Taste It (M Hutchence/A Farriss )1992 and Beautiful Girl (A Farriss ) 1993 and Elegantly Wasted (M Hutchence/A Farriss) 1997 – INXS
Welcome to Wherever You Are was the band’s eighth studio album, they rehearsed tracks in the Sydney Opera House and recorded at Rhinoceros Studios, musically it was neither slinky funk nor straight-ahead rock, but an eclectic mix of styles and genres. A track like Baby Don’t Cry was a pocket symphony, while Taste It unwinds around a sexy, smoldering six-string guitar riff.
Wishing Well and Beautiful Girl were respectively meditative and reflective pop, Beautiful Girl was a solo writing credit for Andrew Farriss who dedicated the song to his new baby daughter; he was joined by Paul Hewson (Bono) on the recording who played guitar and provided backing vocals, it was a minor top twenty hit in the UK and USA. Incredibly the album was a #1 hit in the UK, its guitar-driven melodic rock really resonated with the Brits at that time, but it failed to chart in the USA, Australian fans took it to #3 and it was a respectable international hit, albeit not a Kick–type blockbuster, due to the lack of support in the States.
Throughout the early 1990’s Michael Hutchence was an A-list celebrity, his liaisons with Kylie Minogue, Go-Gos lead singer Belinda Carlisle, supermodel Helena Christensen (below left), Australian actress/model Kym Wilson (below right), and UK media personality Paula Yates, became tabloid fodder around the world.
In 1992 he was involved in an incident in Copenhagen with Christensen when he clashed with a taxi driver; Hutchence was riding a bicycle down the middle of a street after a night of drinking, a taxi driver wanted him to move out of the way, and after he refused, the cab driver punched Hutchence, who struck his head on the pavement, fracturing his skull. His brain was bruised, there was nerve damage, and he never sought medical attention until several days later, and lost most of his sense of smell and taste for the rest of his life. A more exhaustive examination of Hutchence did reveal evidence of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), not dissimilar to those that are now common amongst participants in high contact professional sports, but Michael seemed unconcerned, although he would be on medication (Prozac) for the rest of his life because of the injuries he sustained, and increasingly he would forget the lyrics of the songs he had written. Hutchence was never quite the same after the incident, he became depressed and even more strangely, given his pacifist nature, very aggressive towards his fellow band mates, his relationship with Paula Yates (below) further deepened his depression, and resulted in the breakup of her marriage to Bob Geldof. The pair were unsympathetically portrayed in the UK tabloid media as a volatile and emotionally unstable couple, who had wrecked the saintly Bob’s marriage. Yates had already had several extra-marital affairs before Hutchence, including one unlikely tryst with gay actor Rupert Everett who said of her “She was sexy and fatal, she put all her energy into that. But she also had a fish and chips with extra vinegar side to her, and that was her secret recipe.” It was generally acknowledged that her marriage to Geldof was already heading for divorce, before she started flirting on UK national television with Michael.Yates and Hutchence had first met in 1985 when she interviewed him on the UK pop show The Tube, she was married to Bob Geldof after hooking up with him in her late teens, she was a wild child from a broken, dysfunctional family, who had lost her virginity at age twelve and started snorting heroin at the same time, she was a bewildering mix of precocious, demanding, wayward, and fragile emotions. In 1994 Yates and Hutchence would again appear together on national television in the UK when Hutchence guested on her Big Breakfast show, during which she said, while her leg was draped across Hutchence “For the first time, this is a guest I want to have my leg over”, the ensuing on-air conversation was intimate, it seemed like foreplay between the two, she looked disheveled when she remarked “ My dress rode up there”, as she giggled, to which he added “not far enough”.Michael Hutchence past high profile lovers Kylie Minogue, Belinda Carlisle, and Helena Christensen, and his previous relationships with Michele Bennett and actress/model Kym Wilson, could never have prepared Michael for the storm of British tabloid controversy that would engulf him, once he and Paula Yates, the mother of Bob Geldof’s three children, became their target. Michael found Paula funny, sexy, and nurturing, an attractive blend of rock chick and Earth Mother, she simply described Michael as “The Taj Mahal of crotches”. They were besotted with each other, in the next year she would have a breast enlargement, split with Geldof who she was now describing as “sober and controlling”, and fall pregnant to Michael Hutchence, triggering what would become a devastating custody battle between her, Geldof and Hutchence.Meanwhile the band had hunkered down on the isolated Isle of Capri to record the Full Moon Dirty Hearts album, the idyllic island paradise was remote but lacking in the creature conveniences the band members were used to, Michael felt particularly isolated, he was drunk most of the time, and his anti-social behavior manifested itself in verbal attacks on all present. By Xmas time half the album was completed, upon their return to Capri after the break, the old savvy, creative, and socially amiable Michael seemed to be back, the Prozac had kicked in. The resulting album was a pared-back slice of soulful rock and roll, but a major dispute over the album cover flared between Michael and Chris Murphy who had commissioned several monochrome shots of two busty leather-clad hookers in a back alley under a billboard featuring the image of a disheveled morning-after Michael Hutchence.