In Excess, like I-N-X-S
Up to now Michael had sent us tapes of Farriss Brothers performing covers. The one I remember most clearly is their version of the Rolling Stones' ‘Brown Sugar' , and another, ‘I Shot The Sheriff' . Once in a letter with the tapes, Michael wrote, that unlike most frontmen of Australian bands, he felt that he sounded 'American'. When I listened recently to some of those early recordings I can't agree with him. I took a call from Michael around this time and he said, "Yeah, we're really excited. This guy wants to be our manager, and he's changed our name to In Excess, like I-N-X -S, and he wants to buy us special outfits for the stage."
"That's great Babe, he must really believe in you if he's willing to spend money up front." I replied.
"Well um, yeah I guess. But he wants us to perform behind bars."
"You mean like a jail?"
“Kind of. The bars would be made out of lights but the stage would not be lit up."
He was losing me. "So how's the audience going to see the band if they have lights shining in their eyes?"
“We haven't worked that out. We'll have to think about it. The thing is he wants us to be mysterious and inaccessible for a year or two and build up the momentum."
INXS was not really excited about this idea –inaccessibility was even to extend to being effectively incognito and not giving interviews - and when I called him back a month later, he said they had a new manager. Gary Morris did not have the time needed to promote the young band now known as INXS, but decided to help out a friend as well as the band, by putting the two together.
Wendy Murphy Moss is the former wife of Chris Murphy, the manager who took INXS to its greatest triumphs. Wendy and I have remained friends since early 1980 when I began taking my family to Australia on a regular basis. Wendy describes her first encounter with INXS this way: "It was late 1979 but I can remember it like it was yesterday. Chris had a call from Gary Morris, the manager for ' Midnight Oil', who were doing extremely well at the time. He said there was this young band who needed a manager… they were playing at the Penrith Leagues Club. Chris was looking for a band to represent, and we went along that night. I was eight months pregnant with Stevey (their first little girl), but insisted on going. We were immediately impressed, Michael was shy, but he still had stage presence; the other five band members were excellent musicians." Soon after becoming their booking agent, Chris signed the band to a management contract.
Although Wendy is not mentioned with Chris when journalists describe the beginnings of the phenomenally successful band, I can tell you that she had a lot of influence. When he initially signed INXS, Chris and Wendy were living in Windsor , approximately two hours by car from Sydney . In the first year Chris worked twelve-hour days. Maintaining their home was not easy for Wendy with a new little baby, fourteen horses, and an absent husband. But she persevered until Chris had an accident when he fell asleep at the wheel on his way home from a concert one night, after which they moved to Mosman, in the city. By now Chris had INXS touring every little town in Australia and the band members found it pointless to keep up the rent on a house they were not occupying. In the first year at the Mosman home, Michael stayed in their spare bedroom whenever the band was in town and became part of the family. Later on when Stevey was christened, Michael became her Godfather.
For the next three years, MMA, standing for Mark Murphy Associates, was run from the Mosman home. Mark Murphy, Chris' father had died at the age of thirty-four following a heart attack and his mother took over running the company for a while. Chris met Wendy when she started work there. Chris eventually took over and was in the process of bringing the little company into the twentieth century.
This was a very good time for young bands in Australia as far as live music went. But while there was a healthy business in pubs and clubs making money as a recording artist in Australia has always been tough. Overseas artists were more valued, and anyway Australia just does not have the ‘man power' to support a large indigenous music industry. The population for the whole of Australia in the early eighties was under fourteen million, roughly the same as that of Los Angeles . And it was cut off from the rest of the world by sheer distance making it hard to break out beyond Australia 's shores. But Chris and the band shared an invincible ambition to succeed internationally, and Chris made a plan.
From 1980 to 1983 Chris spent nine out of twelve months either touring with or negotiating for the band. I thought he exuded the perfect combination for a successful manager: he had a healthy ego, he was tenacious, determined, ambitious and aggressive. There was no way he was going to take 'no' for an answer. Even better, believing that musicians should be free to create, while a manager took care of the business, Chris stayed out of the studio, unless invited to be there. In early 1980 Chris played a demo tape for former AC/DC manager, Michael Browning, who owned the independent label, Deluxe Records. It was a rough demo recorded when they were still the 'Farriss Brothers'. Recognizing the power of their stage performance, Chris then dragged him down to see INXS live at a small theatre in a southern beach town. Browning was impressed with them, he felt there was something special. He was especially taken with Michael, and they negotiated a five-album deal.
When Chris told the band this they were ecstatic. This was what the constant rehearsals had been for, the freebie gigs in tiny overcrowded pubs. The band and Chris shared a vision, which went far beyond Australia , and they now knew they were on their way.
In June 1980, Michael sent us copies of ‘Simple Simon' and ‘We Are The Vegetables' , the first single the band recorded with Deluxe Records. I was really surprised, and impressed and proud. I played both sides for anyone who would listen, proudly telling them the songs featured my little brother. Michael was also sending us press clippings, tapes, flyers, anything. I think he assumed that because I lived in California , there was a good possibility that I could get them a deal in the United States . But I was far removed from the music industry, and even as a motion picture sound editor, my husband Jeff was rarely involved with the music decisions.
Soon after ‘Simple Simon' was recorded, the band began work on their first album. After playing live each night, they went into the studio and worked until the sun came up. This went on five or six nights a week. They released their debut album titled ‘INXS' in October of the same year, and it included a hit single with ‘Just Keep Walking' . The group kept on touring, consistently the hardest working band in Australia , even rehearsing when they had a night off. Jeff and I witnessed this when we took Erin and Brent to Sydney that year. We virtually had to follow the band around to gigs just to see Michael. The first time I actually saw Michael perform with INXS was at the St George Leagues Club in the heart of Sydney , and I believe we paid $5.00 at the door. Jeff and I followed Chris Murphy backstage before the show and when he opened the door to their dressing room, the aroma of pot wafted out into the hall. Chris walked in ahead of us and admonished the band for partaking before a show. He made a big deal out of it. I don't know if it was for our benefit, but I was impressed.
By now Michael was living with Vicky Kerridge, tall, attractive, and blond, with a well-bred air and terrifically supportive of the band. She had met Michael at her local milk bar where she was buying some cigarettes and he was buying some rolling papers. They walked outside together. As we stood in the crowd with Vicky, waiting for the band to walk on stage, I was nervous for Michael and excited at the same time. The place was not packed to capacity, but it was certainly not embarrassingly empty. They finally walked on, and when they started up, and Michael threw himself into character, I was mesmerized. I had not expected such full on, in your face presence. The drunks down in front were showing their appreciation by shaking up their beer bottles and letting Michael have it when he came close to the edge of the stage, he in turn shaking up his own cans and spraying it over the crowd. One big guy sprayed him every time he moved to his side of the stage. Eventually Michael yelled, "If you don't stop doing that, I'm going to get to like it!"
