INXS singer/songwriter Michael Hutchence was the celebrated frontman of a band that was the biggest in the world. Michael's big sister, Tina, adored him from the start, and remained Michael's trusted confidant until his sudden death. Tina's intimate and detailed telling of her brother's story—from faltering teenager with a lisp to raging rock star—blazes with love and adventure, and includes the acquired brain injury that changed everything for Michael; his secret philanthropy in support of East Timor; and his bliss at the birth of his only child, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. This personal and heartfelt biography reveals the incredible, rollercoaster life of an enduring superstar and shares the private moments of an adored brother, son, and father.
|Publisher:||Allen & Unwin|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Tina Hutchence is the author of Just a Man: The Real Michael Hutchence. Jen Jewel Brown was the first Down Under reporter for Rolling Stone Australia. She dueted with Michael on his first solo single, and helped sign INXS to a worldwide music publishing deal.
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MY BROTHER roamed the world with a book in his hand and one in his suitcase. Like the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose work inspired him, Michael started writing poems when he was twelve. And he was a great, precocious reader. As Sydney schoolboys, hyper and pubescent, he and Andrew Farriss would whirl in from Davidson High mid-afternoon and hole up in Michael's room to discuss not only music, including jazz, but books like Charles Bukowski's Diary of a Dirty Old Man.
Michael always loved being read to, ever since he was a tiny child.
In 1984 he played his first UK show, with INXS, at the Astoria on 26 May. Troubled by chronic post-gig insomnia in his hotel room, he called his live-in girlfriend Michele Bennett, who was back in Sydney.
That night he asked her to read to him, as he had so often before. And she would reach for the book beside her bed, as she would throughout his life, and read Michael to sleep. He and Michele spent six years together.
In January 1986, he was himself reading A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir.
I bet you're thinking, how does she know these things — right?
My brother wrote about them in his diaries. A diary was just another piece of flotsam to him, I guess. Part of an astounding, ongoing cascade of paperwork including cards, scrawled lyrics and legal documents he'd leave with me — in the wake of yet another departure, for yet another tour.
When we asked his great friend, Chris Bailey, of the Saints, about what writers he liked best, he recalled that 'Mick' once gave him a book of letters by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who wrote 'Do not go gentle into that good night'. I threw my mind back to Michael's bookshelves; the titles and authors he talked and wrote about. I turned the pages of some he loved the most, looking for what might have sent wings for his own poetry, as he thought of it: his lyrics. And so from time to time these books that Michael read connect me to the story of his life again. They brush across these pages too, leaving a trail of hints about their reader, lost too soon.
There have been at least nine biographies written about Michael so far. This book is different because I was one of the closest people on the planet to him.
Twelve really is a special age, poised on the brink of life. That's how old I was when I first held him, the day he was born. I spoke to him five days before he died.
I became his pre-teen, stand-in mother when ours was working, and he became the five-year-old DJ for my go-go dance rehearsals in Hong Kong. We were kids roaming the planet, eager for experience. We shared crazy, terrific and trying years of growing up, with or without each other, our brother, Rhett, and each of our parents at different times. We went our separate ways and faxed and phoned to bare our worries and share our wins, comparing notes and planning distant meet-ups.
As adults, Michael and I rendezvoused all over Europe and America. We had hilarious dinners in myriad cities. Our shared, nomadic, spreading family spent Christmas after Christmas hanging out.
Sure, there was frustration and tragedy in Michael's life, but one thing I can say for certain — he didn't die wondering. He lived a series of grand adventures.
Nevertheless, in his last months on earth, there were signs that he had begun to realise what a naive leap of faith he had made in delegating his business affairs. For Mother and me, compounding the profound, ongoing trauma caused by his sudden death, a legal battle loomed. It was impossible to ignore the opaque and secretive twists of the shape-shifting business empire set up by others with Michael's money. The defendants to later proceedings included Michael's financial adviser and named executor of his estate, Colin Diamond, Hong Kong accountant and co-executor Andrew Paul, and a labyrinth of corporate trustees that held various assets including many real estate properties, which we alleged were held beneficially for Michael. Patricia Glassop — our mother — and I were two of those named in his will, and we especially felt compelled to fight on behalf of Michael's only child, Mother's granddaughter, my niece. Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence was, still is, the nominated heiress of 50 per cent of her father's estate.
