A Rockapaedia Obituary
Michael Hutchence died aged thirty-seven on 22nd November 1997 in his hotel room in Sydney, Australia.
On 6th February 1998, after an autopsy and coronial inquest, New South Wales State Coroner, Derrick Hand, presented his report which ruled that Michael Hutchence's death was a suicide while depressed and under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.
Former girlfriend Kym Wilson and Andrew Reyment, her then current boyfriend, were the last people to see Michael Hutchence alive when they left him at 4:50 am. He was then awaiting a phone call from Paula Yates in London concerning whether she would bring their daughter Tiger to Australia. At 9:54 am he talked to his former longtime girlfriend, Michèle Bennett, who has stated that he was crying, sounded upset and had said he needed to see her. She arrived at his door at about 10:40 am, but there was no response. Michael Hutchence's body was discovered by a hotel maid at 11:50 am. Police reports state that Michael was in a kneeling position facing the door and he had used his snake skin belt to tie a knot on the automatic door closure at the top of the door, and had strained his head forward into the loop so hard that the buckle had broken.
After Michael's death, Bob Geldof and Paula Yates each gave police statements on the phone calls they exchanged with Michael that morning. Paula's statement on 26th November included "He was frightened and couldn't stand a minute more without his daughter. He was terribly upset and said he didn't know how he'd live without seeing Tiger. Her statement said that she had informed Michael Hutchence of the custody hearing being adjourned until 17th December, and that consequently she would not be bringing their daughter out to Australia as previously intended.
On 27th November 1997, Michael Hutchence's coffin was carried out of St. Andrew's Cathedral by members of the band and his younger brother Rhett. "Never Tear Us Apart" was played in the background. Nick Cave, a friend of Michael, performed his 1997 song "Into My Arms" during the funeral and requested that television cameras be switched off. Michael's ashes were scattered on Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour.
Michael Hutchence was born Michael Kelland John Hutchence on 22nd January 1960, the son of Sydney businessman Kelland Hutchence, and make-up artist, Patricia. Michael Hutchence was of Irish ancestry from his mother's side, Patricia's father was from County Cork in Ireland. Following Kell's business interests, Michael Hutchence's family moved to Brisbane where younger brother Rhett was born, and subsequently relocated to Hong Kong as a result of their father taking a job at an Australian trading company. During the early years in Hong Kong, both boys attended Beacon Hill School in Kowloon Tong. While in Hong Kong, Michael showed a lot of promise in a possible swimming career before breaking his arm badly. He then began to show interest in poetry and performed his first song in a local toy store commercial, before attending King George V School during his early teens.
The family returned to Sydney in 1972, buying a house in Belrose near the Northern Beaches when Michael was twelve years old. Michael Hutchence attended Davidson High School, where he met Andrew Farriss and they became good friends. Around this time, Michael Hutchence and Farriss spent a lot of time jamming in the garage with Andrew's brothers. Farriss then convinced Michael Hutchence to join his band, Doctor Dolphin, alongside two classmates, Kent Kerny and Neil Sanders. From nearby Forest High School, bass guitarist Garry Beers and Geoff Kennelly on drums filled out the line-up. The boys transferred to Davidson High School where they became serious about the idea of starting a proper band. Michael Hutchence's parents separated when he was fifteen. During 1976 for a short time, he lived with his mother and half-sister Tina in California, U.S.A. Michael Hutchence later returned to Sydney with his mother.
In 1977, a new band, The Farriss Brothers, was formed with Tim Farriss on lead guitar, his younger brother Andrew as keyboardist, and youngest brother Jon on drums. Andrew brought Michael Hutchence on board as lead vocalist and Beers on bass guitar, and Tim brought his former bandmate Kirk Pengilly on guitar and saxophone. The band made their debut on 16th August 1977 at Whale Beach, 40 kilometres north of Sydney.
In 1978, the parents of the Farriss boys moved to Perth, Western Australia, taking Jon, who was still at high school. After Michael Hutchence and Andrew finished their secondary schooling, the rest of the group followed.
Michael Hutchence, the Farriss brothers, Kerny, Sanders, Beers and Kennelly briefly performed as The Vegetables, singing "We Are the Vegetables". Ten months later, they returned to Sydney, where they recorded a set of demos. The Farriss Brothers regularly supported hard rockers Midnight Oil on the pub rock circuit, and were renamed as INXS in 1979. Their first performance under the new name was on 1st September 1979 at the Oceanview Hotel in Toukley. In May 1980, the group released their first single, "Simple Simon"/"We Are the Vegetables" which was followed by the debut album, INXS, in October. Their first Top 40 Australian hit on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart, "Just Keep Walking", was released in September 1980. During the 1980s, Michael Hutchence resided at the apartment block at the end of Kirketon Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.
Michael Hutchence became the main spokesperson for the band. He co-wrote almost all of INXS's songs with Andrew Farriss, who has attributed his own success as a songwriter to Michael Hutchence's "genius".