I could not believe how Michael was whipping the crowd up and controlling all of the space on the stage. It was such a metamorphosis. There was my sensitive, soft spoken brother, strutting up and down the stage, looking menacingly at the crowd - which I knew he couldn't actually see due to his poor eyesight - all along, blasting into the microphone. Occasionally he would sprinkle his act with a four letter word, as in "How y'all f.....g doing tonight?" I loved it, it was insane and fun. But he was so good at being this stage character that I also found it slightly disturbing. It occurred to me then what an excellent actor he was. I understood what he was creating and I thought I would burst with pride. Vicky yelled something in my ear, which I never forgot. She shouted "Aren't they great? They're the loudest band in Australia !" Her conviction was so strong, she totally believed in Michael's ability to make the magic happen.
We went backstage afterward to congratulate them. There was a warm, friendly feeling there and the band members who were genuinely grateful for our support. Lots of down to earth, Aussie, joking around, honest enthusiasm and hugs. They didn't have much in the way of a road crew then and mostly carried their own equipment: it would be a while before there were entourages, limos and fancy hotels. Who cared if I was mildly deaf for two days, I thought; they were fantastic. As an encouraging gesture, I went around to Vicky's apartment the next morning and handed Michael an envelope containing one hundred and fifty dollars in U.S. currency, and told him to purchase the boots he had been telling me about - an item of stage gear he really coveted.
In 1981 INXS actually played almost 300 shows, criss-crossing Australia on three separate tours. Chris Murphy spaced the tours out so that he could give them special names and thus keep up the interest even though the band was playing the same place every two months. There was the ‘Stay Young Tour', the ‘Tour With No Name', and the ‘Fear And Loathing Tour'. Life on the road was not at all glamorous. There were plenty of girls and parties, and a certain amount of free drugs, but accommodation usually meant the cheapest hotel, with three people to a room. They used two vans for two crew members, six band members and the equipment. The usual routine was to take turns sleeping on the way to the next town so that no money would have to be wasted on a hotel. They sometimes managed to sneak all eight into one modest hotel room. They survived on lots of fish and chips and soggy hamburgers, and a combined determination to conquer the world.
In March they released their cover of a sixties hit called ‘The Loved One' , which had originally been recorded by another Australian band called The Loved Ones. The single which was well received, had been produced by Richard Clapton; himself a fine singer and songwriter. Chris Murphy had managed him previously and approached him to produce INXS's follow up album. Australian record producers were in short supply in those days. The second album, ‘Underneath The Colours' was released in October and went to number 15 in the Australian charts. Clapton also produced the single, ‘Stay Young' , for which INXS also made a video. It had a home-made look, just friends and their children dancing around the band who were playing on the beach. They enlisted everybody's help of course. Mother did the makeup and held reflectors when the sun began to go down. It was shot in Clontarf, on the beach in front of a house belonging to our parents' friends, Elizabeth and Oliver Campbell, who had a daughter with the beautiful name of Hiraani. As a teenager, I had babysat all of the kids at the Campbell 's home during summer vacations. We all hold fond memories of those summers and that house, and Hiraani and her family still live there today.
Working in the studio helped define the inner dynamics of the band. Each member had excellent, creative musical qualities. Andrew, however, was proving to be a standout from the rest. He took the helm and became very specific about the musical arrangements. Michael's poetry was emerging into comments on society and relationships. His lyrics would later take on sensual love themes.
Michael sent me some newspaper clippings, which have long since yellowed. In an interview Jenny Hunter Brown makes this observation of Michael "He stares quite fearlessly, slightly surlily, out at the milling pub crowd. And for a moment Michael Hutchence echoes the late Jim Morrison. He clamps both palms just beneath the microphone and clenches them. He's 20, fit, a fine dancer. He swings side to side with the mike stand as access in a mutant, Austral skank." She continues, "A great mat of damp curls flopping over one angry eye, he shoots out each rounded word like a rocket off a pad. Michael has reason to look fearless, he is fronting one of the brightest new bands on the horizon." To another writer Michael said, "I like to build a show rather than start at a high level. It should be like sex, y'know? It should slowly build and build, then you have your climax...then encores if you're lucky." So there he was, fresh off the launching pad and eager to build his 'sex god' image.
This was enough for me. There had been a lot of excitement over Danny Sugarman's biography of Jim Morrison, 'No one Here Gets Out Alive' , and there was talk that it was to become a movie. I was a fan of Morrison's and in January 1981, I sent a letter to Mr Sugarman care of his publisher, in a naive effort to convince him that Michael could play the lead role. After the polite preliminaries, I said that I'd heard about a possible film and waded on. ‘With all modesty I must tell you that my brother Michael Hutchence is the only person to play the lead! Here for your review are some press cuttings on him and his group 'INXS' (in excess). Very truly, Tina Hutchence.' I don't know what I thought would happen when Mr Sugarman received this, but I was hoping that he would insist that the production company take a chance on my brother. An unknown, 21-year-old, lanky kid from Australia. We can dream can't we? I never heard back.
In 1981 Michael called me to ask if Chris Murphy could stay with us while in Los Angeles to try to get them an American recording deal. The band only had the budget for one night at a hotel. Success did not of course, occur overnight in the United States, and Chris was our guest more than once. As it happened on that initial visit, we were due at the Golden Reel Awards dinner on his first evening. Jeff and his partners were nominated for several awards that year. That afternoon when I collected Chris at the very rock n' roll Sunset Marquis hotel just off of the Sunset Strip, he confessed that he had a huge hangover and was feeling nauseous. I was driving Jeff's Jaguar, and Chris was concerned that he would ruin the interior, so I took it easy and drove close to the curb in case he had to vomit. Jeff came up with some magic potion in the bar and we got him steady enough to attend the awards dinner. We had asked my girlfriend Lindsay Bloom along to partner Chris. Lindsay was co-starring on a television series called ‘Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer' , with Stacey Keach and her actor husband was away on location. Chris was not prepared for the event and we had to borrow some clothes from Lindsay's husband's wardrobe on the way. After we sat down at our table at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, someone approached Lindsay to ask if she would be a presenter, as another actress had called and made her apologies. Lindsay agreed. I thought Chris was going to explode: this was his first time in the United States and on his first night out he was squiring an actress! His eyes were popping as he scanned the room for more famous faces. Slightly overwhelmed, he was drinking everything in sight. It didn't take him long to catch on though, and his confidence improved with each visit.
Once I picked him up in my new car, with ‘INXS' number plates. He was 'INXStatic'. He brought INXS tee shirts with him and I wore mine constantly. He pulled out crumpled INXS posters from his luggage and I immediately had them framed. He always tried to keep me up on my brother's progress in those early days. We all wanted success for the boys, there was a real feeling of teamwork. During one visit he handed me a glamorous press shot of Michael, which I thanked him for, but placed aside. He was disappointed as he said that women really loved Michael, he was surprised that I did not make much of a fuss over the eight by ten glossy. I reminded him that Michael was my brother and it would be strange to display this kind of photograph of him in my home, along with family snaps. Besides, I could not understand the fuss that was being made over his sexual aura.
