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Never Tear Us Apart: Remembering Michael Hutchence

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OKLAHOMA CITY – As we remember November 22, 1963 as the day of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the day a part of America died, on this same day 16 years ago – November 22, 1997 – INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence also died in the Sydney Ritz-Carlton hotel in his hometown of Sydney, Australia.

Hutchence’s death was ruled a suicide, except that the 37-year-old had so much to live for. He was getting along great with his family and preparing for a 20th anniversary tour with INXS. Even Quentin Tarantino was looking to include Hutchence in a film. He was wanting to return to Sydney to live and just be in London and Los Angeles to record with INXS.

And yet when a maid went to clean Hutchence’s room on November 22nd, she found the room in disarray and a belt looped around his neck. He had died of asphyxiation.

In his excellent book, The Covert War Against Rock, writer Alex Constantine notes that at the time, Rolling Stone music critic David Fricke mentioned that Hutchence’s body “bore the marks of a severe beating,” noting a broken hand, split lip and lacerations on his body.

Constantine mocks the New South Wales authorities in their report that “no evidence” of foul play could be found.  They did not bother to note the “protruding contradictions,” including how did Hutchence break his own hand, bludgeon himself, causing his lip to bleed and then beat himself into a pulp before lopoping the belt through the door brace and around his neck, long enough to hang?

Constantine speculates that Hutchence may have been targeted by shadowy elements within the underworld and that he was not suicidal. A friend who saw Hutchence prior to his death said the singer was excited about the future and she “had really never seen him with so much to look forward to.” His father, who had eaten with him at the Flavour of India restaurant said his son was in good spirits, going so far as "dancing away" when he dropped him off at the hotel that fateful night.

"He was a very happy guy," Kell Hutchence says in the documentary.

Sir Bob Geldof was married to Paula Yates, the woman who would leave Geldof for Hutchence in 1996 – the year before Hutchence’s death.

Hutchence and Yates, an unmarried couple at the time of his death, were fighting for custody of her children, Peaches and Pixie Geldof. The couple also had a child named Tiger Lily in the summer of ’96. Yates had told law enforcement that Geldof – a really sinister character and one of the key people involved with Live Aid  and “Spoiled-Grain Gate" - had told Yates he was “above the law” and had threatened them.

Yates told The Daily Express that Bob Geldof killed Michael Hutchence.

“That bastard killed Michael,” she reportedly said. “He is called Saint Bob. That makes me sick. He killed my baby. We have had three years of this.”

Geldof, who plans to be the first Irishman in space in 2014 by taking a trip on the Space XC commercial service spacecraft, is reportedly worth 32 million pounds.

Yates, who said after Hutchence’s death that the man thought suicide was “the most cowardly act in the world” and that his daughter “was his reason to live” would allegedly die of a “heroin overdose” in 2000. After that, the girls would all be given over to Geldof.

Rhett Hutchence, Michael’s brother, said in a 2007 that his brother did not commit suicide.  He wanted Tiger Lily to know the truth about her father. 

Plus there were a number of strange deaths linked to Hutchence. He was friends with Gianni Versace, who was murdered a few months earlier. Princess Diana died a few months earlier as well. There is speculation that their deaths were linked to a Mob hit.

And on a thread, posted one day after Hutchence was reported dead, someone suggested “Did Hutchence commit suicide over a porn ring in the UK?”  Posters speculated, one named “Ian” says “OK, I’ll kick this one off … Geldorf (sic) must have been involved somewhere.” Indeed.  So, within a day, a conspiracy theory involving Bob Geldof was being suggested.

As for the auto-erotic asphyxiation angle, father Kell Hutchence said in a documentary called “In Excess: The Death of Michael Hutchence,” that he thought that suggestion is “a lot of nonsense … nothing to back it up.” The documentary does explore Hutchence’s sexual escapades and his relationship with Paula Yates and his run-ins with the media.

And despite all that, Michael Hutchence’s memory is still fresh. His “sexiest man in rock” persona reminding many of a latter-day Jim Morrison, but with more style and energy. INXS still had a lot of music left in them and it was a matter of time before a new album would be forthcoming. Just last month, Billboard reported that INXS has signed a global publishing deal with Universal with films, documentaries, and a musical "on the way." A representative stated: "We're looking forward to connecting with new generations of fans with the band's timeless music." A two-part biopic on Hutchence, appropriately titled "Never Tear Us Apart," will air in Australia in 2014.

In Donnie Darko, the opening scene shown in theaters and on the original release of the DVD shows Donnie waking up as Echo & The Bunnymen’s haunting-yet-sinister song “The Killing Moon” plays.

On “The Killing Moon,” singer Ian McCulloch sings: “Fate, up against your will / Through the thick and thin / He will wait until / You give yourself to him.”

But in Richard Kelly’s Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko, “The Killing Moon” is replaced by the powerful 1988 ballad “Never Tear Us Apart,” featured on the band’s 1987 album Kick. A bittersweet choice, considering how the song is viewed now. 

Apparently, the rights to the INXS song were too expensive for young director Kelly to use in the theatrical release. But Kelly had wanted “Never Tear Us Apart” (my favorite INXS song, by the way) used and was able to insert it in the Director’s Cut, as originally intended.

Wikipedia notes that after Hutchence’s death, his coffin was carried out of Sydney's St. Andrew’s Cathedral “by the remaining members of INXS and younger brother Rhett, as ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ was played in the background. This song is now thought of by many original INXS fans as Hutchence’s anthem.”

Sings Hutchence: “I was standing, you were there, two worlds collided and they could never tear us apart …

To learn more, go to www.inxs.com.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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