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August 3rd, 2012:
Today marks 20 years since ‘Welcome To Wherever You Are’ was first released in Australia!
The album has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and debuted at #1 in the UK, which at the time was the first Australia band to do so since AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ way back in 1980. The album also reached #1 in Sweden, #2 in Australia and Switzerland, #3 in Norway and #16 in the U.S.
The idea for ‘WTWYA’ was that it would be a studio only album. As the band thought since they had toured so hard for so many years that they wanted to record more studio albums rather than spending months and months on the road. This gave the band the chance to experiment with different sounds, and as a result the album was a major departure from the slickness of the previous ‘Kick’ and ‘X’ albums.
Instead of having Chris Thomas produce the album they went back to Mark Opitz who had produced ‘Shabooh Shoobah’ 10 years prior. ‘WTWYA’ contained the 64 piece Australian Concert Orchestra on ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ and ‘Men And Women’, while Far East sounds were used on ‘Questions’, the album had a very different sound to the slickness and polish of their Chris Thomas albums. Again Michael and Andrew wrote all the songs.
“The album is very much Andrew, Michael, and myself”, Mark Opitz says. “We didn’t have everyone’s minds on the job because some of them were going through significant things in their personal lives”.
Michael and the band often commented in interviews that ‘WTWYA’ was their favourite album, even more so than ‘Kick’. And the critics also loved the album with UK’s Q magazine giving the album a 4-star review. “A far more engaging and heartfelt collection than anything the group has put out in recent memory… It rocks”.
However the album which should be regarded as one of INXS’s masterpieces, often doesn’t get the credit it deserved. There was a number of reason why the album didn’t sell as well as the reviews would have had you believe.
East West Australian Record Company Promo Doormat
Firstly, the band didn’t tour the album which in the past was the bands main weapon to blow people away with their live performances on stage. And when the band did finally tour the following year in small pubs a lot of the songs from ‘WYWYA’ were not suited to the small venues and not included in the set list. The hits like Baby Don’t Cry’, ‘Not Enough Time’ were hardly ever performed live, ‘Beautiful Girl’ was only 2 years later in Sth America when they did play some larger venues. While tracks such as ‘Strange Desire’, ‘Back On Line’, ‘Questions’ and Men and Women’ were never performed live.
In hindsight, even though they were some of the best live shows the band did, the band should not have taken their small pub tour around the world. They should have just done it as an Australian warm up tour as they had done in the past. Playing small venues by choice killed the band. Americans especially just didn’t understand it. The previous tour the band had sold out venues like Wembley Stadium and Madison Square Gardens, then the next time they tour is in 800 people capacity clubs! Americans saw it as a sign of failure that the band was playing small venues. Many fans couldn’t get tickets to see their favourite band as they would sell out within minutes of going on sale, so many fans were lost because of that.
While INXS’s peers like U2 got bigger with their concerts by doing their Zoo TV tour, INXS should have done a similar thing. The songs from ‘WTWYA’ suited the large entertainment centre environment, they could have even toured with an orchestra to recreate the songs. They were also known for their state of the art video clips, so they could have easily done a large concert tour to blow people's minds just as U2 did the same year.
It’s quite simple really, most people who attend a concert will either have the latest album, or go buy it after seeing the great live show. So if you play to 20,000 each night, and not 800 you are going to sell many more albums playing larger venues! Promoters in US and Atlantic Records hated the fact INXS were choosing play small venues. And the following year they lost their record contract in US.
Re-released 'Welcome To Wherever You Are' Australian CD with different cover
The album also suffered due to hardly any promotion and it’s artwork. Previous INXS album’s designed by Nick Egan such as ‘Kick’, “X’ and ‘Live Baby Live’ has strong designs easily to identify as INXS albums in stores. But for ‘WTWYA’ they didn’t go with Nick Egan and tried to be too arty and it just didn’t work. Firstly the title in too wordy and long not simple and quick like ‘Kick’ and ‘X’. And the album covers and single covers the fans hated, and the public just didn’t know they were INXS cds in stores. The record company in Australia even had to re-print the album cover so it was reversed so their was a band shot in the desert on the cover a few months after the albums release! The following year Michael was presenting an Award at the ARIA Awards with Jenny Morris, and he looked at the nominations envelope which had a weird design, and joked to Jenny “That would make a good album cover”.
The 3 different covers for WTWYA vinyl, cd and cassette releases.
Each format of WTWYA had a different cover, the cd featured the Artane Boys Band from Ireland which Larry Mullen Jr from U2 was a member of. While the Vinyl LP featured a sailor, and the cassette a picture of boy scouts. There was also a bit of a backlash in Australia about the photo shoot inside the cd with the band matching wearing suits with frilly shirts, some sections of the music media who live in the pub rock era, had a problem with the band trying to be fashion icons rather than rock musicians.