Chris replied that Michael had a certain magnetism, one that he had not yet learned to project fully on stage. That would take time. He confided that he was having a problem getting Michael to loosen up on stage, to speak to the audience and take control. For all of his talent, Michael still seemed to have low self-esteem. This seems unbelievable now, when I look back on the dynamic, unconstrained, performances Michael is remembered for, but Michael was a shy, very private person. However, Chris had no need to worry, for by the time INXS began their first shows in the United States, he had come up with a plan which involved Michael appearing on stage wearing layers of clothing, above the waist, which he could gradually peel off. It gave him something to do between songs. Removing layers of clothing as he weaved his magic on stage, became a fixture of his act; and I always thought that it meant he was removing layers of himself for the audience to see.
Judging by the female response, it worked very well. However, Michael always called upon his alter ego, the other 'Michael Hutchence' to face the large crowds. This together with the fact that he was practically blind without his glasses helped tremendously because he could only see as far as the first three rows, therefore he could only guage how many people were in the audience by the applause. I once asked Michael how he managed to walk out and perform in front of huge crowds. He told me he never got nervous, he said he used visualization techniques. "The night before or the afternoon of a performance, I close my eyes and play it in my head-just as I want the performance to go. I see the crowd, which of course I can't, and build them to a crescendo." As far as I know he used this technique for many years, visualizing and then walking on stage as that alter ego. In the latter years as his pressures increased, he came to depend on other, dangerous, crutches.
Kell sent Rhett from Manila to spend two weeks vacation with us in California. Rhett was seventeen by this time and he arrived without any pocket money, very little luggage, and a message from Kell to make sure to get him a haircut and by the way he needed some new clothes. I picked him up from Los Angeles international airport, bought him back to the house in Burbank and within an hour detected the aroma of marijuana. I followed the smell into the living room where I found Rhett reclining on a couch. I couldn't believe it, he had been in the country less than two hours and he had found an illegal substance - had he brought it with him? I asked him how he had managed to slip it through customs. He replied that this was not necessary. After going through customs in Honolulu, he walked out into the terminal and someone was dealing right there. I learned that if drugs were around, Rhett would find them a temptation. Fortunately, Erin was a baby, but Brent was old enough to notice, and I was so angry that I was shaking when I asked him not to do this around my children - his nephew and niece. Episodes such as this were to become a regular occurrence, and would only escalate over the next seventeen years. I'm not unrealistic about drugs and know that many people experiment with them, especially in their teens. I don't believe that every one of them will progress – or descend – into hard drug usage, or that all illegal drugs are equally dangerous. But I didn't want drugs of any kind being used around my children,
Two nights later Rhett wanted to go to the Hollywood Palladium to see the Ramones. Fortunately we also had my New Zealand girlfriend Annie, staying with us and she offered to go with him. When I drove them to the venue, he was wearing combat trousers, with pockets all down the front. As they attempted to pass security, Rhett was patted down. All hell broke loose. Fortunately he was not carrying pot and they apparently missed the flask of scotch he had in one pocket, due to the Swiss army knife he had in another, which was classified as a weapon. It was confiscated and he was told that he would not see it again. The guards weren't to know what we in the family had realized for years: never, ever arbitrarily use or even ask to borrow, something belonging to Rhett without being prepared to put up with some major opposition. He has always had this strange outlook on material possessions, what is his is his and if you are a relative, what is yours is also his - end of discussion. But he does make it into a game. For instance, Rhett has an eye for antiques and collectibles. I also have a collection of interesting antiques. He once took a liking to a commemorative 1893 Chicago World's Fair Columbian stamp keeper I had. Once when he visited me, it walked out with him. I called him and he owned up but said I would have to ‘steal' it back. I did just that. Then he took it again I again retrieved it and locked it away.
This night at the Hollywood venue, he made such a disturbance upon hearing the news that he would not get his knife back, that they asked him to leave. Annie panicked, stepped in, and reasoned with the men. She suggested that she be responsible for the knife, and hold it in her purse. This request must have presented these toughies with a dilemma: here she was, a courteous, well-dressed woman in her mid thirties, politely begging that they waive the rules, in order for her to enter into a pit of raucous teenagers. She promised not to brandish the knife during the concert - they finally yielded, and she and Rhett walked through the door. I think Annie earned Rhett's lifelong respect that evening.
Michael was always popular with girls and when he moved on to a new interest, he usually salvaged the friendship. I believe this was due to his own fear of rejection and dislike of confrontation. Unfortunately for him some girls are not so easily dismissed. One day I answered my door and standing there was this petite, cute, hippy, Mia Farrow type. She was not unlike another girl later to feature in his life, Kylie Minogue. It was Ananda, the girl from Perth. I expect my son had reasoned that since she lived approximately 3000 miles from Sydney, it was doubtful that she would be making any visits. Well, here she was standing there with a big smile. I ‘phoned him and we arranged for him to come over for lunch. I waited and waited. Finally I ducked into my bedroom and made another call to him, no answer and he was now two hours late. I was panicking, I had 'hippy girl' in my living room. I had run out of conversation after about an hour and she would not start lunch without Michael.
He finally phoned and told me he was at Vicky's apartment, which was around the corner from mine. I informed him that Ananda refused to eat until he arrived. His answer was "Mum, go tell her that I am not coming unless I know she will not growl at me!" She really had him quite concerned, and I was the mediator. I finally talked him into coming over and we sat down to a strange but reasonably pleasant lunch. I never saw Ananda again, and this non-confrontational habit of moving on became a pattern for Michael.
Not too long after this incident I was to meet the girl who was to become the love of his life. Michael had called me and asked if I would do the make-up on his next video for the new single ‘The One Thing' . He also asked if I could organize a couple of the actresses on ‘The Young Doctors' to appear in the video. As it was being filmed on the weekend the girls were happy to do so. Michael had become friends with Soren Jenson, the young, assistant director on our show, so he asked him if he would like to direct. Michael arrived that day with Michele Bennett. This was to be my first introduction to her as she lived in Melbourne. They became inseparable, and were obviously very much in love. Soon they were living together in Sydney, sharing a house with their friends Jenny Morris and Nick Conroy. We saw a lot of them - weekend barbeques, dinners -and met Michele's parents which seemed to give a permanency to this relationship. Michael bought a small cottage in Paddington Sydney, and he and Michele moved in. He started to collect some possessions—furniture, paintings -and continued to do so on his travels around the world.
INXS was tearing up the stage in a tiny club in Melbourne one night when Michael noticed a strikingly beautiful girl. She had long dark curly hair, full lips, dark piercing eyes and was poured into a body hugging black dress. He was struck with a bolt of lightening. He played it cool but enchanting: this was his ultimate weapon -the charming yet somehow detached character. After the set, he joined her with some friends and found out she was in her last year of high school and one of her subjects was Cantonese. As he had spent most of his childhood in Hong Kong and was still vaguely familiar with the language and intrigued by the culture, he felt this meeting was meant to be. There was electricity between them. Twenty-year-old Michael who believed strongly in a deeper connection than mere sexual attraction and seventeen-year-old Michele who was drawn to Michael's gentle, inner side, felt an instant connection. He felt that he had found his soulmate. Michele Bennett would be his live-in love for seven years and beyond this, his good friend for life. She is the only woman Michael actually told me he had considered marrying.
