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Old 11-24-2007, 03:22 AM   #1
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It's been ten years....

It's a couple days late, but ten years ago Michael Hutchence died.


A rock god remembered
November 22, 2007

It's 10 years since Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney hotel room, but to his fans the former INXS frontman is immortal.

The phone call came at 1pm. "Michael Hutchence is dead," said a harried voice I recognised as my newspaper's chief of staff. "Get down to the Ritz-Carlton."

I probably said, "You're kidding?" but sensed she wasn't. It was November 22, 1997, a warm Saturday in Sydney. I hailed a taxi and 20 minutes later joined a small group of reporters and photographers outside an opulent hotel in Double Bay favoured by well-heeled tourists and rock musicians with a few hit albums to their name.

We stood behind a hastily erected velvet rope designed for happier occasions. Tight-lipped porters in scarlet uniforms ignored our questions and curious shoppers gawped at us from the boutiques surrounding the hotel. Somewhere inside, the body of a 37-year-old man who had checked in as Mr Murray River, but was better known to the world as Michael Hutchence, was being examined by police.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the INXS singer's death. The surviving members of the band, who continue to record and tour with a new singer, J.D. Fortune - recruited, controversially, via a reality television show - posted a statement on their website yesterday. "Michael will always be remembered as a young, vibrant, gifted and passionate person," it said. "Age will not weary him as it gradually does his band mates!"

The statement went on to eulogise Hutchence as a "poet, a visionary and a dreamer". Similar things were said about the Doors' Jim Morrison, that other Dionysian singer who died too young in mysterious circumstances.

But Morrison was, arguably, a spent force when he died in 1971; a man who fled fame and his band to concentrate on his poetry and drinking Paris dry. In 1997, Hutchence - in the public eye, at least - was still the virile, adored frontman of Australia's biggest band. He'd had a child, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, with Paula Yates just a year before. He had everything to live for.

But as the details of the singer's final hours began to emerge it became clear that Hutchence had ended his life in miserable circumstances. A cleaner found his naked body in Room 524 of the Ritz-Carlton just before midday. He was kneeling against the door, a leather belt nearby. This detail and the singer's reputation as an unquenchable Lothario fuelled rumours he had died from autoerotic asphyxiation.

That theory was not supported by the coroner's report. Although there was no suicide note, NSW coroner Derrick Hand concluded that Hutchence had "apparently hanged himself with his own belt and the buckle broke away…"

A blood sample revealed traces of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and other prescription drugs. Hutchence, said Hand, was in a "severe depressed state" due to "a number of factors, including the relationship with Paula Yates and the pressure of the ongoing dispute with Sir Robert Geldof, combined with the effects of the substances that he had ingested at that time".

The image of a distraught, depressed and suicidal Hutchence was hard to accept. Two months earlier, on September 25, INXS had held a press conference in a bar at Taylor Square. The message was simple: we're back. There was talk of new management, a new record deal, a new album and a 20th anniversary tour.

Like most entertainment reporters I was happy to attend despite my scepticism about a band who were widely perceived as stadium rock dinosaurs. The reason was Hutchence, a singer who epitomised the idea of a "rock god" even in a post-grunge world. I'd first seen him in 1986 on the British television show The Tube when he was interviewed - chatted up, might be a better description - by a palpitating Paula Yates. "Is it true," she asked him, "that you're the sexiest man in Australia?"

Ten years later, Hutchence bounded into the Taylor Square press conference, his arrival triggering the slight shift in air pressure that accompanies true celebrity. He wore sunglasses, checked pants and a tight sleeveless shirt that proved middle-age hadn't wearied or widened him. He was the only member of the band who smoked - literally and figuratively. While the more corpulent members of INXS talked about playing golf and raising children on the North Shore, it was left to Hutchence to exude rock's key ingredients: sex and danger.

He was cocky, too. Explaining his decision to thump a photographer who had been shadowing him in Britain - an act which cost him an $800 fine, court costs and a good behaviour bond - he shrugged and said, "I'm an Aussie bloke … I just couldn't take it any longer."