But Patricia and her husband, Ross, were ageing. Due to the stress of legal matters dragging on, making them sick, combined with our less than bottomless pockets, we agreed to settle the case at a mediation in May 2000. I can't say what it was settled for, but I can say that the payout by the defendants to us didn't fully cover our legal costs. Mother and I returned this to Ross to repay his kind loan for the lawsuit. I am indebted to her for having the strength and courage to co-author Just A Man: The real Michael Hutchence with me.
Our patriarch Kell Hutchence passed away in 2002, Ross in 2009 and Mother in 2010, sadly.
As the twentieth anniversary of Michael's death approached, Diamond sought investors for a two-part telemovie about Michael, containing some new original music. Called Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar, it aired on Channel Seven in Melbourne. Just after it aired, in November 2017, the Paradise Papers opened the floodgates of information on the Hutchence estate with actual legal documents exposed in the media.
The Paradise Papers became the biggest leak of documents ever published. In these the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), including ABC Television's Four Corners in Australia and The Guardian, helped expose a great many high-profile financial controversies. There had been a massive leak of client records from the law firm Appleby, in the tax haven of Bermuda, that represented many people and bodies of elite wealth in their efforts to minimise or negate tax. They included the Queen of England, Bono and Michael.
The leaked financial dealings of Michael's financial adviser Colin Diamond with Appleby showed that Diamond had control of rights to Michael's music and copyrights after his client's death, through Chardonnay, the 'Vocals Trust' set up to channel Michael's royalties through tax havens when he was alive.
Appleby had initially assessed dealings over Michael's music as 'high risk' in 2005, since two lawsuits — ours and another involving INXS — had already headed Diamond's way.
Investigations into the Paradise Papers just keep evolving as the Australian Tax Office (ATO) looks into the history of arrangements such as Michael's affairs. These investigations have the scope to change laws, and many people's lives.
Above and beyond all of this, for his legions of fans, Michael Hutchence left the world a better place by his passing through it. This genuinely mattered: to leave a lasting musical legacy was what he wanted and hoped for as an artist. And as I write, love for Michael's singing, his songs, his music and his performances around so many countries seems evergreen. So now I'm going to do my best to conjure up the adventurous Lost Boy, the sensitive, playful man I miss every day, but remember with laughter, by sharing my stories with you.CHAPTER 2
guns in the sky
BEFORE HIM, an endless sea of people swayed towards the horizon, rising and falling in a multitude of waves. The dying summer sun warmed his shoulders. The rhythm of the song the band was playing was like a Bo Diddley strut.
'Guns In The Sky': a gospel shouter's invitation to raise your hands then bring them down 'like a clock at two' — the peace sign. This rallying cry that Michael wrote alone often opened INXS's shows. Inspired by the arms race, President Reagan's proposed Star Wars missile shield and materialism, he hollered out loud about how he wanted to stop the world, shake its war-makers free.
Guns in the sky! As he half danced, half ran towards the crowd, 74,000 souls roared.
The night was just beginning. You could see Michael drink in the moment, the deep rush of pleasure on his face. An hour and a half of musical courtship to go. He wanted them to swoon. He wanted them to know he wanted them to swoon. Throwing his arms wide, he took them in his embrace.
Now that quirky music his band had lived for, sweated since they were schoolboys to build, had become lithe, hard-edged, subtle and stadium-ready. Now INXS could take them on a ride they'd never come down from.
That tiny, happy baby boy who used to beam at me in the morning when I ran to pick him up had turned into a shining star.
* * *
Wembley Stadium, founded in 1923, is soccer's hallowed grass cathedral. The charismatic stadium is also famous as the site of the British leg of Live Aid in 1985. Queen played two shows of their Magic tour there in July 1986, supported by Status Quo and some antipodean upstarts called INXS — who were pelted with bread and tomatoes for their trouble.
So five years later, and after being serially savaged by some English reviewers, it was a real test of pulling power for INXS to be able to headline at Wembley Stadium.