Michael had only recently moved in with Vicky, so the relationship did not take off immediately. Michele, who lived with her family outside Melbourne, was a girl with principles. There was no question of her going back somewhere with him after the show. Their next encounter was some months later when Michele went to see another band, the Models, at another club and halfway through, felt eyes boring into her back. She turned around to see Michael standing about twelve feet away in the crowd. She shyly acknowledged him and once again they spent the evening deep in conversation. Once again she went home with her friends.
Michael and Michele saw each other only when INXS happened to be playing a Melbourne date until she graduated from high school and took a job in a beauty salon in Toorak. One day while she was crossing the street, she ran into Michael. He invited her to the concert that night and from then on they began a phone courtship. He would call often and at odd hours. Through their conversations Michele sensed a kindness and caring about Michael. She realized on one hand he was extremely vulnerable and easily injured, to the point that if he felt that he had inadvertently hurt someone he cared for, he would be upset and mentally flog himself over the incident. On the other hand, she could see that he could be quite steely and determined towards something that he felt passionate about. He expected a lot from people, especially himself.
Michele's parents were charmed by Michael and eventually allowed her to move to Sydney with him. She packed up her car with all of her clothes and one lamp as her contribution to their flat. They were obviously mad about each other. We all loved Michele and from the very start considered her to be part of the family. At the time it never occurred to me that he would ever be with anyone else. They had settled into an apartment in North Sydney with singer Jenny Morris and another lifelong friend, Nick Conroy. It was an idyllic, carefree time for all members of the household, each with his or her own goals and dreams. It was a most exciting time for Michael, with INXS beginning to capture the small success waves, and anticipating and longing for the big ones.
In these lighthearted, heady days on the brink of huge success, with Michael's manic touring schedule, the foursome still found time for vacations, usually long weekends. Michael was working very hard and now bringing home the most money he had ever seen. One weekend they hired a houseboat on the Hawkesbury River. With so much planning and excitement, you would think that they had taken a private yacht on the French Riviera. On the first day, Michael climbed up to sun himself on the top deck, and removed his shorts to lie down in his swimsuit. As he lay there, a breeze came up and carried his shorts overboard. In the pocket was his weeks wages, a whopping AUS$200, an enormous amount of cash for him then. He alerted the others that he was diving in after it. Michele objected strenuously as the boat was surrounded by poisonous jellyfish. All the same, both he and Nick tried in vain to rescue Michael's hard-earned money.
He decided to give Michelle a ring for her birthday. He saved for months and took Jenny with him to choose a diamond. He finally found one he could afford. You would need a magnifying glass to see the stone, but to this day it is treasured by Michele. With Michael's encouragement Michele took up modelling. She remembers that he instilled confidence in her. He constantly told her to stand up straight and to remember that she was special. He convinced her that she was capable of achieving anything in life, and consistently reminded her to keep a positive outlook, to smile even when she was afraid and above all to believe in herself. She has told me many times that she is grateful to Michael for this. Michele's modelling career took off and Michael was very proud of her and often boasted to others that she was actually doing better than she was. I don't think this is a bad thing as we all tend to exaggerate a little about the people we love because we want others to care about them too or at least to rate them. But Michele is a very reserved person not in the least bit conceited, I doubt she has ever known how beautiful she really is. So she would always correct him, pointing out that she had only had two photo layouts in Vogue and not the front cover as he had stated. Despite their youth, Michael's frequent absences, and the pressures of the music business, the relationship blossomed. Michele discovered that Michael was absolutely committed to her. He proved to be an impetuous, enthusiastic partner and a true romantic. Much about his love for her was expressed in his lyrics at that time.
By now Michael was making enough money to purchase an old car, although, automobiles would curse him all his life. He went through many used European cars during this time when he rarely had a valid driver's license. It was important to him to have the luxury and freedom of owning his own car. This in itself is funny because I remember the standing joke at Chris Murphy's office was always that they had to send a ride for Michael if they wanted to be sure he would be at the studio or gig on time. One car he purchased early on literally had all of its' wires crossed. When he threw the light switch, the left indicator would go on; if he touched the choke, the windshield wipers would start up. Soon after he bought this automobile, and while he was away on a tour, he instructed Michele to have all the wiring repaired. She did so right before he was due home. When she went to collect it, she was so happy with the great job the mechanic had done. Driving it home she was excited, thinking that she could hardly wait for him to take it for a drive himself, finally a reliable car which did not break down. Suddenly, as she was crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, there was a shuddering from the hood and to Michele's alarm it ripped off and blew over the top of the car and onto the roadway behind her. Miraculously it missed hitting any other cars. She continued home with the hood on the back seat. Proof of Michael's car curse yet again…
Various other cars belonging to Michael broke down at the most inconvenient times, often on the way home from performances. Usually he would simply jump out and grab a cab or hitch a ride home. The roadies got so used to finding Michael's cars scattered around Sydney, they would either, start them up and deliver them to his house, or simply unload his belongings and take these over. While Michael was on the road, Nick would watch out for Michele and they would use Michael's vehicles. One day they used one to go to the beach and parked it at the top of the driveway upon returning. About an hour later they heard a commotion out front of the house and ran out to investigate. Michael's car, which he had not even had a chance to drive before going on tour, had simply rolled out of the driveway and smashed into another vehicle. Nick must not have engaged the parking brake. Fortunately, Michael was developing a sense of humour about his automobiles by then and took the news in stride.
Michael was spending more time on the road than at home. He set up a lockup in Sydney and eventually another in Hong Kong. He never even had time to pack for these moves and quite often Murphy's office would send someone over to throw everything of his into boxes. Clothes, personal letters, special keepsakes that he would accumulate while on the road. After a time he would forget about them and the boxes would be sent off to the lockup.
Michael's love for motor bikes never left him. The first 'toy' he purchased when he had enough money, was a second-hand motor bike. He left this parked at my apartment block when he began his road tours, and it sat there for weeks at a time and began to rust as I lived close to the beach. The bike could be seen from the road. One day my doorbell rang and I opened it to face a large leather-clad and, to me, threatening figure. The intruder said, "I believe the owner of that bike downstairs lives here". My heart jumped, I wondered if the bike had been stolen and sold to Michael illegally. He continued, "Bring him out here".
I did not know whether to slam the door and call the police or just scream for help. I finally stood my ground and told him my son was the owner and he was working. I decided not to tell him that he was not actually living there. To my great relief my visitor said that he wanted to buy the bike! We exchanged phone numbers and I promised to get back to him. When I contacted Michael he said that he would give it some thought. My leather-clad friend called back a day or two later and made an offer which Michael accepted. When the man came around to give me a cheque, I told him to make it out to 'Michael Hutchence'. He said, "You mean the one who sings with INXS?" I assured him it was and he offered $100.00 more if I could get him an autographed photograph! We made the deal. As he was leaving, he asked me if he could have some water for his dog, which was sitting patiently in his car. I filled a small plastic container with fresh water and watched him take it to his car. I assumed he would have a bull terrier or something, they say that dogs resemble their owners. To my surprise, he opened the car door and lifted out a tiny poodle. You just can't read people by their appearance.
