Grab a Sheila and a tinny as we trace the rise of Oz rockers INXS.
rose through the ranks of pub rock and hoardes of drunken Aussies
hurling empty 'tinnies' to become Australia's biggest export since
Fosters lager. Formed in 1977 in Perth by brothers Andrew, Tim and
Jon Farriss, the band were originally called The Farriss Brothers
(see what they did there?) and were augmented by bassist Garry Beers
(no, really), saxophonist Kirk Pengilly and charistmatic frontman
Michael Hutchence. The band's formative years were spent polishing
their act, travelling across Australia and playing dodgy pubs and
tough North Western mining towns where a lump of flying coal would
often serve as encouragement. Hutchence was earning $150 a week
but said the drunken requests for Waltzing Mathilda by 6ft 8" burly
miners were a career shaping experience. When the band hit Sydney
and had changed their name to INXS, the media hype was so strong
that they were rewarded with a record contract, resulting in a self-titled
album in 1980. A fair reward for entertaining marauding drunken
mate - We're huge!
After a series of well received early '80s albums, ('Underneath
The Colours', 'Listen Like Thieves' and hit singles including 'Original
Sin', (banned by Australian radio because of its theme of love between
an interracial couple), the band came to the attention of the MTV
generation with their first cross over hit, 'What You Need'. The
single established what would become the band's trademark musical
style - staccato guitar funk rhythms, funky saxophone accompaniment,
lush rhythms and Hutch's seductive vocals. The sound culminated
in the band's massive crossover album, 'Kick' in 1987. US No. 1
singles 'Need You Tonight' and 'Devil Inside' and UK Top 10 hits
'New Sensation' and 'Never Tear Us Apart' catapulted the band into
the superstar stratosphere making a rock icon of Michael Hutchence.
Critics hailed him as the bastard lovechild of Jim Morrison and
Mick Jagger. He was witty, intelligent and one of the few men of
the modern age not to look ridiculous in leather trousers.
on the Sheilas mate!
Global success also brought Hutchence a series of tangled personal
relationships. In 1988 Hutchence surprised friends and fans alike
by dating dimunitive Oz popstrel Kylie Minogue, who, back then was
barely out of shocking Top Shop frilly frocks and Pete Waterman
approved manufactured pop. The cool diva reincarnation of today
looked both impossible and laughable. What was rock's latest icon
of cool doing dating a naff pop star? "People don't realise how
sharp and intelligent Kylie is and how cool she is," Hutchence
told bandmates and friends. Kylie still claims that Hutchence was
the first real love of her life and introduced her to many "life
INXS continued their assault on global domination with follow up
albums, 'X' (spawning the hit singles 'Disappear' and 'Suicide Blonde')
and Welcome To 'Wherever You Are' in 1992. Hutch soon dumped Kylie
for supermodel Helena Christiansen and then dumped Helena for TV
presenter Paula Yates in 1994 after a particularly flirtatious 'footsie'
interview on the bed on Channel 4's Big Breakfast. Yates divorced
her husband Bob Geldof and moved in with Hutchence. The couple had
a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. Not quite happy families
then, more a case of dysfunctional, but reasonably content.
In 1997 INXS released what was to be their last with Hutchence -
'Elegantly Wasted'. The album received poor reviews with critics
claiming the band were retreading old ground. Rolling Stone called
the album "irrelevant" and "an exercise in nostalgia."
Perhaps depressed by critical reviews coupled with the turmoil of
his personal life - Hutchence was caught in the middle of a divorce
settlement between Paula Yates and former husband Geldof and the
custody of their children, Fifi Trixibelle and Peaches - the singer
apparently took his own life under mysterious circumstances in a
Sydney hotel room in 1997. Hutchence was 37-years-old. U2's Bono,
a friend, said at the time of the death: "I don't know if
I feel angry or guilty because I had a conversation with him not
that long ago where we talked about something like this, and we
both agreed how dumb and selfish it would be." More tragedy
followed in 2000 with the death of Paula Yates from a drugs overdose.
The band continue to record today and have just released a Greatest
Hits set, 'Definitive INXS'. They tour the UK in December with Blondie.