The word that comes to mind for their show there on 13 July 1991 is exultant. Musically elite and fighting fit, with each song in the set honed to kill, INXS played the show of their lives that night.
I am so grateful it was being filmed and recorded, no expense spared, for posterity. Prominent British director David Mallet, who'd been responsible for David Bowie's inspired 'Ashes To Ashes' and 'Let's Dance' clips, was in charge. He used 35millimetre film running through seventeen cameras, even from a helicopter, to catch an experience that just takes you there. Just as good as that extraordinarily intimate framing of INXS's kinetic performance was the sound quality. Mark Opitz, who'd produced INXS's third album Shabooh Shoobah, was backstage in the BBC recording van. He was in charge of recording and mixing the show live-to-air for BBC radio — and for later use in the DVD Live Baby Live (it rhymes with Sieve Baby Scythe).
Capturing that Wembley show cost half-a-million Australian dollars. The result, one seamless, hedonistic concert of INXS at the top of their game from start to finish, is quite an experience.
Chris Murphy, the band's manager, and INXS went right out on a limb to risk that kind of money when they could have walked away with fat pockets and the applause ringing in their ears. It is such a dynamic, completely confident, physical show: staging, lights, the amazing mix, the band's ardent attack and their ability to float from hard funk back to a moody, shadowy dream of a song like 'Mediate' part of the intrigue. Michael wooing the deliriously happy crowd. Michael the master frontman, modern dancer, R&B/soul/pop/rock/singer/poet/crooner, whisper to scream. Stager, charmer, shaman, sex symbol, revelling in every second. A beautiful repertoire. All of it adds to the musical theatre of INXS performing live at their absolute peak, and the Live Baby Live DVD is still selling today to prove it.
INXS's best concerts — and I was fortunate enough to see so many shows — often looked so full of crazy energy, they gave the impression everything had kind of spontaneously sprung into place on the night. How much deduction, trial, error and rehearsal lay behind that spontaneous effect! And so many people worked to make them shine; so many interesting elements were involved, really, behind the scenes, that it's worth going into a little detail about some of the Wembley show minutiae that night, from the point of view of a working insider.
Mark Opitz was and is an in-demand producer, engineer and mixer, a quiet achiever behind the desk on some of Australia's greatest pop and rock records ever, including for AC/DC, Cold Chisel, INXS (starting with 'Don't Change'), Divinyls, The Angels, Australian Crawl, Jimmy Barnes and Models. He's also worked with Kiss and Lenny Kravitz. Softly spoken, slim, savvy and good-looking, Mark spent a year touring the world with INXS in 1991 as their production adviser.
Earlier on the day of the Wembley show, INXS and their guests had been collected from the Carlton Grand Hotel and loaded into a flash tour bus.
'We had a police escort,' Mark remembered, in his low, clear murmur, 'all the way from Hammersmith up to Wembley Stadium. Which was really weird, because we were all high as kites.'
Inside the venue there was a very big backstage area leading to massive dressing-rooms. 'The girls had the wardrobe cases out in one room; make-up was in another room. We knew everyone on tour, 'cause we'd been doing it for a year. The difference, of course, that night, was all the guests. There was like Rolling Stones, there was Deborah Harry, Helena Christensen; Naomi Campbell, I think, and other supermodels. Kylie Minogue. Michele Bennett; everyone was backstage including various English people. Lots and lots of people.'
As show time approached, Mark had already been on and off stage several times; checking the battalions of microphones in place and making sure all the recording gear was ready to go, both onstage and in the BBC live recording studio van he would soon be operating.
'Colin [Ellis, INXS's regular sound mixer] had gone and put all his mikes out first,' Mark recalled, 'and then I'd just gone to see if they were suitable for me. Sometimes adjusting things, so it worked a bit better for me without affecting him.'
Michael Long was INXS's long-term tour manager — a tall, quiet man with serious eyes, who practised meditation. He'd previously done this critically important job for the band's friends Cold Chisel. Ten minutes before show time, he cleared the main dressing-room of guests, leaving only the band, their powerhouse of a manager Chris Murphy, his assistant Sam Evans, Paul Craig (a long-time INXS management connection in London) and Jeff Pope, who had taken time off from the New South Wales police SWAT team to run INXS's security. Even the supermodels had gone to their special seats.