Michael's love of bikes continued: the next one he bought was a red Harley Davidson - which again he left in my garage while he toured. Before leaving he attached a note to the bike which said:
* NEVER REV ENGINE-HARLEYS CAN'T TAKE IT!
* WARM FOR 2 MINS. BEFORE RIDING
* DON'T RIDE IT - IT WILL KILL YOU OR I WILL IF IT DOESN'T -NOT INSURED!!
INXS's first overseas tour was in New Zealand in January 1982 and I can remember how excited Michael was. They toured as support to Australia's number one band at the time, Cold Chisel, whose members were notorious for their unrestrained drinking, wild back stage punch-ups and overall unruly behaviour. But this tour came at the end of a five-year, multi-platinum career and by then Cold Chisel was famously completely out of control. There was far too much drinking before going on, and since they were on the verge of breaking up, the band members were at each other's throats. It was an education for INXS - in what not to do.
Chris Murphy and Deluxe had been trying hard to break the band into the United States, without any luck. Chris felt that they needed a major label behind them. The band felt so strongly about the potential for Michael and Andrew's song, ‘The One Thing' that they spent their own money to record it using Mark Opitz as producer. He had a respected track record and had also produced several albums for Cold Chisel. Chris took ‘The One Thing' to a meeting with WEA Records and they offered him a deal. However, it was not the deal he wanted. With heart-stopping determination he held out until eventually Warners' A&R (Artist and Repertoire) manager, Gibson Kemp, worked something out which he could consider. Chris wanted a commitment from WEA Australia, that they would support and promote the band internationally. This was not the standard deal in those days. Yet eventually Gibson came back with an offer to sign the band for Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South East Asia. Chris accepted,
When Chris was attempting to get INXS a record deal in the United States he worked harder than anybody I have ever known. He often spent a week in our home going from one meeting to the next, making calls all over the globe at all hours. He never seemed to sleep. On one visit I answered a call for him and the man on the other end of the line said he was Molly Meldrum. Peculiar name for a man, I thought. Having lived in California since 1971, I had no way of knowing that Ian 'Molly' Meldrum was a pivotal influence in Australian rock music. As I remember, I was kind of flippant with Molly before handing the phone over to Chris who turned pale. He cupped the receiver and rolled his eyes before greeting him as if he were royalty. When Chris left town I sometimes collected the videos he had left with prospective recording executives - the ones who were not remotely interested in the band. I spent many days driving Chris to meetings, listening to his frustrations, sometimes joining him with record company personnel for shmooze dinners. Chris' managerial instincts were extraordinary. He had more conviction than anybody I had ever met. We would check out other bands and he would walk out announcing that INXS could blow them away.
On our visits to Sydney in the early eighties, Wendy and I were kept busy with the children in the home, while Jeff often tagged along with Chris on band business. But don't imagine that because Wendy organized the home-front, she had nothing to do with INXS' ultimate success. To the outside world, Wendy may have looked like the typical homemaker, but I saw something entirely different. As the office was in their house, she would take and make business calls, do the grocery shopping, iron clothes, arrange loans and overdrafts for MMA, do the laundry, find investment properties, cook a meal and so on, and on... She also has a talent for spotting good investments and she put this to work for the band when they began to see royalty cheques. Very early on, she arranged to purchase three properties for the band. She chose two luxury units in the heart of Sydney overlooking the harbour, and a block of apartments in Kirribilli just north of the city. Michael and Michele moved into the top floor of the Kirribilli apartment building and and Jon Farriss took the apartment below. Wendy and Chris also invested in the properties, which actually made it more profitable all around and they still own some of these properties today. Part of their aim was to prevent these young musicians from waking up in their thirties to find themselves with nothing to show for all their hard work -these were Chris' own words. I was so grateful that my brother was blessed to be in such good, sound, hands.
Not long after the deal was signed with WEA, INXS released ‘The One Thing' to an enthusiastic radio audience. Gibson then worked out a deal with Polygram in Europe and the United Kingdom. The final frontier would be the United States and Canada.
In 1982, prior to settling down to work on what would prove to be their first international album, Chris steered the main writers in the group to make a trip to Los Angeles, New York and London. Their first stop was with us in Burbank, and Chris had warned them to watch out for Jeff's potent margaritas. This, of course was the first thing that they asked for. Along with Michael, came Andrew Farriss and Kirk Pengilly. Michael and Andrew stayed at our house, Kirk with a nearby friend who had two very attractive teenage daughters who often baby-sat for me. At the time I thought this would be the safest way to go considering Michael's already growing reputation with girls. I found out much later that I was wrong: sending Kirk to my neighbour's house was like placing a coyote in amongst the chickens. After this visit, I found the girls far too busy to baby sit when any of the INXS boys were in town as they all started dating each other, and remain friends to this day.
Chris had come through Los Angeles beforehand and he left me with some specific instructions on where he wanted the happy threesome to sight see. He had planned for them to take in some live entertainment at the Roxy, the Rainbow Room and the Whiskey-Au-Go-Go. I asked a girlfriend to help out since I was busy with my children and too tired to go out at night. Besides, I was chauffeuring them around enough and assumed that Michael would be less than thrilled to hang out with his sister for his entire visit. Debra, the friend I asked to help was a very pretty, twenty-six-year-old, aspiring, actress. She had an agent and was doing well modelling and picking up small acting roles. As I remember it was not an easy sell as she was already being squired by some of the most eligible bachelors in Hollywood. Eventually I promised that I would do any favour she wanted if she would just take Michael and the other two on a night out. Just one night.
“Wellllll, I don't know. How old is he?" said Debra.
"Twenty two, but he's well travelled, and he's cute, really. They all are. Pleeeeease?" I begged. “You'll be doing me a huge favour, "
Debra broke a date, called two of her friends and arrived at my house to collect Michael, Andrew and Kirk for the evening. I led the girls back to the den where Michael had been assigned the job of reading a bedtime story to three-year-old Erin from a Dr Seuss book. Only he was not following the story, instead making up his own. She was so familiar with Dr Seuss's words, that she was correcting him. He was taking no notice of her and this was revving her up to shrieks of laughter. Debra looked charmed.
Much to their embarrassment I played some of the band's music before sending them off, hoping they would all have a half way decent time. This was their first taste of Sunset Strip. They went to the Roxy and took in an act simulating The Doors. Around 3am Andrew arrived home in Debra's car to raid our bar and pick up some grass. I remember being so concerned that he wouldn't find his way back to Debra's apartment and Jeff drew a map. I imagined that Michael and Kirk had sent the most sober of the three musketeers to do the job, even though he had only been in the United States four days. Four days, slightly intoxicated and he's driving a strange automobile on the other side of the road! I flashed to the last instructions Chris Murphy had given me. Make sure they have fun and see the shows, but watch the margaritas and stuff. Michael, Andrew and Kirk were adults and I was aware that they had been enjoying 'stuff' for a long time. I didn't partake in 'stuff' but it really was not up to me to lay down any rules under these circumstances: it wasn't as if the children were around. I decided that I had done my job if the evening was going well. The girls drove Andrew and Kirk home in time for breakfast, but we did not see Michael for another twenty-four hours. When he walked in he slept for fifteen hours straight.
