Is anyone ever going to use INXS's "Need You Tonight" in the manner it deserves?

Under The Covers, Video, Where Have I Heard That Song Before?

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Caught this on one of the music channels the other day:

The mind goes all a-boggle when it considers how many middle-aged INXS fans’ mouths are currently frothing into Michael Hutchence cushion covers.

The thing is, as a chartbound reappropriation of one of INXS’s finest moments, it’s not actually that bad. It’s not going to appeal to anyone who owns a Kick t-shirt, obvs, but it recognises that there’s no point trying to reinterpret or reproduce that riff – you might as well just nick it wholesale. Because it is one of the bestest riffs of the last 25 years, and anyone who scoffs and goes off on a rant about how shit INXS were (are?) is a toolbag.

The song, as well, is a brilliant, sleazy, urgent, priapic kind of thing; and to me, somehow, despite lyrics that allude to the contrary, it manages not to stray into the turf marked “predatory”. I think the main reason for this is that in Michael Hutchence INXS had a frontman who, for all his pleads about needing “you”, and about being thrown into a perspirational tizzy by “you, girl”, would clearly have much rather spent a night boning himself, were it physically possible.

That honestly isn’t intended as a tasteless remark on his eventual demise, more an observation about his preening, pouting, self-caressing stage demeanour. The guy loved the shit out of himself, and that’s where the undeniable charisma came from.

Watching the original video (which you can see at the bottom of the page), it’s a wonder he allowed the other dorks in the band to appear at all – their goofy smiles, appalling hair and mega-tucked-in tops just interrupt his impressive MTV Jim Morrison writhe-a-thon.

The knowledge of this context can’t help but inform how people feel about the song; or at least, those people who are aware of it. To childlings looking for a new ringtone Professor Green’s track will suffice just fine as a sexless, sweat-free affair, which is interesting because its sentiment isn’t a million miles from the original. Only the Prof is being – how you say – “played” by the object of his desire, much to his surprise and chagrin. You always got the impression that whomever The Hutch was setting his sights on was going to submit in pretty short order.

But then, Professor Green is a guy who rhymes “one night ting” with “one night fling”. Which is bad, but probably not as bad as it would be if he also attempted to pull off “so slide over here, and give me a moment/Your moves are so raw…”

I’ve often wondered why someone, somewhere, hasn’t managed to interpolate or cover “Need You Tonight” to any decent effect. I’m not really of the opinion that great songs should never be touched, but perhaps this is one of those rarities where people just shouldn’t bother trying.

Witness, for example, Big Pun and Beenie Man’s texted-in attempt to make something out of it:

Pun’s opening verse is promising but by three minutes in everyone involved has pretty much run out of steam, which doesn’t stop them from allowing the track to run on for another two.

There are mash-ups that have tried to harness the (don’t run away!) funk/rock genius of “Need You Tonight”, but in a pretty slapdash manner. This one dates from a few years back when every other video on MTV was some video remix affair, and combines the song with a bit of Neneh Cherry:

Rogue Traders more or less covered the whole track a few years ago, turning it into a club number by removing all the good bits. Which doesn’t really make much sense. ADD beat-matcher Girl Talk chucked a snippet of it into one of his flipbook-style mixes as well, to pretty pointless effect.

It’s hardly worth mentioning the straight-up covers of “Need You Tonight”, meanwhile, because the likes of Lostprophets and, um, Kazy turn the song into the icky, bushes-and-binoculars missive INXS did so well to avoid.

Lostprophets man actually shouts “THAT MAKES ME SWEAT”, seemingly unable to contain the tantrum he’s been in for the entirety of his career.

Here’s Kazy’s effort, which is the kind of thing Deftones might do as a soundcheck before having a good chuckle amongst themselves:

Incidentally, Kazy’s Google listing marks them out as:



I feel sure there must be someone who can do something good with “Need You Tonight”. Maybe it’ll take someone like Kanye West to do it. And to anyone thinking of complaining that we don’t need anyone to reinterpret the song: do you think that’s going to stop people trying?

Like teenagers with The Sex, musicians and producers are going to keep “experimenting” with the greats of yestercentury. And like teenagers with The Sex, all we can do is hope they do it safely, and consider the consequences.

Thanks to the splendid WhoSampled, which helped me find a couple of these choons.

Buy Professor Green MP3s at 7digital

Buy INXS MP3s at 7digital

One comment

  1. Jam says:

    +10int0rnetz for use of the phrase “Swear Down”

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