Troubles in life? Michael Hutchence has got what you need. He doesn't give details, but he will take you where you want to be.
Hutchence wrote the song with Andrew Farriss
- they were the songwriting dynamic duo in INXS. The song has all the group's hallmarks: a big, catchy guitar riff; a prominent saxophone part (played by group member Kirk Pengilly); and an inspirational vocal from Hutchence.
The instrumental crash before the song starts up made it a great opener to the album Listen Like Thieves, the band's fifth. They were already huge in their native Australia, but the rest of the world was slower to catch on. "What You Need" was their first big American hit, going to #5. Still, they had a long way to go: When they released their next album, Kick, the "Kick-off Tour" was a trek through college campuses in the US. Four massive hit singles from the album later, and INXS was an arena act.
This song was almost "the one that got away." Producer Chris Thomas told the band they needed one more guaranteed hit after they finished recording the Listen Like Thieves album. They thought it over that night, came in and literally finished the song in a day, in time for the album to cut and ship.
However, this isn't quite the magic trick it first appears; Andrew Farriss had already made a demo tape with a song whose working title was "Funk Song No. 13," which evolved into "What You Need." Chris Thomas listened to the demo for "Funk Song No. 13" and two other tapes, and picked this one because "it was great. I thought, 'I could listen to that groove for 10 minutes!' I said, 'Let's work with that groove.' So we went with that and in just two days it turned into the song that eventually broke them, 'What You Need.'"
The massive chorus and the melding of funk with rock on this track provided the template for the songs on the group's next album, Kick. "What You Need" writers Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss knew what they were looking for an made a deal with their bandmates: let them write all that songs on the album, and they'll deliver a monster hit. They made good on their promise.
Listen Like Thieves was the first INXS album produced by the Chris Thomas, who also worked with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Badfinger, Elton John, Pulp, and The Sex Pistols. With their next album, Kick, Thompson became the first producer invited back to work on a second INXS album.
The video was directed by Lynn-Maree Milburn, who also did U2's "Desire
." It's a very active video, with a strobing look throughout and a series of graphics that key in and out. It was the first by INXS to get much airplay on MTV.
Inspired by the success of "What You Need" and Listen Like Thieves, INXS was determined to make their next album be one in which "all the songs were possible singles." They certainly thought they were doing that, but when they finished Kick, Atlantic Records hated it. INXS manager Chris Murphy recalled: "They hated it, absolutely hated it. They said there was no way they could get this music on rock radio." Kick, of course, skyrocketed the charts and became the group's most successful album.
This was used in the movies Monster (2003) and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), and also in the "Trust Fund Pirates" (1986) episode of Miami Vice.