It was soon obvious that Michael and Debra were attracted to each other. They had the same sense of humour and laughed a lot. It was an intense, mostly physical connection. Debra was charmed. She had recently disentangled herself from an abusive relationship and Michael was a refreshing relief. She remembers him as being sweet, young, and shy, gentle and vulnerable and very family oriented. He evidently spoke to her of his loving feelings toward his family, and was unlike any of the self-assured Hollywood types she had met and they found it hard to keep their hands off each other. She took him to see a movie at the famous Mann's Chinese Theatre and he insisted on sitting in the balcony - to make out. All of a sudden I was seeing a lot more of Debra as they were going everywhere together. Horse riding, walks, sight seeing -and a lot of time spent at her tiny apartment. I kept hearing, "Where's Michael. Have you heard from Michael?" from Kirk and Andrew. Even though he had not hidden from Debra his deep feelings for Michele, Debra found Michael to be a tender and sensitive lover – something which many women would find intensely appealing about him.
The boys weren't too grown-up for some more innocent pleasures and I arranged for us to visit Disneyland. When we were standing in line at the Jungle ride -Michael, Debra, Andrew, Kirk, Erin and me, a security guard approached us and took Kirk aside. It seems they had spotted him rolling tobacco in papers and assumed the worst. Since 'roll-your-own cigarettes' were almost unheard of in California at that time, they were certain that it was a joint. Fortunately it did not take them long to deduce that Kirk was using regular old tobacco. These days, of course, that too is seen by many as something akin to a crime! But even though he was playing hard during this visit, Michael was already preaching the philosophy of healthy mind healthy body. While preparing breakfast each morning, I could watch him through my kitchen window going through the motions of Tai Chi. Over the years he would take on yoga, weight lifting, and kick boxing. But it never occurred to him to give up illegal substances.
Although Jeff and I were planning to take the children for a vacation in Sydney in a little over a month, when it came time for Andrew, Kirk and Michael to leave for New York it was a tearful scene. Debra and I drove them to the airport, waved them goodbye and as soon as they were out of sight she announced that she was going to Sydney too. It was the first time I realized that Michael could be devastating for women. Six weeks later when we touched down in Sydney with Debra, Michael was waiting outside of customs looking very nervous, because Michele knew that Debra was aboard, was not exactly thrilled about it and was staying clear of Sydney. I handed Debra over to him and wished him luck. He had not asked me to discourage Debra from going: on the contrary, he had made his first call to her from New York, just six hours after departing Los Angeles. I decided to stay out of it, Michael was old enough to run his own life.
Just before our visit the band had completed a video for ‘The One Thing' , for which Jeff had given them the creative concept. Chris had called and asked Jeff for some ideas and they went for one, which involved a banquet scene. I walked into the den one day and he was on the phone to Australia, saying "A food orgy, yeah, listen to me. Just have masses of food on this long table, and they should be devouring it, Henry Vlll style, ripping legs off of turkeys, taking a bite and throwing it down. Decorate with some great looking girls to hand feed them, and the guys should be looking good too, spend some money on wardrobe. Interchange it with a stark stage with the band playing. Use a hand held camera and get plenty of close ups. If I can't be there to direct, I want to cut it."
The video had a big budget look about it, because most of the technicians who worked on it were professionals, but their talents came free to INXS. For instance Michael, had met the young director, Soren Jensen on Mother's soap, ‘The Young Doctors'. Since it was being shot on a weekend, he agreed to do it. Not only did Mother take on makeup artist and wardrobe duties, she even talked two beautiful actresses from her show, Suzy Stenmark and Karen Pini, into appearing for free. Karen, an accomplished seamstress, also designed and sewed some of Michael's stage wardrobe by this time. However, in this video, Michael wore store bought clothes topped off with a Spanish hat belonging to Mother. He liked the hat so much that he continued to borrow it until she finally gave it to him. Michele was also featured in the video -in fact it was her first introduction to the family.
Shortly after we arrived in Sydney, Jeff reviewed the footage, and suggested some cuts. Chris Murphy had complete faith in Jeff's artistic decisions as he was an award winning editor. Within hours, he was in an editing room cleaning up the flow of the video, which would be INXS' debut on American television screens. Jeff recognised that the key was Michael's interaction with the camera. He was a natural, completely comfortable with it, having a sultry, sensuous way of moving every muscle in his body, as he gazed into the lens. No matter what the rest of the band was doing around him, he was completely focused, continuing to look to the camera as if it were a woman he was flirting with. Music Television Video (MTV) Channel placed it on heavy rotation in early 1983, shortly after, they were signed by Atco Records for North America.
Michael was often in the studio with the band during this trip, recording their third album, Shabooh Shoobah , so Debra would come sightseeing with us. I noticed a gradual change in her style. I said nothing until she showed up one day in a short skirt, bobby sox, and heels. The Hollywood in her was slowly disappearing and the Ohio she came from had vanished from sight. She proudly said Michael was now choosing her wardrobe! I wasn't sure what to make of this apparently passive behaviour on the part of my friend coupled with what seemed like an odd desire to control on my brother's side.
During the following four years, though Michele and Michael stayed strong in their love for each other, Debra would float in and out of Michael's life. Some time later, on the day before the band arrived in California to play some college shows, I had a call from Chris Murphy to tell me where they would be staying, and he specifically asked that I should not tell Debra that Michael was in town. His concern was that Michael keep his mind on business and he did not want to rock the boat with Michele as she was a calming force in Michael's life. Chris had booked the band into a small, inexpensive motel on the Strip area of Sunset Boulevard. Sunset runs from downtown Los Angeles, through Los Feliz, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and all the way out to Santa Monica on the coast – about twenty miles. Debra had a part time job at the Old World, a popular restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, just across from Tower Records and Spago. When I looked up the address of the motel, my belief in fate was confirmed. The motel was directly across the road from the Old World restaurant! I gave the news to Chris, who did not believe me at first and then muttered some exasperated obscenities into the phone as it was too late to change accommodation for the band.
Michael of course, was sitting at a table with the rest of the band when Debra arrived for work two days later.
Debra and Michael were not in love, though she says she always had a special place in her heart for him. She always described him as a spiritual, intuitive, being, somehow always seeking the deeper connection when they talked. The two spoke for many hours, with Michael occasionally exposing his darker side. He made a disturbing statement to her on at least one visit; he told her that he did not expect to live to the age of forty. He did not elaborate, and being an actress and knowing all about performers' angst, she took the remark in her stride. The last time she saw him was in the spring of 1986 when she was seven months pregnant with someone else's child and surprised Michael by appearing backstage. He thought she looked radiant and was quite keen on the idea of a quick fling for old times' sake as he liked the idea of making love to a pregnant woman. Debra declined – but it was a happy reunion none the less.
