"Need You Tonight" is the fourth song on INXS's 1987 album Kick as well as the first single from the album released worldwide. It is the only INXS single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also achieved their highest charting position in the United Kingdom, where the song reached number two on the UK Singles Chart, however this peak was only reached after a re-release of the single in November 1988. On its first run on the UK Charts in October 1987, it stalled at No. 58. While it would arguably become the band's signature song, it was one of the last songs recorded for the album.
In INXS's official autobiography, INXS: Story to Story, Andrew Farriss said that the famous riff to the song appeared suddenly in his head while waiting for a cab to go to the airport to fly to Hong Kong. He asked the cab driver to wait a couple of minutes while he grabbed something from his motel room. In fact, he went up to record the riff and came back down an hour later with a tape to a very annoyed driver. This riff was later described as sounding like a cross between Keith Richards and Prince.
The song is a much more electronic track than most of the band's material before or after, combining sequencers with regular drum tracks and a number of tracks of layered guitars. To approximate the sound on the recorded track, the band often utilizes click tracks for a frequent synthesizer chord as well as rim shots heard throughout the song.