“Are you ready for a new sensation…”

Rock and roll rule #247: Band members that meet in schoolyard fistfights are usually in it for the long haul. Case in point: The six original members of Australia’s INXS stayed together through fifteen years and thirteen albums, and would have surely kept going, were the streak not broken by singer Michael Hutchence’s tragic death in 1997.

After Andrew Farriss saved Hutchence from the clutches of a class bully at their Sydney, Australia high school, he recruited the future-stage-swaggerer for his band called the Farriss Brothers. And when Jon, youngest of the three Farriss boys and resident drummer, had to move with his parents to Perth so that he could finish high school in 1978, the rest of the band (Hutchence, with Garry Beers and Kirk Pengilly) loyally followed suit.

After two years of writing and rehearsing and playing local Perth pubs, INXS (a name suggested by Midnight Oil manager Garry Morris, then shortened by the boys so that it would loom larger on their posters) moved back to Sydney and hit the pub scene anew. They got a record deal with Deluxe in 1980, and released their eponymous debut. 1981’s Shabooh Shoobah was their U.S. debut, and thanks to zealous touring (opening for bands like Midnight Oil, the Kinks and Adam and the Ants) and the single “Don’t Change,” they were definitely on the up-and-up, as was their brand of dance rock sound. 1984’s Listen Like Thieves, and its single “What You Need,” finally pushed them into the mainstream and very close to the top of the U.S. charts.

American audiences, like the Aussies had been doing for years, took a big liking to Hutchence and his sexy stage presence. And never mind all the jaded critics’ comparisons to an onstage swagger a la Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison-the kids watching INXS were too young to know about the Lip or Lizard Kings.

1987’s Kick was the band’s biggest success yet. Their aggressive touring had laid the groundwork for a warm international reception, especially in the States. The record had four hits singles: “Need You Tonight,” “Devil Inside,” “New Sensation” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” Those, in addition to their MTV presence, their sleek rock sound, and Hutchence’s sex appeal led to sales (and screaming fans) in the millions. Unfortunately, its follow-up, titled X, was a commercial letdown.

The band signed with PolyGram in 1994, and for the next few years worked on their new album, Elegantly Wasted, which was a modest commercial success. Hutchence, who was rumored to have been working on a collections of songs for a solo project, graced the tabloids frequently and would sadly earn the biggest headlines after his 1997 death. His self-titled solo album was released posthumously in late 1999.

The old band recorded new material, and remixed some unreleased material, in 1998. They also played on stage without their original frontman for the first time that year, with singer Jimmy Barnes. A number of other singers would appear with the band as well, who claim they will forge on. And while their many faithful fans certainly wish them well, we’ll always miss our favorite New Generation swaggerer.

If you count INXS as one of your all-time favorite 80s bands, we’d love to hear your memories and recollections in our comments section below.

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