A hush fell while INXS went through their last-minute changes. Michael did a few vocal warm-ups. Then he started listening to something on his Walkman. Taking off his headphones, he put them on Mark instead.
'He was playing me "Unfinished Sympathy"' — from Massive Attack's Blue Lines album —'saying, "How good is this, how good is this?" And I became a Massive Attack fan from that moment, by the way,' Mark said.
Jon Farriss would be the first member of INXS to take the stage, crawling through a secret door behind the drums. He settled into his sleek black-and-silver kit up on a riser behind where Kirk Pengilly would soon be plying his sax and guitars. Jon had the song list and could control various things electronically from back there. He'd really just emerged to check everything was working, but when he saw that flood of animated, sensation-hungry young faces, he gave them the peace sign with a gloved hand and heard their roar. Nonplussed, he waited briefly, but suddenly decided he couldn't bear to keep them waiting a moment longer. No one expected it when spontaneously he just started playing, jamming on the big loop of his own drums he had down, sitting back and kicking up a storm.
'We're all in the change room,' recalled Mark, 'and Michael was speaking to Kylie just outside it and you could hear BHOO-BHOO-BHOOH! It's this thunder, coming from somewhere. Drum thunder. And everyone's going, "What the fuck?" And starts running, 'cause it's a long way — you have to go down the stairs and along this huge backstage area and up the runways to get to the backstage pod, under the stage area. Then run along up front to get around all the gear and get onstage.'
The band had been touring internationally for fourteen months already, featuring the X album, with minor breaks here and there. On their Summer XS leg, they were riding an updraught as hit followed hit around the world. So much was working for them now, and mostly they were enjoying playing together. Here's the set list from the show: 'Guns In The Sky', 'New Sensation', 'I Send A Message', 'The Stairs', 'Know The Difference', 'Disappear', 'By My Side', 'Hear That Sound', 'Original Sin', 'The Loved One', 'Wild Life', 'Mystify', 'Bitter Tears', 'Suicide Blonde', 'What You Need', 'Kick', 'Need You Tonight', 'Mediate' and 'Never Tear Us Apart'. For the encore, they played 'Who Pays The Price' and finished with 'Devil Inside'.
After 'I Send A Message', with its snarling, wailing sax towards the end, Michael addressed the crowd for the first time.
'Yeah ... G'day! We'd like to play some new songs ... From X. This is called "The Stairs".'
Cameras zoomed out and lingered in long shots as the stage lights went down. Michael disappeared from sight as the moody chords and subtle, shifting harmonics of the instrumentation brought the pace down. It was as though night had just fallen.
Richard Lowenstein, who shot so many clips for the band over the years, reckoned that's when Michael dropped ecstasy that night. 'Being as he was into the sensual arts, it was his drug of choice there for a while.'
Michael had handed pills round to 'his gang' (as Richard put it) that night before he took the stage, telling them to take it when 'The Stairs' began. That's when Michael dropped his E too, so they'd all 'peak' together, when the drug reached its zenith in the middle of the show.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Michael"
Copyright © 2018 Tina Hutchence and Jen Jewel Brown.
Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
0 Intro ix
1 Guns in the sky 1
2 Caravanserai 9
3 Hong Kong and beyond 19
4 Kowloon Tong 30
5 You'll never make a living as a poet 38
6 Burning in the sun 52
7 The one thing 68
8 The new world 83
9 Sometimes you kick 99
10 Maximum dynamic pressure 112
11 Suicide blonde 130
12 Rue des Canettes 145
13 Vieille Ferme des Guerchs 150
14 This changes everything 163
15 Tabloid storm 180
16 And when thy heart began to beat 193
17 Moving target 207
18 Trying to avoid disaster 212
19 Disconnections 224
20 Paradise lost 238
21 Paradise Papers 253
22 The investigators 257
23 The welcome stranger 267
24 One thin page of words 280
Tours and albums 289
About the authors 293