According to Michael Hutchence, most of the songs on Underneath the Colours were written in a relatively short space of time. He said that most bands shudder at the prospect of having twenty years to write their first album and four days to write their second but for them, though, it was good. It left less room for them to go off on all sorts of tangents. Soon after recording sessions for Underneath the Colours – produced by Richard Clapton – had finished, band members started work on outside projects. Michael Hutchence recorded "Speed Kills", written by Don Walker of hard rockers Cold Chisel, for the Freedom film soundtrack, directed by Scott Hicks. It was Michael Hutchence's first solo single and was released by WEA in early 1982.
In March 1985, after Michael Hutchence and INXS recorded their album The Swing, WEA released the Australian version of Dekadance, as a limited edition cassette only EP of six tracks including remixes from the album. The cassette also included a cover version of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood's hit "Jackson", which Michael Hutchence sang as a duet with Jenny Morris, a backing singer for The Swing sessions.
In May 1984, INXS won seven awards at the Countdown Music and Video Awards ceremony, including 'Best Songwriter' for Michael Hutchence and Andrew, and 'Most Popular Male' for Michael Hutchence. They performed "Burn for You", dressed in Akubras (a brand of hats) and Drizabones (a brand of outdoor coats/oilskin jackets) followed by Michael Hutchence and Morris singing "Jackson" to close. INXS performed five songs for the July Oz for Africa concert, in conjunction with the Live Aid benefit organised by Irish musician, Bob Geldof. Two of their songs, "What You Need" and "Don't Change", were also in the BBC broadcast and are contained on Live Aid's four DVD boxed set released in 2004.
In 1986, Michael Hutchence played Sam, the lead male role, in the Australian film Dogs in Space, directed by long-time INXS music video collaborator Richard Lowenstein. Sam's girlfriend, Anna, was portrayed by Saskia Post as a "fragile peroxide blonde in op-shop clothes". Some events in the film are based on Lowenstein's life when sharing a home in a Melbourne inner suburb with friend Sam Sejavka (Beargarden) when Sam was in the band The Ears, in the late 1970s. Michael Hutchence provided four songs on the film's soundtrack. A cover version of "Rooms for the Memory", a song by Whirlywirld (a post-punk band that included Ollie Olsen), was released as a solo single. It peaked at Number eleven in February nineteen eighty-seven. Back in 1979, both INXS and Whirlywirld had played at the Crystal Ballroom, in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, which featured in the film.
Late in 1986, before commencing work on a new INXS album and while supposedly taking an eight-month break, the band's management decided to stage the Australian Made tour as a series of major outdoor concerts across the country. The roster featured INXS, Jimmy Barnes, Models, Divinyls, Mental as Anything, The Triffids and I'm Talking. To promote the tour, Michael Hutchence and Barnes shared vocals on The Easybeats cover "Good Times" and "Laying Down the Law", which Barnes cowrote with Beers, Andrew Farriss, Jon Farriss, Michael Hutchence and Pengilly. "Good Times" was used as the theme for the concert series of 1986–nineteen eighty-seven. It peaked at Number two on the Australian charts, and months later was featured in the Joel Schumacher film The Lost Boys and its soundtrack, allowing it to peak at Number forty-seven in the U.S. on 1st August nineteen eighty-seven. Divinyls' lead singer Chrissie Amphlett enjoyed the tour and reconnected with Michael Hutchence, stating that Michael Hutchence was a sweet man, who said in one interview that he wanted her to have his baby.
In nineteen eighty-seven, Michael Hutchence provided vocals for Richard Clapton's album Glory Road, which was produced by Jon Farriss.
INXS released the album Kick in October nineteen eighty-seven, which provided the band with worldwide popularity. Kick peaked at number 1 in Australia, number 3 on the US Billboard 200, number 9 in UK, and number 15 in Austria. It was an upbeat, confident album that yielded four Top 10 U.S. singles, "New Sensation", "Never Tear Us Apart", "Devil Inside" and number 1 "Need You Tonight". "Need You Tonight" peaked number 2 on the UK charts, number 3 in Australia, ] and number 10 in France. According to 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them, Need You Tonight is not lyrically complex; it is Michael Hutchence's performance where "he sings in kittenish whisper, gently drawing back with the incredible lust of a tiger hunting in the night" that makes the song "as sexy and funky as any white rock group has ever been". INXS toured heavily behind the album throughout nineteen eighty-seven and nineteen eighty-eight. The video for the nineteen eighty-seven INXS track "Mediate" (which played after the video for "Need You Tonight") replicated the format of Bob Dylan's video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues", even in its use of apparently deliberate errors. In September nineteen eighty-eight, the band swept the MTV Video Music Awards with the video for "Need You Tonight/Mediate" winning in five categories.
