Within my vast and dubious knowledge of music, there are holes. Some are tiny, like my ignorance of sex droid Taylor Swift. Others are much larger; one is the relative size of six Australians. I have never cared for INXS.
The closest I got was “The One Thing”, which saw heavy rotation on MTV in the early 1980s. The band benefited from a visual similarity to other groups, like U2, UB40 and the B-52s, and this sameness ensured my future confusion. I just never found INXS that memorable.
I didn’t crack jokes when INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence died from autoerotic asphyxiation in late 1997; the whole thing was just pathetic and sad. A year earlier, Hutchence sired a daughter with Bob Geldof’s goodly wife, and christened her “Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily”. The wife OD’ed on heroin in 2000, and the child was filed in with Geldof’s other offspring (and hopefully renamed). Michael Hutchence was clearly a king-size asshole.
This was all beyond the horizon in the 1980s. It was not uncommon to see INXS tapes among a dude’s copies of Diver Down and Steve Miller Band. But despite their popularity at my high school, I had a bad feeling about INXS. Something nebulous, that I couldn’t put my finger on.
“Suicide Blonde” was INXS’ hit single in 1990, and the video was directed by a man named Joel Schumacher. Most people deride Schumacher for his two Batman sequels, but he also directed the white-rage epic Falling Down. In 2007, he directed the abysmal Number 23, wherein Jim Carrey has a fantasy about a blonde woman hanging herself. Coincidence? Ehh.
The majority of INXS fans back in the day were ladies. The band played to this aspect, and their videos typically resembled Calvin Klein commercials. A school chum and I used to joke that Hutchence looked like the bully Buddy Revell from Three O’Clock High (Richard Tyson). In any case, a long-haired Aussie with his shirt open breathily groaning about needing someone tonight was off-putting to sophisticated pre-teens like us.
The success of INXS and their production style made everything worse. The door was open for the return of an English singer named Robert Palmer, and his unavoidable, monotonous hit “Addicted To Love”. Palmer appeared in so many videos surrounded by identical zonked-out models that it became a joke on Saturday Night Live. He continued to hone his unique style of treble overkill in the band The Power Station, known for “Some Like It Hot” and a cover of “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”. All of it is awful, hissing shit.
A “rock block” on the radio in the late 80s would undoubtedly include all the songs I’ve mentioned here, plus other unlistenable detritus. “Borderline”, for example. That’s an appropriately shitty Madonna song. If you were lucky, you’d hear some Boston. But that was a big if. Robert Plant, former lead singer of Led Zeppelin, released a song called “Big Log” in 1983 that I felt INXS ripped off with “Never Tear Us Apart”. The similarity of Plant and Palmer’s names also causes me some neural grief. I know Plant is alive, and Palmer is not, so that helps for the time being.
Elegantly Wasted was INXS’ final album before Hutchence offed himself. In 2005, the band was relaunched as part of a reality show promotion. This incarnation was fronted by contest winners. That’s quite a fall from their peak which completely flew past me.
INXS had and worked with many talented people. A waste, but I wouldn’t call it elegant.