of Run DMC’s Toxic Twins-enhanced 1986 cover of Walk This Way. Orchestrated by Def Jam Records maestro Rick Rubin, who recognised the rap-presaging lilt of Aerosmith’s original version (the second single from their 1975 album Toys In The Attic), the success of Run DMC’s Walk This Way was immediate, universal and seismically influential on both rock and rap. It also revitalised Aerosmith’s stalled career in a way that their official 1985 ‘comeback’ Done With Mirrors simply hadn’t.
Prior to the collaboration, Run DMC had never heard of Aerosmith, yet, as Joe Perry saw it, “rap sounded like an offshoot of the blues and a very natural thing for us to come in and play on”.
However, Perry is not about to take credit for changing the course of history, admitting: “It was pretty thrown together. We had no idea of the importance of what we were doing.”
Not only were Aerosmith thrust back into the forefront of everyone’s consciousness by the success of Walk This Way – enjoying MTV ubiquity with the biggest radio hit of the previous year – they were also newly clean and sober.
Taking advantage of his uncharacteristically reasonable charges being freshly open to the concept of an unlikely collaboration, Geffen Records A&Rman John Kalodner suggested core writers Steven Tyler and Joe Perry work with outside songwriters. The rest, as they say, is chart history.
Working with producer Bruce Fairbairn and, on the tracks that truly mattered – Angel and Dude (Looks Like A Lady) – co-writer Desmond Child, the band captured a polished line in lascivious, licentious, loose-lipped, snake-hipped, funk-fuelled chutzpah that turned their flagging fortunes platinum and came to forever define them.
Elsewhere on the five-million-selling, appositely titled Permanent Vacation, Bryan Adams’s songwriting partner Jim Vallance provided lead hit Hangman Jury and, along with diva-armourer Holly Knight (who also supplied Tina Turner and Pat Benatar with ballistic hits The Best and Love Is A Battlefield respectively), Rag Doll.
Permanent Vacation marked a turning point in Aerosmith’s previously flatlined career and, lest we forget, Dude (Looks Like A Lady) brought them their first ever UK Top 50 chart single.
Guns N’ Roses - Appetite For Destruction (August)
Manics Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield on GN’R’s Appetite For Destruction
“I was eighteen in 1987, and I’d just come home to do my A-levels because I’d taken a year out. That summer, I was trying to earn money through busking and bar work, and I heard a couple of Guns N’ Roses songs on the Tommy Vance show. I remember going out and buying Appetite For Destruction on vinyl and utterly falling in love with it straight away. Which was strange for me because I’d been an indie kid, a Motown kid, a punk kid… I was into everything.
“But Appetite brought me back into the fold of hard rock. Even though there was a lot of hairspray, it quickly gave way to a kind of scuzzy street glamour. You realised there was something different about them. There was something malcontent about the whole thing, something sexy, and it just rolled with some kind of danger – it had a roll and a groove to it.
“I was obsessed with the guitar at that point, obsessed with The Clash, or trying to get Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols’ guitar sound. But then Appetite came along, and even though Slash is supremely unpassable technically, there was something to aspire to; there was a rough edge, a hangover from the Jimmy Page-esque style. There was an accessibility about Slash’s playing that you could try to copy if you worked hard. When I think back to that summer of learning Appetite on guitar, I was gloriously happy to be listening to something that communicated to me in such visceral terms. It was probably one of the best times of my life.
“Production-wise it’s a very crafted record. Mike Clink was producing, and the drum sound is very strange. If you listen to the start of Rocket Queen, it’s quite boomy, almost like the controlled essence of a canyon. And you can hear the interplay between Izzy and Slash – on something like Sweet Child Of Mine you can hear what Izzy’s doing and what Slash is doing.
“You can tell they were fighting against the Warrant Cherry Pie era that they were in – they wanted to reintroduce real rock’n’roll back into music. Of course, the engineering and production is very up to date with the 80s, but they moulded it into something quite authentic.
“There were parts of [Manics’ 1992 debut] Generation Terrorists where I tried to do Slash stuff: Condemned To Rock ’N’ Roll has Slash on it. He was the new guitar god for me by that point.
“So I’d spent these years adoring Guns N’ Roses, and then for our first American gig we were playing the Limelight in New York and Blind Melon were supporting us. He [singer Shannon Hoon] had a link-up with Guns N’ Roses by then. We were on stage three hours late, and he suddenly said: “Oh, Slash is in the crowd.” It was an awful gig. We were truly awful. As we went on, all we could see was Slash’s top hat, and I could see him leaving through the back entrance as we went on stage.
“These days I listen to the album in the car, in the house. I dust down the vinyl once every three months or so. And it doesn’t sound like an eighties record. They escaped that era of hair straight away. They went: ‘Fuck that, we’re fucked-up street urchins, we are rock’n’roll.’ They don’t sound like any other band. It’s just timeless.”