The album didn’t get the promotion previous INXS albums had recieved. The bands manager at the time Chris Murphy was spending more time trying to find “the next INXS” who would be successful overseas. Thinking INXS were now an established act worldwide, he could spend time with his RooArt label with bands like Ratcat, The Screaming Jets and You Am I. But INXS needed promotion at this time more than ever!
French Press Kit Cover Photo
The band had a huge backlash in the media against them earlier in the year because of The Concert For Life’ which actually forced ‘WTWYA’ to be delayed a few months. As well as Molly Meldrum the year before heavily critising ‘Live Baby Live’ on 'Hey Hey It’s Saturday'..
Australia had very few music tv shows to promote the band as well, MTV Australia shut down towards the end of 1992 who had been big supporters of the band in the past. So the band decided to do a TV promo tour of UK and Europe instead where they had many music tv shows such as Top Of The Pops. So the sales of ‘WTWYA’ reflected the promotion, the album did well in UK and Europe, but poorly in Australia and US.
There was also a change in direction forthe video clips for ‘WTWYA’. After going with Richard Lowenstein for the first single ‘Heaven Sent’, the band decided to experiment with some other directors. Michael was a big fan of Baillie Walshs videos and they got him to direct ‘Taste It’. The song however was banned for been too risque.
'Taste It' Atlantic Records Promo Chocolate Bar
Another interesting video from the album was for ‘Beautiful Girl’ directed by Mark Pellington. It tackled the issue of anorexia and bulimia and sent a powerful message. The video clip was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1993.
Sega even released a video game titled ‘INXS: Make My Video’ which allowed you to direct your own video clip for 3 video clips from ‘WTWYA’ – ‘Heaven Sent’, “Not Enough Time’ and ‘Baby Don’t Cry’.
Welcome To Wherever You Are Design VIP Area Pass
In 2002, which was the 10th anniversary of ‘WTWYA’ the bands US record company Rhino re-issued the album with 5 bonus tracks. This cd is still available to purchase in US stores or by import in other countries. The bonus tracks are:
- The Answer
-Wishing Well (Version 2)
- All Around (Version 2)
- The Indian Song
- Heaven Sent (Waltz Version)
'Welcome To Wherever You Are' UK Promo Interview Disc
Here are Michael Hutchence’s comments on each track from ‘WTWYA’ from 1992…
“We just wanted to have something completely out of our usual style, and we really love the sounds of Indian music.”
“This started off as a balad, hard to believe. The band came in and just kept speeding it up and making it heavier and heavier because the chords really suited it. It’s a good vehicle for the band to rock a lot more.”
“It ended up being more about this guy, a crazed journalist not wanting to leave a scene he was reporting from in the Persian Gulf War. I mean, these people were standing there with gas masks on, reporting history as it happened. I don’t think it has been done before, quite like that. And then the ads would come in between, ‘Buy this and that,’ Weird stuff.”
“It’s about the devil and the angel, and choice, I guess. With all the things in life – not just sexual – it depends on how you choose the path you take, where it leads you, and whether it was wise to take it or not. Because the paths are always there and you have to confront that choice. It’s a big question.”
Not Enough Time:
“The song is basically a love song. I like it.”
“It’s a song about change, I guess, and how things go in cycles. It’s about cycles repeating themselves but yet how they change slightly, how they mutate each time around.”
Baby Don’t Cry:
“It’s strange, because we used a sixty four piece orchestra. It was all done live by the way, with us and the orchestra in the studio at the same time. It was a lot of fun.”
“In Australia, you technically can’t be homeless, because we have systems to support people. But there are still a lot of runaways in the area where I live in Sydney (when I’m there). They’re real normal kids who get into prostitution and drugs and it’s a real mess. Because they’re so naive. I mean, these aren’t city street kids, which is a whole different breed.”
“It’s really out there for us. It’s musically very free-form and so are the vocals. It just slips around and then it goes off to somewhere else completely. It just happened in the studio. Lyrically, I guess it’s in the same sort of category as Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing.’ There’s a sexual cauldron going on.”
Back On Line:
“I never really sat down and attempted to be a real singer.’ I don’t want to know what I’m doing in other words. I just try to sit down and work things out to see if they make some musical sense to somebody. So if my vocal ‘snakes around,’ that’s good… This song is about putting something right when you know you should and facing yourself period, which is hard to do sometimes.”
“Actually, it was kind of inspired by how we really are, in some ways, a victim of our own biology, or biologies. With the world becoming more sophisticated, we tend to not realize how instinctual we are. So it’s about somebody being overpowered by their own instincts.”
Men And Women:
“It’s a sad song in a way, about the – I don’t know, just the sexual wars that go on all the time, which I don’t understand. That is perverted to me – the situation between men and women.
All Memorabilia from Matthew Marsland's Personal Collection.
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