Seven years after Suicide Blonde took over the radio charts in 1990, this song would forever have a much darker connotation. Far be it for me to comment on the mental states of those who end their lives, but what I remember hearing about in the press at the time was how Michael Hutchence had killed himself during auto-erotic asphyxiation gone awry. Since the lay person, such as myself, saw Hutchence as a supermodel dating rock-star with obvious (sexual) charisma, this explanation seemed to fit my/our idea of possibility. Though, in my quick research on this matter, it appears that this was never mentioned in the coroner’s report. It was information told to the press by his then girlfriend Paula Yates. The report claimed his death to be a combination of heroin, prescription meds and depression. Which is less original to be sure; which doesn’t match the playboy/rock-star/movie-star/ladies man persona that Hutchence portrayed in the public eye. I remember watching him in videos like the one above (and the one below) and thinking: how I would love to be like him: all sinewy sexual confidence, great voice, thick wavy locks, Mick Jagger lips–the perfect lead singer for the post-hard rock era.
It does mystify. How someone with so much obvious talent can end their life, intentional or otherwise. I was affected by Hutchence’s death more than Kurt Cobain. More than Amy Winehouse. If only because their deaths seemed inevitable. Sad and tragic, but not surprising. I wasn’t Mystified by them.
I’m sure most people and most critics will never put Hutchence in the same musical pantheon as Cobain and Winehouse, even though he had been part of 10 hit albums and 20 plus hit songs. INXS were never really considered a great band, but even to this day, when any of their songs come on the radio, I turn the volume up. They were one of the first bands to get regular airplay on MTV in the early 80’s and I remember feeling elation/confusion/excitement at their first video from their great album, Shabooh Shoobah, “The One Thing.”
To me, this video and this song represent everything great about early 80’s new wave: Rock and roll excess, not taking itself seriously, a great catchy guitar riff, and well placed saxophone.
There have been a ton of musical deaths this year, enough to last a decade (I’ll tackle those another time), and maybe it’s the shock and awe of so many of my musical heroes passing (in just the first six months of 2016) that led me to want to revisit some of the others who’ve left us way too soon.
I refused to watch Rock Star: INXS when it aired back in 2004. INXS wasn’t some stupid reality show. The fact that the rest of the band thought it just fine to tarnish their reputation for a few million quid (what is the Australian currency? Should I look it up?), pissed me off. I will admit, though, to watching the next version of the show, Rock Star: Supernova, as I could give two shits about Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Jason Newstead (ex-Metallica) and Gilby Clarke (ex-GnR). No one could ever replace Michael Hutchence in my mind, not some middling, wanna-be, reality-TV b-lister (blister), not anyone. I can’t even find the strength to read up on the list of all the others who attempted to sing those classic 80s songs.
I know when people die, we are supposed to move on…they would have wanted us to find new heroes! But I have a hard time believing that Michael Hutchence, had he known that his passing would lead to Rock Star: INXS, would have taken that last snort of heroin, would have tied that extra knot in the rope, would have added his name to the ever-growing list of gone-too-soon.