(below)The band were slowly disintegrating, Michael had become fascinated with grunge and dance music and wanted to head in that direction, Murphy and the other band members wanted to spend time in Jamaica to absorb reggae rhythms, their future direction could have been a unique melding of reggae, rap and dance, but the band members had taken polarized positions. The two highlight tracks on the album were the several duets that Michael did, firstly with the legendary Ray Charles on Please (You Got That…) recorded at Ray’s West Washington Boulevarde studio in Los Angeles, and with Chrissie Hynde on the title track Full Moon Dirty Hearts.Michael’s personal life continued to spiral downwards at the 1996 Brit Awards, which would be remembered as the night the Gallagher Brothers declared war on Michael Hutchence. They had already denigrated Australian music by publicly stating that no decent rock music ever came out of Australia because “there was too mooch fooking sun there”, averring that decent rock music is only composed in inclement climates like the UK where alternative outdoor activities are limited by England’s dreary climate. When Michael presented Oasis with their award, and embraced Noel Gallagher, they sneered that “has-beens like him shouldn’t be presenting awards to gonna-be’s like them”, Liam followed up with some insulting remarks about Paula Yates back stage, Michael aimed a fire extinguisher at his head, and a scuffle ensued.Ultimately the Gallagher brothers, Noel, guitarist, songwriter and riff plagiarist, and Liam, lead singer, tabloid media-taunter, and not-so-deep thinker, would fall out disastrously, Oasis would implode, and become has-beens themselves.In 1996 Yates divorced Bob Geldof, later in July she delivered her first child with Hutchence, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence, in September she was arrested after a stash of opium was found in her London home. By October 1996 custody of her three children with Geldof had been awarded to Bob, she was distraught and had resumed a heroin habit she had kicked in her teenage years.The album Elegantly Wasted was Michael Hutchence’s last studio album with INXS, recorded at the Armory Studio in Vancouver with producer Bruce Fairburn, it was released in 1997 and dedicated to Jill Farriss, the boys’ mother who had succumbed to cancer in 1995. The title track was written after Michael and Bono had a night on the tiles, and was a clever mix of rock, dance beat and seductive electronica, it charted top 20 in the UK and USA and was a solid #1 in Canada. In a riposte to the Gallagher brothers who had insulted Hutchence at the recent Brit Awards, Michael alternated the chorus for this song from “I’m elegantly wasted..” to “I’m better than Oasis…”.
A promo video was shot and directed by Danish photographer Pierre Winther in locations around California in 1996, which featured in the album artwork and depicted a cinematic setting where it appears that an attractive girl, wearing an INXS t-shirt, has emerged safely from a car accident, just under a viaduct at 635-651 S Anderson St, downtown Los Angeles (no longer exists). A different photograph of the girl getting out of the car was also shot and used as the artwork for the Elegantly Wasted single.In November 1997 Michael would be found dead in Room 524 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Double Bay, Sydney (pictured above on the balcony of the hotel in 1997) , it marked a premature end to one of the great front men of Australian rock. At Michael’s funeral Nick Cave would perform his classic Into My Arms, a song that was sometimes described as a love ballad, a torch song, a secular hymn, or a lover’s lament, but on that day it was a eulogy to a loved one. Paula Yates would die of a heroin overdose in September 2000, and sadly Peaches (below), her second daughter with Bob Geldof, would also die of a heroin overdose in 2014.Other band members also struggled to adjust to new domestic arrangements away from the rock and roll lifestyle, Kirk Pengilly would marry Deni Hines (below) in 1993 and divorce two years later, Jon Farriss married in 1992 but by 1997 was embroiled in a bitter divorce with Lesley Bega, which was concluded in 1999, Garry Beers and his wife Jodie had divorced some years earlier after marrying in 1991, and Andrew Farriss divorced Shelley Banks in 1989.The final denouement for INXS would be tainted by an undignified attempt to replace the irreplaceable and reboot the band some ten years after the death of Hutchence with a new lead singer. Jon Stevens and Terence Trent D’arby were tried, and failed, and following a rather tawdry reality TV show search, which resulted in the emergence of Canadian Elvis impersonator J.D. Fortune (below right) as lead singer, the band embarked on yet another superannuation tour, but by now they had become their own tribute band.By 2012 the band accepted that their live performance and recording days, without the magic and magnetism of Hutchence, were over. The band had been one of the most influential international acts throughout the 1980’s and 90’s and in the pantheon of great Australian rock bands would rank third, only behind the Bee Gees and AC/DC; INXS were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001 along with punk rock pioneers the Saints.