Michael Hutchence, an unsolved mystery

Michael Hutchence portrayed by Zoa Studio
Michael Hutchence portrayed by Zoa Studio

For those unfamiliar with this name, Michael Hutchence was the young and charismatic INXS frontman, who would have turned 60 today, January 22nd. Unfortunately, however, on November 22, 1997, at the age of 37, he died in unresolved circumstances; perhaps for an alleged suicide or for a macabre (and tragic) sexual ritual. Let’s start from the beginning, because, as emerges from numerous interviews, all those who knew him defined him as a lover of life and an experimenter; even if he sometimes defied the extreme, he would never be able to make such a gesture.

The young Michael Hutchence

Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney on January 22, 1960, but grew up in Hong Kong. He returns to his hometown only in his late teens: at Davidson High School. There where he studies he meets Andrew Farriss. Together with him, Andrew’s two brothers and some friends, Michael founds a band, The Farriss Brothers; subsequently called with the much more memorable name INXS. When the Farriss brothers had to move to Perth for family needs (remember we are talking about teenagers), the whole band moved, and then returned to Sydney in about 1980.

It seems evident that the same members of the band, albeit young, abandoning their city to follow the dream of music, immediately understood that success and fame would kiss them. And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened. The X contained in the name already foreshadowed the X Factor that the Australian band owned, in particular its frontman. An article in the Guardian underlines that it was this “star power” that distinguished Michael Hutchence, as well as the myths that inspired him in his movements: Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop.


Pronounced “In Ex ess” (in excess, the name is already a declaration of intent), INXS released their first, and self-titled, album in 1980, three years after the formation. The first album contains the famous (and wonderful if I am allowed), Just Keep Walking, revived in 2001 in a remix version of Par-T-One that made clubs dance all over the world.

The second album, Underneath the Colors, and the third, Shabooh Shoobah, the year after, entered the US Top 50, were not long in coming. Until 1984 the fame of INXS remains rather relegated to Australia but in 1984, with the release of the album The Swing, the group begins to climb the peaks of the European and US charts. In 1987 Kick was released, which contains famous songs such as New Sensation, Devil Inside and Need You Tonight, the latter perhaps the most famous song of the group. In this period Michael Hutchence consecrated himself as a sex symbol, so much so that he was also requested as an actor, for example in the film Dogs in Space, for which INXS also released a single, Rooms for the Memory.

In the following years the world tours start and in 1988 the song Need You Tonight arrives first in the English charts, among an audience that until then had, unjustly, little appreciated the Australian band. After 1990 INXS took a break, then released other albums and in 1994 the first Greatest Hits. In 1997 Elegantly Wasted was released, the last album with the group for Michael Hutchence, who passed away on November 22 of that year in very controversial circumstances.

Michael Hutchence, death

The events that led to the mysterious and controversial death of Michael Hutchence in 1997 are perhaps to be found a few years earlier in his private life. For some time the Australian artist has been in a relationship with blonde Paula Yates, and the two have a 15-month-old daughter, Tiger Lily. However, Yates has three other daughters from her previous marriage to Sir Bob Geldof (https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Geldof) and is facing a long legal battle to secure custody. The British tabloids, greedy for scoops, hunt down Yates and Michael Hutchence, who supports her in this fight against her ex-husband. All this pressure, and the fact that the artist cannot take his partner and her children with him to Australia, certainly has a negative effect on Hutchence’s state of health. In 1995, in fact, he began to be prescribed anti-depressants: drugs that would accompany him until the day of his death.

In addition to the relationship with Paula Yates, another circumstance of his private life that influenced the emotional state of the Australian singer is to be found in the brain injury due to an attack that left Hutchence devoid of the sense of taste and smell. . According to a neurologist that director Lowestein had consulted when Hutchence was to play Dogs in Space, the trauma suffered by the artist put him in a high risk category for suicide, because he was unable to manage emotional dilemmas due to the injuries he sustained. Information integrated with the above can be read at the following link (in English): https://news.sky.com/story/inxs-star-michael-hutchence-and-the-secret-he-took-to-his -grave-11838007

The day before death

On November 21, the evening before his death, Hutchence dines with his father, who remembers his son on that evening “in great shape, smiling and funny” but “agitated by the legal battle with Bob Geldof”. It was he who said, a couple of weeks after the death of his son, “Sir Bob has made their lives miserable. I think this contributed a lot to what happened. “

After a few visits from friends all night, who confirm that they have seen the singer in excellent shape, happy and excited, Michael Hutchence receives a call from his partner Paula Yates around five thirty. Paula reports that the custody process has still been postponed; for this reason, he will not be able to leave England with his daughters to join him in Australia. He tells her he will try again to talk to Geldof, which he does by calling him back and waking up the woman who was in the hotel room next to hers.

