Early INXS singles in the UK had been available only on standard 7” and 12” singles in picture sleeves. There had been some creative marketing: the title track of their fifth single I Send A Message inspired the production of a special outer cover shaped like an envelope, with a postcard and information sheets accompanying the standard 7” inside, and all four singles taken from the album Listen Like Thieves were available as limited edition double-packs to attract sales, although this promotional technique had been outlawed (see the earlier article on chart hyping) by the time of Kick’s appearance. But there were all sorts of other techniques used by record companies to make the product look attractive, and during the 1980s most of the commonly available formats were used by Mercury for INXS singles, including:
Variations in size, shape and colour of vinyl
Traditionally, singles were seven inches in diameter, round, and black. But they didn’t have to be. The most common variation was the 12” single (a discussion of which can be found in the earlier article about them), and with the exception of I Send A Message, all INXS singles in the UK from their second release Don’t Change onward were available on that size of record. Rarer but still made by all the major record companies was the 10” single, the first single from INXS appearing on that size being Devil Inside. Their next 10”, Never Tear Us Apart, was also pressed in white vinyl, changing the colour of the disc being a frequently used gimmick. Picture discs (usually a paper image contained within two sides of a transparent vinyl record) were another popular option for making a release stand out on the record racks, and were usually housed in a clear PVC sleeve rather than the usual paper ones. Listen Like Thieves was the first INXS picture disc in the UK, and that also changed the shape of the record itself. It was marketed as a 7” single but was cut into a flag shape. Shaped discs generally had the usual 7” circular playing area, but had been pressed from a larger piece of vinyl which was cut to the desired shaped around it. The shape had to be kept to a maximum of twelve inches wide or the manufacturer risked creating a disc that wouldn’t turn on the purchaser’s record deck.
Originally, singles came in plain, die-cut sleeves or paper bags with the issuing record company’s logos on them. Occasionally, advertisements for other products might appear on the bags. But by the 1980s it was usual for singles to come in a picture sleeve with photos of the act concerned on the front, and maybe the lyrics of the lead track on the reverse. There were a number of variations possible with the record’s sleeve. Some sleeves were printed on large pieces of paper designed to fold into a bag for the record, but when unfolded were poster-sized and revealed a large image of the artist. As indicated at the top of this article, New Sensation used poster sleeves for limited editions of its 7” and 12” versions. The re-issue of Need You Tonight in 1988 came in a special ‘magic pack’ which unfolded to reveal images of all the band members. Another type of sleeve was the gatefold, which opened up book-style. Usually printed for practical purposes (double albums where there were two discs to house), INXS used one for aesthetic reasons on a limited edition of the 12” of Never Tear Us Apart. Other paper goods used for INXS releases were cards and stickers (inserted in the pack for the Mystify single) and postcards (Devil Inside, and the previously mentioned I Send A Message).
Other sound carrying media
The 8-track cartridge was obsolete by the time Kick was released, but cassettes were popular with music buyers at that time and compact discs were growing in popularity. It was the latter format that Mercury favoured for INXS, with all the singles from Kick being made available on CD. Initially, most record companies used the 3” CD format for singles on compact disc, reserving the standard 5” disc for albums. Difficulty with playing the smaller discs made them unpopular with consumers (most people had to clip them inside an adaptor to play them, and the adaptors sometimes jammed in the players), and in any case they were unattractive, cover art having to be reduced to in size and losing all its impact. INXS’s CD singles were the 5” ones. The last three INXS singles of the 1980s were also issued on the CDV (compact disc video) format. These held audio content and could be played like a compact disc, but could also hold five minutes of video content. This was ideal for including all the sound media from the regular CD, plus the promotional clip filmed for the single. CDVs never took off though, as most people didn’t have the hardware to play them and weren’t about to pay the prohibitive price to get it. As for cassettes: INXS did not issue cassingles in Britain during the 1980s. One was manufactured, for the What You Need single, but this was given away free with the 7”.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 29
DEPARTMENT S Is Vic There? (Demon D1003)
DEAD OR ALIVE (Pete Burns) Something In My House (Epic BURNS1)
BANGLES Walking Down Your Street (CBS BANGS1)
Kylie MINOGUE I Should Be So Lucky (PWL PWL8)
INXS (Michael Hutchence) New Sensation (Mercury INXS9)