Need You Tonight
by INXS

Album: Kick (1987)
Charted: 2 1

Songfacts®:

  • "Need You Tonight" is basically a musical booty call, with lines that could work if you're Michael Hutchence ("All you got is this moment," "There's something about you girl that makes me sweat"), but would get the rest of us laughed out of the room. It's not clear how his night ends, but he takes his best shot at the end:

    I've got to let you know
    You're one of my kind


    Hutchence didn't overthink it - he wrote the lyric in one night.
  • For the Kick album, INXS tried a different approach, with Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss (multi-instrumentalist for the band) doing all the songwriting. They wrote "Need You Tonight" and a few other tracks on the album at a studio in Hong Kong, where they worked for two weeks. Farriss came up with the rhythm track on a Roland 707 drum machine in a flash just before leaving for the airport - he was still working on it when the cab driver arrived, so he had the cabbie wait while he recorded a quick demo on cassette.

    In Hong Kong, he played Hutchence the cassette and Michael wrote the lyrics on the spot in about an hour, creating a sensual storyline to fit the mood of the music. Farriss brought his drum machine with him and was able rebuild the track, adding the guitar riff and a bass line he played on a keyboard bass. With Hutchence adding vocals, they recorded a proper demo of the song that they took back to Sydney, where they recorded it with their bandmates. The way the song came together that day was the same way they recorded it. The drum machine stayed, but their live drummer, Jon Farriss (one of three brothers in the band), added cymbals, toms and fills.
  • This was the song that launched INXS to global stardom. They had released five albums and were huge in their native Australia, but were just starting to get noticed in most other countries. Many Americans knew the band from their MTV hit "What You Need," but they had little draw in that country. Atlantic Records knew the Kick album was a chance to break them in America, but the label pushed back when they heard the album, deeming it out of touch. INXS' manager, Chris Murphy, addressed their concerns by setting up a tour of American colleges to promote "Need You Tonight" as the first single. If this small-scale effort went well, Atlantic could put more promotional might behind the album knowing it had at least a niche audience.

    So, when the single and album were released in October 1987, INXS was dispatched to places like Kalamazoo, Michigan and Poughkeepsie, New York, where they played colleges. As hoped, the tour got a great reaction and college radio stations jumped on "Need You Tonight." Their fears assuaged, Atlantic pushed the song to commercial radio stations, which added it to their playlists. MTV put the video in hot rotation, and on January 30, 1988, "Need You Tonight" went to #1 in America. "Devil Inside," "New Sensation" and "Never Tear Us Apart" were the next three singles, keeping INXS on the air throughout 1988, while Kick stayed in the upper end of the albums chart the entire year.

    The transition to Bono-level superstar frontman was a tumultuous one for Michael Hutchence, who struggled to stay grounded. While his bandmates formed families away from the public eye, his every move - especially his high-profile relationship with Kylie Minogue - was covered in the entertainment press. INXS didn't release another album until 1990 when they returned with X. It was a success, but subsequent releases had more narrow appeal. Hutchence had a daughter, Tiger Lily, in 1996 with the British TV personality Paula Yates. Struggling with depression and away from his daughter, he committed suicide in 1997.
  • "Need You Tonight" segues seamlessly into the next track on the album, a poem Andrew Farriss wrote and put to music called "Mediate." Both tracks are in the same tempo and based on the same drum machine groove, so they flow together very well. When the band heard how well they stitched together, they decided to segue them, à la Queen with "We Will Rock You" into "We Are The Champions." Many radio stations play the songs together, which is how they appear in the video.
  • At 2:30, there's a fake ending after Michael Hutchence sings, "I'm Lonely." That was the only significant change the band made to the original demo.
  • The music video was directed by Richard Lowenstein, a friend of the band's from Australia who established their early look: lots of layered images with a focus on Hutchence, who rocked a metrosexual look that drove women wild. The "Need You Tonight" video has a few shots where Jon Farriss plays air drums, a technique innovated by Journey in their "Separate Ways" video. Lowenstein also did the "Mediate" section of the video, which is an homage to Bob Dylan's video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

    In 1988, MTV showed their appreciation by handing out five Video Music Awards to "Need You Tonight/Mediate," including Video Of The Year.
  • This song broke INXS in the UK, but it took a remix to do it. The first release in October 1987 went to #58 and dropped off the chart completely after three weeks. After spending much of 1988 conquering the rest of the world, INXS finally got through in Britain when a Julian Mendelsohn remix of "Need You Tonight" went to #2 in November. Two years later they were selling out Wembley Stadium.
  • Bonnie Raitt covered this song in 2016 for her album Dig In Deep. She's a big fan of the band, and says singing this "feels exactly as sexy as it sounds." That year, her version was used in the Quantico episode "Drive."
  • This was featured in the 2000 film Coyote Ugly and in the 2014 movie Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Among the TV shows to use the song: 30 Rock ("Reunion" - 2008) and Black Mirror ("San Junipero" - 2016).
  • In a 2015 commercial for the Apple Watch, a guy orders the device to "play some '80s music," and "Need You Tonight" comes on, with the dude busting out some sweet dance moves to the song.