Hutchence and the rest of INXS knew they had been written off by the music press at home and overseas. They were due to perform a song from their new album at the ARIA awards and there were rumblings of discontent from those who said the slot should have gone to a younger, hipper band. Hutchence insisted the new INXS album would be "fresher" than the retro rock that was in fashion at the time; the sceptics would be silenced.

When someone finally dared to ask the question that everyone wanted answered - "Aren't you yesterday's men?" - the band's response was emphatic. "F--- off!" they chorused. "We'll see you in 20 years." As it turned out, Hutchence had only two months to live. His funeral was held at St Andrew's Cathedral five days after his death. The casket was covered in blue irises with a single, prominent tiger lily. The band's hit Never Tear Us Apart played to 1800 mourners and the singer's ashes were divided among Paula, his father and his mother.

Hutchence was laid to rest, but many of the people he loved struggled to find peace. Yates, who always refused to believe he had killed himself, died of a heroin overdose in London in 2000. Members of Hutchence's family squabbled and his fortune disappeared into the ether. Last year his brother, Rhett, auctioned some of his possessions on eBay to pay for an air ticket to Holland. Recent reports suggest Geldof wants to change Tiger Lily's surname to his own, a move interpreted as an attempt to erase the singer's memory.

That seems unlikely. Ten years since his death, his memory and legacy seems stronger than ever.

"I think that Michael has provided the soundtrack to my life, really," a fan called Erin wrote on the fan website yesterday. "Through the highs and lows and the in-betweens his music has always been there in some form or another."

A Michael Hutchence tribute concert will be held at the Manning Bar, Sydney University, on Saturday night.

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Old 11-24-2007, 03:41 AM   #2
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double post

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Old 11-24-2007, 03:42 AM   #3
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RIP Hutch, can't believe its been 10 years, i remember it like it was yesterday . very much missed.
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Old 11-24-2007, 03:45 AM   #4
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Man. 10

I remember hearing about it when I was on my school bus on the way home-the afternoon DJ announced it. I looked up at the speaker, thinking, "Wow, really?"-I'd liked the INXS stuff I heard off and on over the years, so it did come as a surprise, yeah.

Very sad . May Michael Hutchence continue to rest in peace.

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Old 11-24-2007, 04:52 AM   #5
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10 years on thursday, all the Sydney radio stations had a tribute for him

RIP Michael

You are missed dearly and always will be
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Old 11-24-2007, 05:24 AM   #6
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RIP Michael .. geeze, it's hard to believe it's been 10 years.
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Old 11-24-2007, 05:47 PM   #7
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wow...10 years?
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Old 11-24-2007, 06:24 PM   #8
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x 10

What a voice. What a voice!

"Love Is (What I Say)" and "Searching" give me chills every time.

Though we may be deprived and miss him terribly, at least he's not in pain anymore. Rest his soul.
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Old 11-24-2007, 06:47 PM   #9
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Perhaps that is why Bono snippeted some INXS & mentioned Michael at the performance on Friday
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Old 11-24-2007, 07:15 PM   #10
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As soon as I saw the name of this thread, I knew what it was about. I don't think I'll ever forget when I found out or how much it hurt. I was lucky enough to have seen INXS just four months before and was blown away by Michael, he was so amazing. God bless him, Paula and Tiger Lily. I can't imagine how hard it must be to lose both parents at such a young age but I know she's ended up in such a great situation being raised by Bob Geldof and growing up with all her sisters.
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Old 11-24-2007, 07:42 PM   #11
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The world needs more good-looking, charismatic rock stars with good voices. Wish we could have kept this one.
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Old 11-24-2007, 08:56 PM   #12
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Rip Hutchie....

Awesome vocalist, contrary to what might have happened since, INXS actually died the day he did....
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Old 11-24-2007, 10:42 PM   #13
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I remember this one clearly. I wish I had been able to see them live.
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:47 PM   #14
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Old 11-25-2007, 04:03 PM   #15
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I was a so-so fan when he died. But now I wish I was a bigger fan. Its kind of like "I wish I had known him better" thing when I listen to INXS.

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