At that point Hutchence calls several friends, perhaps to calm down after raising the tone with Geldof, and leaves a message on the answering machine of his manager, Martha Troup: “Martha, it’s Michael. I’ve had enough”. Shortly after, around 10 am on November 22, Hutchence overhears his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Bennett, and starts crying looking upset. At that point Bennett rushes to the hotel, but no one answers; probably Hutchence’s body was already lying lifeless, but she didn’t know it and walked away.

The finding

It is five to twelve at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Double Bay and, in room 524, Michael Hutchence is found by a maid who has come in to do the cleaning.

The corpse is kneeling, naked, behind the door. Nearby is a leather belt, used to hang oneself (according to the coroner) on the automatic door lock lever. Traces of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and other medicines are found in the victim’s blood. This death raises numerous questions. Hutchence’s friends and family do not believe it is possible that the artist could have taken his own life, not him, who was a happy person. In addition, the fact that he was naked would confirm the sexual experimentation that this “dangerous boy” liked, as defined by Yates.

The funeral

Michael Hutchence’s funeral was celebrated on November 27, 1997. During the function, two of the most famous INXS songs are played: By my side and Never Tear Us Apart. After the cremation, the ashes are divided into three parts: one to the father, one to the mother, and one to Paula Yates. The father, Kelland Hutchence, scatters his share in the Sydney dock. British tabloids report that the day before he died, Hutchence sent a bouquet of red roses to his fiancĂ©e, with a note bearing the following phrase “To my beautiful girls, with all my love, Michael.” By the time the flowers arrived in London, however, Paula Yates was already on the plane, headed for her companion’s funeral with her daughter Tiger Lily.

I don’t know about you, but to me, somehow, these never received flowers remind a little of the episode we told about Janis Joplin, when the singer received a letter too late that perhaps could have saved her life. https://www.zoastudio.com/2019/10/04/janis_joplin/

Michael Hutchence’s legacy

Paula Yates after the death of Michael Hutchence

In 1998 Paula Yates, about a year after the death of her beloved, tries to take her own life, fortunately in vain. However, on September 17, 2000, Yates succeeds in her intent, and her body is found by her daughter. The woman was choked on her own vomit, a bit like some of the members of the J27 club. The room is found filled with bottles of vodka and various drugs: from cannabis, to heroin and barbiturates. The legal report will file the case as an overdose suicide. As in the case of comrade Michael Hutchence, no one will ever know if the action was intentional or not. From that moment on, Yates earned a macabre nickname taken from the title of an INXS song: Suicide Blonde.

Tiger Lily, the daughter of Michael Hutchence

And what became of Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates’ daughter, after the death of both parents 3 years apart? It seems that today, the young girl born in 1996, loves to stay away from the limelight and that she shares an apartment with tenants in London, in a space similar to that of the setting of Dogs in Space, the film in which her father appeared. For other tabloids, Tiger Lily would instead be in Australia, with her boyfriend.

What is known for certain is that people close to Michael Hutchence would have invested the artist’s capital in offshore accounts shortly after his death, which would have left Tiger Lily with a very modest inheritance. After the death of Paula Yates, Tiger Lily was adopted by Bob Geldof, a bitter enemy of the Hutchence family, managing to have an excellent relationship with the three half-sisters (one of whom, Peaches Geldof, died at the age of 25, but that’s another story …)

Hutchence more current than ever

In 2019 the director of Dogs in Space, Richard Lowenstein, made a documentary on the life of Michael Hutchence entitled Mystify, defined as a sort of apology for the director for not having been present in the last moments of the Australian artist’s life. The title of the documentary takes its name from the homonymous album Mystify: A Musical Journey with Michael Hutchence, released on July 5, 2019 on CD, cassette, vinyl and in digital format. Inside numerous INXS songs and recordings never distributed until then. The album was released as a complementary recording to the aforementioned Lowenstein documentary film.

In Australia, the artist’s homeland, the documentary was broadcast by ABC Television on November 24, 2019, while the British BBC Two aired it on December 28. A nice gift in the Christmas period not to forget a great artist. Which, in a small part, we also do to you by remembering him on his birthday.

# bymyside


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