On his visits to New York throughout 1982, Chris had been talking with Atco Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic. He had shown them videos of the band in action, but their look and sound was so different from everything that was on the market at that time and the label was not convinced. Chris knew if he could get them to see the band live, he would have a deal. He invited Atco Managing Director Reen Nalli out to Australia. It proved to be one of the best moves he would ever make. The band was in great form and the fans responded as usual. Not only did she sign them on the spot, but they sat up till dawn mapping out a plan to break them into North America.
Following their signing with Atlantic Records in the United States, Chris made sure that INXS were setting up their business affairs properly by introducing them to a Sydney attorney called John Gray. In 1983 junior lawyer Joanne Kelly was just starting a promising career in the same firm. Although her expertise was in litigation and her dealings were not with Mr Gray, but with his partner, Joanne often noticed a flurry in the office when Andrew, Tim, Jon, Garry, Kirk and the leather clad Michael strolled through the doors. Joanne was one of the few young women who was not moved to stare at the young men - her musical tastes leaned toward opera. Fifteen years later as a successful partner with another law firm, she would find herself deeply enmeshed in a puzzle, fighting for justice for Michael Hutchence, a man she never knew.
In January 1983, one week after Michael's twenty-third birthday, INXS appeared with Men at Work, Cold Chisel and The Angels in front of 45,000 people in a musical event billed as “Narara Music Festival” in Narara, New South Wales. INXS put on a show stopping performance and a fan presented Michael with a baby lamb which, made for great press.
When INXS came over to play their first U.S. shows supporting Adam Ant soon after this, I was worried that people would not know of them and therefore not support them. I bought a load of tickets and handed them out to the girls at the local Burbank high school. I did not know that there was such a thing as 'will-call' where friends of the band picked up the complimentary passes the band left for them. I spoke to my baby-sitters, asking them to spread the word and I handed out INXS tee shirts with instructions to wear them 'all of the time'. It was at a time when girls were slashing their tees with a razor blade. The craze had not reached Australia, so when Michael saw this he asked one of the neighbouring teenagers to cut his up. I was very popular with the local teenage girls, never at a loss for a baby-sitter.
When Wendy arrived shortly before the first show, and found out I had actually bought tickets, she laughed uncontrollably, and told me I was never to do that again. Wendy had me buy Billboard and all of the other music trade magazines, and she showed me what to look for in the weekly numbers to chart INXS' rise. I was talking with her one day, and said how great it would be now that they would not have to worry so much about money. She explained the logistics of taking a six piece band on the road in a country the size and density of the United States. She told me that this little tour was costing them around $100,000.00. How naive can you get? I was stunned, having imagined that a tour was for making money. Apparently, the idea is that a band goes on tour to promote their music, hoping that they will sell a lot of compact discs in the stores, and thereby recouping their investment and driving up sales. It's like advertising.
Wendy, Chris, Jeff and I drove down to a little dive in San Diego to watch the band do a warm up before hitting the larger stages in the U.S. I could tell Michael was nervous before the show. Wendy and I were in the tiny dressing room with Chris and the band, because this was a rough bar and we were not going to stand out there by ourselves. Wendy is a smoker and I am not, but when she turned around to help Tim who had a problem with the zipper on his pants, she handed me her cigarette. I was holding it awkwardly, when Michael squeezed by, noticing the cigarette in my hand. As he snatched it from between my fingers he was angrily concerned for me, saying 'Tina, that's disgusting, don't start now!' Moments later, Wendy turned back around and said, 'What did you do with my cigarette?' I pointed to Michael as he stood in front of us stubbing out the cigarette - he was in his own world, oblivious. I can't remember Michael having a girlfriend who smoked cigarettes or any who were too keen on alcohol, but he had a very different attitude towards other drugs. I have often thought about this, given his own subsequent dependencies.
When INXS started up that night, the audience was mostly noisy and uninterested and it didn't get any better. In fact they just got louder so that they could be heard over the music. This was very different from some pubs in Australia where I had watched the patrons just get up in Michael's face and yell at him, spray beer on him and then get into it. This crowd was just ignoring them. Wendy and I jumped around and showed our appreciation, hoping that it would be infectious, but it did not help. I was so disappointed, I wanted everyone in the bar to put down their drinks, stop talking and take notice. What did these people know? My brother and his friends would be headlining The Ritz in New York just two months later. I found out very quickly at the first show with Adam Ant, that a support band does not actually get much support from the audience who are impatient for the performance of the main attraction. Very often in those first U.S. shows, INXS would be knocking themselves out on stage to a very small, unenthusiastic, crowd. This could be hard on a band who were successful in their own pond.
The Adam Ant entourage had a routine. After the show, two roadies would come out to the backstage door and choose 'lucky' fans, girls of course, who would be taken to the inner sanctum. Wendy and I watched as these men would go; 'You, you, you, no, not you. Yes, you with the green top, no your friend can't come. Etc, etc. They had a strict backstage policy, not allowing support bands to stay backstage after their set, and not allowing them to have guests backstage. For a friendly group such as INXS, this was a very alien policy, but it taught them another valuable lesson, and you will never hear an unkind word from any bands who have supported INXS over the years.
By now INXS had three gold albums in their homeland and their Australian mentality saw them through. Australians don't take themselves seriously. Having faith in their talents and eager to succeed, the band members were good-natured about the whole thing. I chauffeured the local high school girls in their INXS tee-shirts to every show between Los Angeles and San Diego, east to Palm Desert and north to Santa Barbara. It was not necessary for me to encourage them to rush the stage or scream, enticed by the cute Aussie boys, they did it on their own and gradually, INXS found a following.
Following their tour with Adam Ant, the band played a small theatre in Hollywood. When I attempted to go backstage I was stopped and told, 'You can't go back there yet, the Go Go's are meeting with the band. The Go Go's were very hot at that time and I wasn't offended, on the contrary, I was thrilled for the attention INXS were attracting. Shortly after, Michael appeared and excitedly told me they were going on the road with the all girl group. It is rumoured that this was a wild tour, with band members from each group sleeping with each other. I can only say that Michael was very difficult to contact during this tour, rarely in his hotel room. Tour manager Gary Grant said that if he were missing anybody he would just call up the tour manager from the Go Go's and make sure the errant member was at least on the Go Go's bus. INXS also opened for The Stray Cats, and the Kinks that year.
1983. A letter to our mother from the Daytonian Hilton, Dayton, Ohio
How are you? Things have been pretty good here - A little slow, but very strong. The albums (Shabooh Shoobah)on a super bullit at 64. Probably keep going too - the next album will be even bigger I hope. All the critics seem to like us. I miss you and Michele and Rhett and Sydney. but it's all worth it. I think it will be good for us here and especially in Europe or Japan.
Thanx for your letters and support, Mum. Lots of love, Michael XXX
After the release of Shabooh Shoobah in the United States, and especially with ‘The One Thing' playing repeatedly on MTV, it was not necessary for me to drag my friends to the live shows: they were calling for tickets. The band was now signed to a major U.S. recording company and I no longer met them at the airport, as the record company was sending vans or limos for them. Once, early in his career, Michael called to let me know the band had arrived at the hotel and incredulously described how the driver had 'gifted' them a huge amount of pot. His words were, "Wait 'til you see it. I mean it's like a tree branch!" I had trouble faking enthusiasm about this. After all, I would have thought that the idea was to make sure these young men enjoyed a lengthy career.
