The last time Michael Hutchence’s manager, Martha Troup, spoke to him on the phone, the INXS frontman made big plans for the future.
“He wanted to start a publishing house. And he wanted rent an apartment in New YorkTroup told The Post. “That’s what he said to me.”
Hours later, as Troup was shopping in New York to fly to meet the “Need You Tonight” singer in Australia, things suddenly took a dark turn. Hutchence left her two chilling messages on the answering machine.
“He says, ‘It’s not going well, you know?’ And then the next one said, “Hey, are you there?” In the second it was more like he was tired It was almost sadness I heard in his voice.
Hours later, on November 22, 1997, Hutchence was found hanged from a snakeskin belt in a hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney, Australia. A maid found him naked and in a kneeling position, and although his death was ruled a suicide, it was rumored that it was by autoerotic asphyxiation. The rock star — who had captured a Mick Jagger-meets-Jim Morrison aura on hits like “New Sensation” and “What You Need” — was just 37 years old.
Unfortunately, Hutchence lost his battle with the demons within at the end.
“He was in pain,” said friend Dorothy Carvello, who met Hutchence while working at the INXS label, Atlantic Records. “When he spoke, he was in pain.”
The ride up
In high school, Hutchence met his future bandmate Andrew Farriss, and the two formed INXS in 1977 with two other Farriss brothers – Tim and Jon. Three years later, the group released their 1980 self-titled debut album, which spawned the Australian hit ‘Just Keep Walking’.
As lead singer, Hutchence took the band from a group that had success in their native Australia to worldwide fame with the 1985 album ‘Listen Like Thieves’, the 1987 LP ‘Kick’ and 1990’s ‘X’.
MTV turned him into a mystifying presence: the cool, charismatic Hutchence became one of the greatest rock frontmen of his generation, with both soul and sex appeal. He single-handedly made INXS’s “Need You Tonight” video the most popular on MTV in 1987, and the iconic clip – in which the singer seduces the masses in a leather jacket and pants, shirtless – went on to win Video of the Year at the 1988 VMAs.
In the span of a few albums, Hutchence became a rock god. “We talk about people like Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger — he’s one of them,” said Lori Majewski, co-host of SiriusXM’s “Feedback,” who wrote about Hutchence in her book “Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave from 2014″. Artists and songs that defined the 80s.” “He’s one of the greatest live frontmen of all time.”
“He was magical,” added Troup, who started working in 1986 as INXS’s US manager. “He was the ultimate rock star. He was enchanting. He had something sensual about him. But he also had a certain shyness about him. And he was very sensitive. He had his ups and downs and he had his insecurities. When he would play in a place like Wembley [Stadium in London], I used to laugh because he couldn’t see beyond the first 10 rows because he never wore his glasses on stage. But he had poor eyesight. So I always thought, ‘Oh, that must be it. That’s why he could do it. Because he can’t really see beyond the first few rows.’”
And while he was one of the biggest rock stars in the world, Hutchence was, in Aussie parlance, a steady partner. Photographer Chris Cuffaro, who first photographed the INXS singer on the 1988 “Kick” tour, described Hutchence as “the nicest man alive.”
“I was backstage with him, and he was wearing Doc Martens, and I said to him, ‘I’ve never worn Doc Martens,'” Cuffaro recalled. And he said, Oh, these are great. So he let me try on his shoes so I could find out if I liked Doc Martens. And then I wore Doc Martens for the next 10 years.”
All fall down
But just as INXS released “Welcome to Wherever You Are” in August 1992, life came crashing down for Hutchence at the height of his career. While he and his girlfriend at the time, supermodel Helena Christensen, were cycling in Copenhagen, Hutchence got into a fight with a taxi driver. The rocker fell backwards and hit his head, but did not seek medical attention for several days. It turned out he had a basilar skull fracture – a brain injury that robbed him of his taste and smell and also affected his mental health. He became depressed and aggressive
“He just wasn’t the same person. There’s no doubt… No one knew [why] at the time, but his behavior started to become erratic,” Carvello said. “He self-medicated. He started taking a lot of Prozac…Traumatic brain injury is something we now know through football players. And suicide can be a by-product of traumatic brain injury.”
At the same time, Hutchence’s career took a big hit when “Welcome to Wherever You Are” – in which the band experimented with everything from sitars to a 60-piece orchestra – flopped by INXS standards and failed to reach the heights of the band’s previous albums. match. albums.
The proud swag Hutchence had displayed on “Need You Tonight” had now been replaced by doubt.
“He doubted himself,” Troup said. “That’s what happens with fame – you go up the mountain and you come down the mountain. It was tough for him. You feel so confident when you have that fame – even when you have your insecure moments – and Michael was beautiful, inside and out.But he started questioning everything: ‘It’s my looks, it’s my age, it’s my…’ So I think that took its toll.
In 1995, Hutchence left Christensen for British star Paula Yates, who was married to Live Aid promoter Bob Geldof at the time. Although the couple had a tumultuous relationship, Hutchence was very happy with their daughter, Tiger Lily, who was born in 1996.
“From then on, all I heard about was Tiger,” Troup said. “He loved, loved, loved, loved that little Tiger. He wore a clock with her picture on it and took it to meetings. It got to the point where it became embarrassing.”
But Hutchence’s relationship with Yates – who died of a heroin overdose in 2000 — also drew him into her tabloid frenzied custody battle with Geldof. The couple were arrested on suspicion of drug possession after the family’s nanny found a small amount of opium in a shoebox under their bed, though the case was later dismissed for lack of evidence.
Despite his tabloid travails, Hutchence was determined that the show should go on. In the week leading up to his death, the band prepared to tour Australia to promote 1997’s “Elegantly Wasted”, which failed to produce any hit singles. Troup wasn’t so sure they should go through with it.
“I was concerned,” she said. “We met several people in the film and TV world in LA. And he just didn’t seem right. And I said, ‘Michael, let’s cancel the Australian tour.’ And he says, ‘I could never do that. I would never do that to the fans in Australia.’”
Yet Carvello is not convinced that he wanted to kill himself.
“I’m not sure he really intended that,” she said. “I think it was a rash act that took place in the heat of the moment, no matter what. Because think about it – no [suicide] Remark. And for someone whose job it was to write words, I’ve always found that odd.