A Fan's Recall
The 22nd of November, 1997, will sadly forever be a tragic reminder of what Australia and the world lost when the Shining Star that was Michael Hutchence checked out of our lives, forever.
I'll never forget the day... it's as vivid in my mind now as it was then, when I found out the tragic news. As I'm sure it is for many INXS fans around the world.
It's probably time to state that I am a massive INXS fan. It all sounds so awfully cliched but, like many I'm guessing, I discovered these home grown legends as a 15 year old kid, putting that 'Kick' tape that my sister's friend left at our house into the machine and being blown away by the opening track, Guns In The Sky (written by the one and only Hutchence).
From then it was love at first listen, which continued with the discovery of a pretty extensive back catalogue, and continued on through their next release X, all the way to Elegantly Wasted (their last album with Michael Hutchence) and then on with the new album releases with both JD Fortune and the guest singers on Original Sin.
Yep, I'm that guy. And it's an honour and privilege to be able to write on behalf of millions of INXS fans about the deep impact his life and death had on my life to date.
But, back to the tragic day in question. November 22.
Obviously, being from Perth, we're three hours behind over here, so the news filtered through pretty early on a Saturday morning. I missed all of it as I was out playing golf (sad, I know). When I got home, my sister actively found me and asked:
"Have you heard the news? Michael Hutchence has died"
I will never forget that feeling. The shock, the dread, the pure stomach churning sense of loss.
My sister isn't the kind that plays dumb jokes on you, so I knew that if she said it, it's absolutely legit, but there was a tiny bit of me hoping like hell that she was mistaken... that she'd been fed mis-information.
Remember too... this was 1997. Both the Internet and mobile phones were around, but not really used in the way they are today.
So, I had to wait an agonising period of time (probably 20 or so minutes, in hindsight), to listen to the radio's next hourly news bulletin to hear the dreaded news confirmed.
Michael Hutchence: Dead At 37
Of course, when you hear something that rocks your world as much as mine was that day, you've got all sorts of conflict going on inside you. Here's a bloke I absolutely idolised, as a performer, a singer, a songwriter, as just a man... yet I didn't know him. I'd never met him.
So there's a real sense of grief, but it all feels a little weird as he was just an ideal to me. His actual physical presence wasn't a real part of my life.
But maybe that was just me?
So, dealing with that loss but hungry for answers as to how and why (in the initial midst of it all, not much was revealed as to how he died, other than that he was found dead in his hotel room), I turned to an INXS fan site ran by an absolute legend out of New York (of all places) - called, An Excess of INXS.
The guy that ran it, Neil Kothari, was the full bottle on the band and at the time, this was THE place to go online if you loved the band. Again, at that point in time most organisations and businesses didn't even have websites. INXS certainly didn't.
I knew, the moment I read the message that had been crudely updated to their home page, that all that sense of foreboding and despair were well founded.
From memory, the message went something like:
"It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm that Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS, has been found dead in his hotel room in Sydney this morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his bandmates, his friends and of course, his fans."
Something like that.
The ensuing days and weeks were painful. I remember chucking a sickie on the day of his funeral so I could watch it live on Channel 7. Again, something quite surreal.
I sat there alone, silent for the whole time (around two hours all up), watching something that didn't feel quite right. But something I felt I had to do.
But maybe that was just me?
Over time, like anything, the pain has subsided somewhat, but the sense of loss remains stronger than ever (it seems to grow with every passing year). There's seldom a positive in the death of a young man that could have been prevented, but over time, I feel like Australians in particular have come to realise just how big a deal this gifted, charismatic, uber talented Aussie bloke was.
He was one of us. He took on the world with a band of brothers and won.
Their music has stood the test of time and continues to influence. Next time you listen to something like What You Need on the radio, really concentrate. It still sounds so fresh and innovative, despite the fact that it's over 30 years old.
Hutchence wrote that song with his mate Andrew Farriss in something like half a day. The band recorded it the very next day. That's vision, talent, capability and performance all wrapped up into one neat little package.
Tonight I will crack a beer and toast to that great performer, that great Australian performer, wherever he is. No doubt many music fans, not just INXS fans, will do the same, both here in Australia and around the world.
Written by: @dantheinternut