On one of the hottest May weekends in 1983, INXS played the massive US Festival, on a ranch in the San Bernadino Mountains south-east of Los Angeles. They performed in front of 150,000 people. Others appearing that weekend included The Pretenders, Stevie Nicks, U2, The Clash, Van Halen, A Flock of Seagulls, David Bowie, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, and AC/DC, to name a few of the acts. Jeff and I arrived without backstage passes. Not realizing the enormity of the open venue, we were herded onto a ranch where they seemed only to be serving beer. Without water, or even a soft drink, I became dehydrated within the first two hours and we were coming up against a brick wall at the backstage gate. We finally spotted Gary Grant as he came out to watch INXS in the sound tower. The young Australian band was in the early line-up of the first day, an unenviable slot. Most of the crowd is restless and waiting for the more, well known bands to come on. The stage was already set up with the equipment for upcoming performers so INXS had, a much smaller stage area from which to work the crowd. As we stood next to the sound tower watching the performance, I was very nervous for Michael. But INXS put across a tremendous performance and even earned an unexpected encore. The audience, all MTV babies, went wild for ‘The One Thing' and ‘Don't Change' -both on high video rotation. These two songs would become staples on set lists for U.S. tours for the next fourteen years for INXS.
Although I was feeling light-headed due to the heat and lack of water I refused to miss a second of this momentous performance. It was very exciting for them, and the crowd had gone nuts. After INXS left the stage, Gary told us he would be waiting at the gate with the passes. He hurried off ahead of us and as we approached the backstage, I felt myself sink to the ground. Jeff was ahead of me and did not notice as he pushed through the crowd. I rolled into the only shade I could find, the underside of a parked truck. When I came to, I was being carried by a very large Texan, wearing a Stetson. Once again, I was in front of the backstage gate, and this time asking for a medic. Security ushered the cowboy in, and he deposited me in a room under the stage. This was the makeshift first aid station. I was packed in ice and periodically checked. My name was taken, and I passed out again. When I came to, I heard a doctor say that he thought I should be sent to the local hospital. I remember trying to speak, to tell them that I needed to let someone know where I was, but I could not get the words out, and before long I was in an ambulance.
At the hospital, which had a huge area set up and ready for casualties from the two-day concert, I was finally able to recover, and was discharged to a waiting ambulance who returned me to the backstage area. After roaming around for a bit, dodging television cameras, which were recording impromptu interviews, a number of bands who were waiting to go on, and many party revellers, I found Andrew Farriss, and a very worried Jeff. They were waiting for me because everybody else was on the bus and ready to go back to Burbank. The plan had been to celebrate the successful day with dinner at our house. As I attempted to leave the backstage area, I was once again informed that I was not wearing the correct security pass. I was standing between Andrew and Jeff. Andrew just said, "This is bullshit, we're leaving, and she's leaving with us" and they each took an arm and we charged through with Michael following.
I was in no shape to cook so we sent out for pizzas and Jeff made batches and batches of his famous margaritas. When the late news came on, the only band they featured from the US Festival, was the new, young, Australian band. There were Michael, Kirk, Andrew, Jon, Tim and Garry all strutting their stuff on national television. Sure they were used to being seen on Australian television with a possible 15 million viewers, but this was the United States, a country with three hundred million people. We sat around the television in silence and wonderment before switching channels to see how many other networks were carrying the same footage.
During this first tour of the United States in 1983 the band met the legendary record producer Nile Rogers. He was impressed with their sound and energy and shortly afterwards, they went into the Powerhouse Studios in New York with him and laid down 'Original Sin' in two takes. Backing vocals from Darryl Hall were added later.
Michael had written the lyrics to a song called 'Brand New Day' while the band was touring the southern states. He was inspired as he watched children happily interacting in a front yard, oblivious to their colour, and its' potential to divide them as they reached adulthood. The title was changed to 'Original Sin' and when it hit the airwaves it caused a furore. Michael's lyrics- ‘Black boy, white girl, black girl, white boy…' caused bomb threats to radio stations who dared play the song. Astonishingly, years after all that the civil rights movement had achieved, it was banned on many stations in the United States. In an interview with Australia's Penthouse magazines Michael said, "I thought, every day those kids wake up, the possibility is they'll be a little more prejudiced than the day before." He added, "I don't think one thin page of words can change the world, but it can push things around. It made all the right people angry."
Following their international success, certain basic security measures were put into place. One of the most dramatic changes was the implementation of pseudonyms. It was one thing to have the itinerary with hotel numbers but the trick was to know the correct name each band member might be registered under. The switchboard wanted the name of the guest. Imagine asking for your own brother under the name of ‘Mr Fabian Sparkle', ‘Mr Dick Strangelove' or ‘Mr Fred Flintstone' -just some of Michael's pseudonyms. Many times Michael would call, give me his room number and forget to give me his alias. Thank goodness the road managers kept their given names, I was forever calling Gary Grant, calling Sydney from my home in Burbank to get my brothers' pseudonym while he was sitting in a hotel ten miles away in West Hollywood. Band members would then get bored and make up new names between cities. Some of the other names Michael used over the years were; Mr Kafka, Monsieur Venus, Mr Pussycat, Mr Harley Davidson, Admiral Nelson -and of course Mr Christensen. Sometimes we were given pseudonyms when we stayed at the same hotel. On one visit to South Australia our mother travelled as Wilma Flintstone!
Michael and Michele were still together though at times it was not smooth sailing, especially when Michele had to put up with rumours of Michael's infidelities. One time they were sharing a house in Sydney with Chris Murphy's assistant, Gary Grant. Gary was tactless enough to gleefully read out stories on Michael's love life from magazines. This sort of thing might well have enhanced Michael's appeal to female audience but Michele was less than amused. It threatened her self-esteem and ultimately the relationship itself.
Michael would often call her from the road, he hated being alone and had trouble sleeping after a big concert. He would socialize with other band members after a show but he would be lonely after everyone else retired and that's when he would call Michele. It relaxed him to speak with her. Most times, he was soothed just listening to her voice and they spoke almost every night. When he found himself repeating his frustrations about life on the road and their forced separations, she turned his thoughts around by reading to him, often simply passages from whatever book she had on hand. Early on she realized that it calmed him almost immediately, taking his mind off his fears and insecurities, lulling him into a deep sleep. One night he called her apartment in Sydney, from his hotel in Tokyo. He was desperately tired, and so wired from the show, just like a little child after a birthday party, he could not sleep. They spoke for some time, then she began reading to him, until she heard snoring. She made noises into the phone and even hung up but of course it did not close the call out and she realized that he would be getting a huge phone bill from the hotel the following day. With the yen ticking away, she finally had to run over to her neighbour's' house to call the hotel reception desk to have them close Michael's line.
Michael continued to make these calls to Michele throughout his life. She was always there for him and assumed that the other women in Michael's life accepted this as part of their friendship.
END CHAPTER FOUR