Six members of the band INXS, pictured standing side by side, dressed in black and posing for a publicity image.

INXS' The Swing turns 40

INXS The Swing 40th Anniversary

 Crispian Winsor

NFSA Curator Crispian Winsor marks the 40th anniversary of The Swing, the chart-topping album that put INXS on the path to global stardom.


INXS’ fourth album The Swing was released in Australia on 21 March 1984.

A poster for the album The Swing by INXS featuring images of the band members.
Promotional poster for the INXS album The Swing (1984). Courtesy: Truism Pty Ltd. NFSA title 784024

Before The Swing, INXS had been steadily garnering success at home. Singles like 'Just Keep Walking' from their debut album in 1980, 'Stay Young' from Underneath the Colours in 1981, and 'The One Thing' and 'Don’t Change' from Shabooh Shoobah in 1982 crackled with promise but performed modestly.

Shabooh Shoobah did reach No. 5 in Australia, but The Swing soared to the top of the charts, holding the position for five non-consecutive weeks across April and May 1984, briefly interrupted only by Cold Chisel's Twentieth Century.

The album featured the top 5 Australian singles ‘Original Sin’, 'I Send a Message' and 'Burn for You' and the top 40 single, 'Dancing on the Jetty', with even lesser-known gems like 'Melting in the Sun' and 'Johnson’s Aeroplane' contributing to the album's overall strength.

But ‘Original Sin’ was its lightning rod, catapulting to No. 1 in Australia and France, while also charting in several other countries. Produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers, fresh off his work on David Bowie's smash hit album Let’s Dance (1983), 'Original Sin' stood out as the sole track on the album bearing his signature touch. Farriss' guitar work took centre stage, delivering sharp funk riffs and serrated counterpoints, prominently showcased in the extended album version. Hutchence's vocals reached sublime heights, particularly notable in the song's expansive coda. As a bonus, the track featured backing vocals by Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates fame).

The rest of the album was masterfully helmed by British producer Nick Launay, known for his contributions to successful albums by Australian acts like Midnight Oil's 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (1982) and Models' The Pleasure of Your Company (1983). As described by Launay in the book 100 Best Australian Albums, The Swing marked a quantum shift for INXS. Their ‘post-punk affectations and New Romantic plumage were now fading away, revealing a rock band with funk leanings and pop instincts’.

The Swing is widely regarded as a turning point for the band, opening the way for continued success in overseas markets. In the United States, both Shabooh Shoobah and The Swing reached No. 52 on the US Billboard 200 album chart, while it achieved No. 6 in New Zealand and No. 14 in France.

In this clip from the music documentary INXS: The Swing and Other Stories (1986), Michael Hutchence explains their love for the band Chic and how Nile Rodgers from that band became involved in producing 'Original Sin':

Excerpt from the documentary INXS: 'The Swing' and Other Stories, 1986. Courtesy: Truism Pty Ltd. NFSA title: 1631560


This song marked the first time they deliberately focused on combining funk and rock sounds, which they later explored more fully in songs like 'What You Need' and 'Need You Tonight'. While 'Original Sin' was produced by Nile Rodgers, the rest of the album was handled by British producer Nick Launay. In this clip, Michael Hutchence and Tim Farriss discuss Launay's style:


Excerpt from the documentary INXS: 'The Swing' and Other Stories, 1986. Courtesy: Truism Pty Ltd. NFSA title: 1631560


Farriss suggests the album was overproduced and needed a rawer feel, but Hutchence appreciated the rich sound Launay achieved, leading to the album's remarkable success for INXS at that time.


Excerpt from oral history interview with musician Andrew Farriss by NFSA curator Thorsten Kaeding, 2015. NFSA title: 1663831


Most INXS songs were penned by vocalist Michael Hutchence and keyboard player Andrew Farriss. As their international success burgeoned with their third album, Shabooh Shoobah, they aimed to infuse their songwriting with more depth. This ambition bore fruit with their timeless hit from The Swing, 'Original Sin,' which topped the charts in Australia in January 1984.

While Michael Hutchence never fully dissected the song's lyrics, they hint at themes of race and intergenerational ignorance. In the oral history excerpt above from 2015, recorded with Andrew Farriss at the NFSA, he delves into the song's genesis and the backlash the band faced in America due to its lyrical content.


Main image: Detail from promotional poster for INXS albums Shabooh Shoobah and The Swing, 1984. Courtesy: Truism Pty Ltd. NFSA title: 445093