3 Ways Nile Rodgers Made “Original Sin” One of INXS’ Most Enduring Hits

When INXS released “Original Sin” as the leadoff single from their 1984 album The Swing, the song did not make an immediate commercial impact in the U.S. While it failed to crack the Top 40 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock charts, it signaled a critical change in INXS’ trajectory. In working with Nile Rodgers as the producer for the single, the band shifted towards a funkier, more danceable sound—one that would give them several Top 10 hits over the next several years.

Videos by American Songwriter

Rodgers shaped “Original Sin” in important ways that went beyond infusing the song with a funkier groove. Fortunately for both him and the band, Rodgers attended a show featuring Hall & Oates, U2 and INXS that ultimately led to their collaboration. Rodgers was impressed with INXS drummer Jon Farriss, and the band also surprised him with their knowledge of his music. Upon meeting the members of INXS at the show, Michael Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly, and Andrew and Jon Farriss sang one of his obscure solo songs to him in four-part harmony. They agreed to work together, and “Original Sin” was the final result.

Here are three specific ways Rodgers made this important song in the INXS discography the tune as we have known it since its release.

Helping Out with the Groove

The version of “Original Sin” that appears on The Swing was recorded in one take, but it took the band awhile to get the song’s funky feel down pat. In a 2022 interview for Guitar Player, Rodgers said, “For some reason, they were having a difficult time playing the groove right in the pocket. I don’t know why. I felt like they were nervous for some reason.” Rather than just letting them work it out while he sat in the control room, Rodgers joined the band and played along with them.

If not for Jon Farriss breaking his bass drum head at the very end of the song, Rodgers may have not appeared on the final version of “Original Sin.” However, Farriss was not able to quickly get a replacement for the head, so the take with Rodgers is the one that wound up on the album.

Adding Some Star Power

You may have to focus your listening a little to hear it, but Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates is singing backing vocals in the chorus of “Original Sin.” Andrew Farriss explained to Noise11.com how INXS got one of the biggest pop stars of the ‘80s onto their single. “We had been doing backing vocals, my young brother Jon and Kirk [Pengilly] and Michael [Hutchence]. It sounded pretty good to me. Nile came in and said ‘this sounds pretty good guys, but we need a little extra something.'” The “extra something” was Hall, and to the surprise of INXS, he arrived in the studio later the same day. Andrew Farriss was apparently impressed, saying Hall “is an amazing guy, really cool.”

An Important Change to the Lyrics

Hutchence was inspired to write a song about how children have to be taught to think prejudicially after seeing a group of kids on a playground from the window on INXS’ tour bus. His initial lyrics for the chorus included the phrase Dream on white boy / Dream on white girl. In a YouTube video interview, Rodgers explained how he convinced them to change “white girl” to “Black girl.” He told them, “You’re from Australia. A lot of racial s–t there. I’m from America. My stepfather is white, my mom is black. You know, it would be so much more powerful [to change the lyric].”

Rodgers was correct to assert the revised lyric would make the song more powerful, and it had the power to upset those who opposed interracial relationships. “Original Sin” was banned on some radio stations in the U.S. Rodgers also said Hall’s manager “flipped out on us when we changed that lyric.”

Belatedly Getting Its Due

Given the popularity “Original Sin” has enjoyed over the years, it’s hard to believe it didn’t create more of a stir when it was new. The song peaked at No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 43 on the Mainstream Rock chart, though it did become INXS’ first No. 1 hit in their native Australia. For those who doubt the more recent popularity of “Original Sin,” it ranks as one of INXS’ 10 most popular tracks on Spotify with more than 58 million streams. It has been far more popular on the platform than songs like “What You Need,” “Devil Inside,” “Disappear,” and “The One Thing,” which had much stronger chart performances upon their respective releases.

The Swing was initially less successful than its predecessor Shabooh Shoobah, spending less time on the Billboard 200 (28 weeks versus 31 weeks for Shabooh Shoobah) with a slightly lower peak (No. 52 versus No. 46). Over time, though, The Swing became the more popular album. On the heels of the breakout success of Listen Like Thieves, The Swing received Gold certification in April 1987—nine months before Shabooh Shoobah reached the same sales threshold. In February 2001, The Swing went Platinum.

“Original Sin” was the only track from The Swing that Rodgers produced, as Nick Launay produced the remainder of the album. INXS would go on to work with legendary producer Chris Thomas on their three biggest albums, Listen Like Thieves, Kick, and X. Rodgers may not have been with the band in the studio for those multi-Platinum efforts, but his influence lingered on for those successive albums. Still, you would have a difficult time finding an INXS song that is quite as funky as “Original Sin.”

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Report: Robert Plant Working on New Project That Might Include Reimagined Versions of Led Zeppelin Songs

Robert Plant Rumored To Be Working on New Project Featuring Reimagined Versions of Led Zeppelin Songs