The Tale of Two Michaels: Hunting Down Biographies of An Inspiration
It’s time to write about some book quests again. It’s no secret to anyone how I love INXS and how much I admired and loved Michael Hutchence. After his passing, a multitude of books came out of the woodwork. You had the sleazy biographies, the band biographies which coincided with the 20th anniversary of INXS (which they were getting ready to tour for when Hutchence committed suicide), “insider” accounts of the erotic nature of the relationship with Paula Yates and the love triangle with Bob Geldof, and special publications put out about the mysterious circumstances of his death. The only two that I gave a rat’s ass about were the books written by Tina Hutchence and Patricia Glassop, his sister and mother, and the one written by his brother Rhett.
Just A Man by Tina Hutchence and Patricia Glassop was published almost three years to the date after Michael died. I remember it being publicized as a story of “the true Michael Hutchence that only the family knows.” I read it, but I had to keep putting it down because there were a number of things about it that were bugging me. Namely, that I had no real feeling of connection with either of these two ladies in their telling. They seem like outsiders looking in at times. Much of the book itself is about them, and Michael is thrown in sporadically, almost as if when he’s needed to spice things up. The man had an incredible life, he didn’t need to ever be thrown anywhere to spice anything up, he was IT. The book just rings all sorts of disembodied bells. They tell what happened with all of the girlfriends, the seediness of his relationship with Paula Yates, and everything in between. Nothing is spared, but you feel as if it were one-sided. I really felt reading this book, that wherever Michael is, he would not have approved of this story. I did not dig this book at all, which really sucked because of the hell it took me to find it. I didn’t get my hands on a copy until 2007, and that was purely by accident. Jennie and I were talking about all of the books that had come out, and we got to discussing how hard it was to find that book. BAM couldn’t get it; Crapazon had a copy for the princely sum of $144.00 (I’m serious!), Alibris had tried to get it for me three times with no luck, ELame wasn’t an option, and I didn’t know of the existence of Abe Books yet. There was a B.Dalton closing in Orland Square Mall, and Jen and I went in there on a lark. We usually stayed at Borders in Orland because my old BAM homie Kevin worked there, and they had a great import section for records. This time, we braved the snarky elite of Orland Square and went in B. Dalton. There it was, in a “Closeout” bin. Hardcover and brand new, and I got it for $6.98. I feel as if that was too much to pay, seriously. I did unload that book to Jennie, who agreed with my assessment of it. Not sure, but it probably ended up being sold when she moved to Cincinnati. I told her I didn’t want it back.
I fared much better with Rhett Hutchence’s book Total XS. It came out in 2004 through a very small Australian publisher. Rhett’s tale of Michael is so much better than that of his mother and sister’s. He has a very charming personality and a warm and heartfelt matter that jumps at you from the first page. He takes you through their very turbulent upbringing, to the band’s atmospheric rise to fame, to all of Michael’s romantic histories, the drug use, the financial questions that came up after his death and prior to it, and Michael’s death. This book is a love letter to not only Michael from his brother, but for the INXS fans far and wide. Rhett spares no punches on his own canvas, being brutally upfront about his battle with heroin addiction as well as the family fued with his mother and half-sister(he made up with his mother before her death. He continues to battle his sister over the estate to this day). All of my friends who are rabid INXS fans have read both, and they all agree; hands down, Rhett’s book is the way I choose to believe had the most connection to the real Michael Hutchence that the public didn’t see. I could not find this book anywhere; I finally got my hands on a copy of it in 2010. Oddly enough, after my tenure at BAM had ceased, I had a lot of time before I got my current gig to go online and hunt it down. I got my copy through the fine folks at Alibris. It took 4 sellers; the first three tried to rip me off and not send me the product; thankfully, the customer service reps at Alibris are bar none, and none of that credit card charging shit with no product went down on that watch. The copy I finally got wasn’t in the best condition, but it is hardcover, and despite some slight damage to the front book jacket, it’s in relatively good shape. I read that bitch in under a day. I could not put it down. I still own it, and I always try to get more people to read it, it is truly outstanding. Well worth the wait to read.
I have pretty much read every book imaginable on INXS and Michael Hutchence. I wanted to highlight the two opposing family views of him. However, I do also highly recommend The Final Days of Michael Hutchence by Mike Gee. It’s an uncompromising look at the years, months, and days leading up to Michael’s death. You get the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright sad look at what happened. Gee doesn’t approach it as tabloid journalism, but more as an investigative journalist. The book reads as a neutral balance, and it’s truly hard to put down. I wanted to mention that as a last aside, because it’s another book I never hesitate to recommend to people for the nitty gritty style of his writing.
I’m not quite sure why I felt compelled to write about Michael Hutchence and the books I’ve collected over the years. I think Dave’s earlier post about Jay Reatard likely inspired me. He spoke a bit in the post about how Jay and Kurt Cobain’s deaths both affected him, but in different ways, due to the age he was, when they passed away. Two of my personal musical muses passed from this Earth in between my losing my mom. Shannon Hoon, of Blind Melon, died from an overdose on October 21, 1995, which is also the day that Biceps’ mom ended our engagement for him. My mom committed suicide on October 26, 1996. Michael Hutchence committed suicide on November 22, 1997. The loss of my mom bookended by the deaths of two people who I admired for very different reasons, was a bit much. it’s still hard for me to believe that Michael Hutchence is no longer with us, for the wonderful music he graced us with during his time with us. I understand from reading up in many different publications that he and Paula’s daughter Tiger Lily is a guitarist and vocalist in an all-female trio and that she not only looks like her father, but she has his charisma. We can only hope the universe blesses us with a chance to re-connect with him, on a whole new level, if she chooses the musical path her father chose. That would truly be a gift.