Comments: 13

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1987 {November 7th} INXS performed "Need You Tonight" on the ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time "Need You Tonight" was at position #54 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, twelve weeks later it would peak at #1 {for 1 week}, and it spent just under a half-year on the Top 100 {25 weeks}...
    And a little over a year later on November 20th, 1988 it peaked at #2 {for 1 week} on the United Kingdom's Official Top 100 Singles chart, the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "First Time" by Robin Beck...
    Between 1982 and 2005 the Australian band had eighteen records on the Top 100 chart, seven made the Top 10 with one* reaching #1, the above "Need You Tonight"...
    In their native Australia they charted forty two times, ten made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, "Original Sin", for two weeks in January of 1984...
    * The just missed having a second #1 record on the Top 100 when their "Devil Inside" peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} in April of 1988...
  • P.a from Co. Spgs., CoEasily, one of the best and most underrated 80's bands. Just look at the quality /depth of their funk rock. They plus The Eurythmics, The Police , The Talking Heads and The Pretenders. WORST- REM, diss the Beatles, punks.....
  • P.a from Co. Spgs., CoJust look at the quality/ depth of the funk rock that INXS made in the 80's. Easily, one of the best 80' groups. To me along with The Eurythymics, Talking Heads, Police, and Pretenders. The last decent decade of rock.
  • Sami from Monsummano Terme, Italy@Greg, Price, UT I always had the doubt that Geldof could had something to do with Hutch's death, as he has became very powerful since Live Aid, but I never read or heard anyone accusing him for that. Can you tell me where did you read or heard the rumors you are talking about?

    I love INXS and I hope to see them one day playing with Tiger Lilly.
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlLove this song!
  • Greg from Price, Ut"Need You Tonight" was the group's only No. 1 in the states (peaking in January 1988). They went to No. 2 with "Devil Inside," #3 with "New Sensation" and to number five with "What I Need" (from the "Listen Like Thieves" LP in 1986.

    There was also a rumor that Bob Geldolf had something to do with Hutchence's death - allegedly being in the same hotel on the night of his "suicide." Evidently, Hutchence was romantically involved with the mother of Geldorf's children. It was pretty ugly, I'm led to understand.
  • Chris from Sevierville, Tnnoticed how the video goes from " I need you tonight" to "Mediate"?!?!?
  • Emily from Around Chicago, IlThis DOES sound like "Another One Bite The Dust"! Good song though
  • Dekota from Sydney, AustraliaMichael Hutchence was a true Aussi Legend!!! Stella song the beat draws u in!!!
  • Matt from Boston, MaVH1's "Top 100 songs of the 80's" called this song's riff- a musical interpretation of sex, sliding up and down
  • Lalah from Wasilla, Akanybody else hear a similarity in the base to Queen's "Another One Bite The Dust"?
  • Tracey from Johannesburg, South AfricaMichael, you went too early....RIP
  • Amethyst from New Haven, CtRIP michael hutchence ur the man of the 80s
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Brandi Carlile

Brandi CarlileSongwriter Interviews

As a 5-year-old, Brandi was writing lyrics to instrumental versions lullabies. She still puts her heart into her songs, including the one Elton John sings on.

Booker T. Jones

Booker T. JonesSongwriter Interviews

The Stax legend on how he cooked up "Green Onions," the first time he and Otis Redding saw hippies, and if he'll ever play a digital organ.

Amanda Palmer

Amanda PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Call us crazy, but we like it when an artist comes around who doesn't mesh with the status quo.

The Police

The PoliceFact or Fiction

Do their first three albums have French titles? Is "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" really meaningless? See if you can tell in this Fact or Fiction.

Danny Kortchmar

Danny KortchmarSongwriter Interviews

Danny played guitar on Sweet Baby James, Tapestry, and Running On Empty. He also co-wrote many hit songs, including "Dirty Laundry," "Sunset Grill" and "Tender Is The Night."

Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in Rock

Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in RockSong Writing

We ring the Hell's Bells to see what songs and rockers are sincere in their Satanism, and how much of it is an act.