Dinosaur Jr. - You’re Living All Over Me (December)
Dinosaur Jr’s self-titled first album, released in 1985 and made for just $500, was noisy, unrefined and barely made an impression. The Amherst, Massachusetts trio’s follow-up was an altogether different beast. By 1987, singer/guitarist J Mascis had imposed his iron will on the band, ceding bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph into subordinate roles, which allowed his more classic rock-minded tendencies a freer reign.
Recorded largely in New York with Sonic Youth’s regular engineer Wharton Tiers, You’re Living All Over Me sounded rather like an incarnation of Black Sabbath in which both Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi had somehow been replaced by a somnambulant Neil Young.
All but one of its nine songs coalesced around Mascis’s drawled vocals and his hurricane-force guitar, erupting up from unexpectedly delicate melodies through a powerful battery of distortion and effects pedals.
This quiet-loud-explosive structuring, signalled on agenda-setting opening track Little Fury Things, had an instant and profound impact on American alt.rock going into the next decade. In the Pacific North-West especially, Mudhoney, Tad and another trio from Aberdeen, Washington – a certain Nirvana – came right along in its wake.
Mascis, whose immense control over his band-mates extended to dictating each drum beat to the cowed Murph, had just the one trick, but he was a such a master of it that he almost single-handedly broke the warp-speed, noise-for-noise’s sake orthodoxy that then governed the American rock underground. He himself, however, put Dinosaur’s newfound looser, less regulated vibe down to another factor. “We’d had sex,” Mascis reasoned. “You lose the thrashing drive after sex.”
The following year, Dinosaur broke through into the indie mainstream with their Freak Scene single. Barlow left soon after in acrimonious circumstances and decided to concentrate on his side-band, Sebadoh.
Mascis meanwhile signed Dinosaur to major-label Warners Bros and enjoyed cult success, but nothing like the enormous lift-off of his grunge disciples. He retired the Dinosaur name in 1997, but the original line-up was reunited in 2005 and has continued ever since ploughing a distinctive furrow.
Kiss - Crazy Night (September)
Paul Stanley looks back at Kiss’s UK breakthough album, Crazy Nights
“I’m not crazy about the sound of the album. There were certain things going on around that time. I was a one-man band so to speak, I was writing the majority of the material. There are certain things I wasn’t crazy about, but Crazy Nights was a great song, it’s a terrific song, and it’s one of those anthems that seems to get better with age. Playing it on this tour has been fabulous.
“As much as I loved the make-up, part of me craved to be out there without make-up, because everyone wants recognition, everyone wants to walk into a club and be seen, and it made pulling the girls easier too.
“The first time we came over and played Hammersmith Odeon it was huge for us. I’m such an Anglophile. Before I came over here I would take the subway and the bus to an international newsstand to get NME, Sounds and Melody Maker to read about this magical place called England and all these great bands, so it’s always been the holy land, so to speak.
“Each album for a certain segment is an introduction to the band – if that’s when people came to the party, then that’s what they remember as the initial impact. There are very few albums that I’m really not that crazy about; Crazy Nights is fine. It’s not one of my favourites but the [title] song itself is glorious. It’s glorious to hear the fans sing it every night. I love it.
“If we’re talking about the whole album, there are certain aspects, whether it’s the sound of it or the circumstances around doing the album, that might not be optimal for me, but any album that produces a song like Crazy Nights is good for me!”
INXS - Kick
Kick propelled INXS from the college circuit to stadiums by ticking all the right boxes at the right time. The Australian group, formed in the late 70s, had risen through the bar band scene playing Stonesy rock, but they’d always paid more attention to the beat than their generally sloppier rivals. But they were looking for something more strident, more individual, and they found it at the end of sessions for 1985’s Listen Like Thieves, when they needed another song.
They exhumed a funky demo and set to work on it with producer Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, Pretenders), toughening up the beat and layering rock rhythms on top. “It had this balls-to-the-wall chorus and a funk-rock beat that worked so well together,” recalls keyboard player and songwriter Andrew Farris. When it came to writing songs for Kick, they followed a similar pattern: setting up a groove, tightening it up then adding the rock’n’roll rhythms and choruses. “We were very excited about the idea of overlaying two types of songs and genres together,” says Farris.
The beats and rhythms contained their own sinewy tensions and Hutchence’s snarling, sensual vocals provided a distinctive touch. Once they’d scored the first hit with Need You Tonight the rest just tumbled out: Devil Inside, New Sensation, Never Tear Us Apart.
But for all the 80s production gloss on Kick, the feel remains essentially live. “The band is performing live in the studio,” says Farris. “You can pretty much play the album as a bar band.”