In 1989, Michael Hutchence collaborated further with Olsen for the Max Q project, and was joined by members of Olsen's previous groups including Whirlywirld, No and Orchestra of Skin and Bone. They released a self-titled album and three singles, "Way of the World", "Sometimes" and "Monday Night by Satellite". Max Q disbanded in nineteen-ninety. Max Q showed Michael Hutchence exploring the darker side of his music and, with Olsen, he created "one of the most innovative dance music albums of the decade". Michael Hutchence wrote most of the music and provided "an extraordinary performance ... it was one of the most significant statements Michael Hutchence was to make". In nineteen-ninety, Michael Hutchence portrayed nineteenth-century Romantic poet Percy Shelley in Roger Corman's film version of Frankenstein Unbound, which was based on a science fiction time travel story of the same name written by Brian Aldiss.
In nineteen-ninety, INXS released X, which spawned more international hits such as "Suicide Blonde" and "Disappear" (both Top 10 hits in the USA). "Suicide Blonde" peaked at number 2 in Australia and number 11 in the UK. Michael Hutchence, with Andrew Farriss, wrote the song after Michael Hutchence's then-girlfriend, Kylie Minogue, used the phrase "suicide blonde" to describe her look during her 1989 film, The Delinquents; the film depicted Minogue in a platinum blonde wig. Michael Hutchence won the 'Best International Artist' at the 1991 BRIT Awards with INXS winning the related group award. Michael Hutchence provided vocals for pub rockers Noiseworks' album, Love Versus Money (1991).
Welcome to Wherever You Are was released in August 1992, but INXS did not tour to support the album. It received good critical reviews and went to number 1 in the UK and in Sweden, number 2 in Australia and Switzerland, and number 3 in Norway, but had less chart success in the U.S.A where, it peaked at number 16.
Michael Hutchence and INXS faced reduced commercial success with Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, especially in the U.S.A. The band took time off to rest and be with their families, while Michael Hutchence remained in the public eye through his romances. He commenced work on a self-titled solo album in the mid-nineteen-nineties.
After a period of inactivity and releases that received lukewarm reviews, INXS recorded the band's 10th official album, Elegantly Wasted, in 1996, produced by Bruce Fairbairn and Andrew Farriss.
In 2013, News.com.au ranked Michael Hutchence fourth in a list of the 15 greatest Australian singers of all time. Billboard described Michael Hutchence as "charismatic," with a "seductive purr and lithe, magnetic stage presence." Paul Donoughue of ABC.net.au wrote that Michael Hutchence had "a phenomenal voice — moody, sexual, and dynamic, able to shift effortlessly from fragile to cocksure." Reviewing an INXS concert, Dave Simpson of The Guardian wrote that watching Michael Hutchence, hair flailing, crotch thrusting, a mischievous smile forever creeping across his leathery face, he realised that here was a man born to be onstage, living and loving every minute, an explosion of sexual energy. Michael Hutchence biographer Toby Creswell asserted that Michael Hutchence was, without question, one of the truly great frontmen who expressed the music in a dynamic way that few others could.
According to People, Michael Hutchence's public brawls and onetime open drug use led London tabloids to dub him the 'wild man of rock."
Michael Hutchence was romantically linked to Kylie Minogue, Belinda Carlisle, Helena Christensen, and Kym Wilson.
In August 1992, Helena Christensen and Michael Hutchence were walking after drinking heavily when he refused to move for a taxi. The taxi driver then assaulted him, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the roadway. Michael Hutchence suffered a fractured skull in the altercation. Michael Hutchence did not immediately seek medical assistance for the injury, instead waiting several days before seeing a doctor. As a result, Michael Hutchence's fractured skull left him with an almost complete loss of the sense of smell and significant loss of taste. This injury led to periods of depression and increased levels of aggression; he did not fully recover after two weeks in a Copenhagen hospital. According to INXS bandmate Beers, Michael Hutchence pulled a knife and threatened to kill him during the 1993 recording of Full Moon, Dirty Hearts on the isle of Capri. Beers said that over those six weeks, Michael threatened or physically confronted nearly every member of the band.
In the mid-nineteen-nineties, Michael Hutchence became romantically involved with Paula Yates. He had met her in 1985, during an interview for her program, The Tube. Paula Yates interviewed Michael Hutchence again in 1994 for her Big Breakfast show, and their affair was soon uncovered by the British press. At the time, Paula was married to The Boomtown Rats' lead singer and Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof. Media scrutiny was intense, and Michael Hutchence assaulted a photographer who had followed the couple. Paula Yates' separation from Geldof in February 1995 sparked a public and at times bitter custody battle over their daughters. Yates and Geldof divorced in May 1996.
On 22nd July 1996, Paula gave birth to Michael Hutchence's only child, their daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence, who Paula claimed was delivered in their bathroom. Like her half-sisters, she was christened with an unusual name. Pixie chose Heavenly, Michael Hutchence picked Hiraani, and Paula provided Tiger Lily; she was called Tiger and Michael Hutchence described her as being just what we ordered.