What happened to INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence
When Michael Hutchence’s manager Martha Troup last spoke to him on the phone, the INXS frontman was making big plans for the future.
“He wanted to start a publishing company. And he wanted an apartment in New York,” Troup told the Post. “That’s what he said to me.”
Hours later, while Troup was running errands in New York to fly to Australia to meet the “Need You Tonight” singer, things suddenly took a dark turn. Hutchence left her two startling messages on the answering machine.
“He says, ‘Things aren’t good, you know?’ And then the next one was like, ‘Hey, are you there?’ The second time it was more like he was tired. It was almost sadness I heard in his voice.”
Hours later, on November 22, 1997, Hutchence was found hanging from a snakeskin belt in a hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney, Australia. A maid found him naked and in a kneeling position, and although his death was ruled a suicide, there were rumors that it resulted from autoerotic asphyxiation. The rock star – who had a Mick Jagger meets Jim Morrison aura that was captured in hits like ‘New Sensation’ and ‘What You Need’ – was just 37 years old.
Unfortunately, Hutchence ended up losing his battle with the demons within.
“He was in pain,” said his friend Dorothy Carvello, who met Hutchence while working at INXS’s label, Atlantic Records. “When he spoke, he was in pain.”
The ride to the top
In high school, Hutchence met future bandmate Andrew Farriss, and the two formed INXS in 1977 with two other Farriss brothers – Tim and Jon. Three years later, the group released their self-titled debut album in 1980, which spawned the Australian hit Just Keep Walking.
As lead singer, Hutchence took the band from a group that found success in their native Australia to worldwide fame with 1985’s Listen Like Thieves album, 1987’s Kick LP and 1990’s X.
MTV made him a mystery: cool, charismatic Hutchence became one of the greatest rock frontmen of his generation, exuding both soul and sex appeal. He single-handedly made INXS’ “Need You Tonight” video the hottest thing on MTV in 1987, and the iconic clip — featuring the singer seducing the masses in a shirtless leather jacket and pants — won Video of the Year in 1988 VMAs.
Within a few albums, Hutchence became a rock god. “We’re talking about people like Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger — he’s one of them,” said Lori Majewski, co-host of SiriusXM’s “Feedback,” which was published about Hutchence in her 2014 book, Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave wrote artists and songs that defined the 1980s.” “He’s one of the greatest live frontmen of all time.”
“He was magical,” added Troup, who started out as INXS’s US manager in 1986. “He was the epitome of the rock star. He was fascinating. He had a sensuality about him. But he also had a shyness about him. And he was very sensitive. He had his ups and downs and he had his insecurities. If he played at a place like Wembley [Stadium in London], I used to laugh because he couldn’t see past the front 10 rows because he never wore his glasses on stage. But he had poor eyesight. So I was always like, ‘Oh, this has to be it. That’s why he could do it. Because he can’t really see past the first few rows.’”
And even as one of the biggest rock stars in the world, Hutchence was a regular sidekick in Australian parlance. Photographer Chris Cuffaro, who first photographed the INXS singer during the 1988 “Kick” tour, described Hutchence as “the nicest guy in the world.”
“I was with him backstage and he was wearing Doc Martens, and I said to him, ‘I’ve never worn Doc Martens,'” Cuffaro recalled. “And he’s like, ‘Oh, these are great. So he let me try on his shoes so I could find out if I liked Doc Martens. And after that I wore Doc Martens for the next 10 years.”
But just as INXS released Welcome to Wherever You Are in August 1992, life came crashing down for Hutchence at the height of his career. While he and then-girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christensen, were cycling in Copenhagen, Hutchence got into an altercation with a taxi driver. The rocker fell backwards and hit his head, but did not see a doctor for several days. It turned out he had a fractured skull – a brain injury that robbed him of his taste and smell and also affected his mental health. He became depressed and aggressive
“He just wasn’t the same person anymore. No question… No one knew [why] at the time, but his behavior was starting to become erratic,” Carvello said. “He treated himself. He started taking a lot of Prozac… Traumatic brain injuries are something we now know about from soccer players. And suicide can be a by-product of traumatic brain injury.”
At the same time, Hutchence’s career saw a big hit when “Welcome to Wherever You Are” – which saw the band experimenting with everything from sitars to a 60-piece orchestra – flopped by INXS standards and failed to match the heights of the previous band albums.
The proud boast that Hutchence had flaunted on Need You Tonight was now replaced by doubt.
“He questioned himself,” Troup said. “That’s what happens with fame — you go up the hill and you come down the hill. It was tough for him. You feel so confident when you have this fame — even when you have your insecure moments — and Michael was beautiful, inside and out. But he started questioning everything: ‘It’s my looks, it’s my age, it’s my…’ I think that weighed on him a lot.”
In 1995, Hutchence left Christensen for British star Paula Yates, who at the time was married to Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof. Although the couple had a turbulent relationship, Hutchence was very happy for their daughter Tiger Lily, who was born in 1996.
“From that moment on, the only thing I heard from was Tiger,” Troup said. “He loved, loved, loved, loved that little tiger. He would carry around a watch with her picture on it and take it to meetings. It got to the point where it was embarrassing.”
But Hutchence’s relationship with Yates — who died of a heroin overdose in 2000 — also drew him into her tabloid-obsessed custody battle with Geldof. The couple were arrested on suspicion of drug possession after the family’s nanny found a small quantity of opium in a shoebox under their bed, although the case was later dropped for lack of evidence.
Despite his tabloid travails, Hutchence was determined the show must go on. In the week before his death, the band were preparing for a tour of Australia to promote 1997’s “Elegantly Wasted,” which failed to produce any hit singles. Troup wasn’t sure if they should go through with it.
“I was worried,” she said. “We met different people from the film and television world in LA. And he just didn’t seem to be in shape. And I said, ‘Michael, let’s cancel the Australian tour.’ And he says, ‘I could never do that. I would never do that to the fans in Australia.’”
Despite this, Carvello is not convinced that he wanted to take his own life.
“I’m not sure if he really meant to do that,” she said. “I think it was a rash act, done in the heat of the moment, whatever happened. Because think about it – no [suicide] A notice. And for someone whose job it was to write words, I always thought that was strange.”
https://nypost.com/2022/11/22/what-happened-to-michael-hutchence-lead-singer-of-inxs/ What happened to INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence