Aussie music fans were not at all stunned last week with the not particularly shocking announcement that INXS were calling it quits after 35 years as a touring act.
On the final night of a tour supporting Matchbox Twenty in Perth, drummer Jon Farriss informed the Perth crowd that they were witnessing the last live performance of the band that at one time were Australia’s biggest musical exports.
My earliest memory of INXS involves dancing along to Original Sin during a sleepover at a mate’s house. The year was 1984. The album was Throbbin ‘84 (on cassette). At the time, neither of us even knew how to pronounce INXS. As far as we were concerned they were “ink-sus” (rhyming with sphinxes).
A few years later, MTV arrived on our shores, though not as we know it today. Pay TV was still a few years away. MTV first aired in Australia as a three-hour late Friday and Saturday night music show on the Nine Network, hosted by Richard Wilkins, complete with mullet.
Each year, as a special, the MTV Music Awards was also broadcast. I still have the 1986 awards on video cassette somewhere, which features an in-form INXS performing What You Need.
In 1987, INXS released Kick and the rest is history. Selling more than ten million copies worldwide, Kick is a perfect 40 minutes of pop.
Featuring the singles Need You Tonight, Devil Inside and Never Tear Us Apart, the album launched the band into the stratosphere and for a few short years INXS was arguably the biggest band in the world.
I really must put the special edition Kick 25 reissue on my Christmas wish list. I love that album.
Flashforward to the mid-90s and INXS had begun to lose their shine. Creatively, the band had not been able to match Kick and sales had slumped. It was during preparations for their “comeback” tour in 1997 that Michael Hutchence committed suicide in a Sydney hotel room. I had front row centre tickets for the first of these comeback gigs at the State Theatre. What a bummer.
Rather than retire the INXS name, the remaining members continued to tour with a succession of singers, making them one of those rare creatures in the music industry: a band that transformed into their own cover act.
I finally caught INXS (with ex-Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens) live in Cardiff on a double bill with Blondie. It simply wasn’t the same. Michael Hutchence had a unique stage presence and charisma that was irreplaceable.
A little later, a new singer, Canadian JD Fortune was promoted to vocal duties via a TV talent search. Although his Michael Hutchence impersonation wasn’t bad, JD only lasted one album before being dropped for Irishman Ciaran Gribbin.
As far as I’m concerned, INXS ceased to exist in 1997 with the death of Hutchence. It has taken 15 years for the other band members to understand this but I think deep down most fans would agree with me. Just like The Doors without Jim Morrison or Queen without Freddie Mercury, INXS were simply not the same without their charismatic frontman.