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Five ways INXS could’vereally ended on a high

INXS didn’t end on a high – but at least they finally called it a day, writes ANDREW P STREET, who suggest five ways the band could’ve really gone out in style.

INXS touring days could never last forever. We wanted it to end on a high. And it has.” – Jon Farriss, November 13, 2012

With the greatest of respect to you and your publicist, Jon Farriss: No. INXS didn’t end on a high. INXS ended playing a soulless new arena in Perth with an Irish hired gun on vocals, going through the motions as the opening act for Matchbox Twenty. Let me say that again: One of the greatest bands Australia every produced played their final ever show as an opening act. For Matchbox Twenty.

When was the last time INXS were relegated to openers? That can’t have happened since the early-’80s, surely? And at this point in the career, pulling out a crowd-pleasing “hits’n’memories” set is basically Death By Covers Act, the only difference being that five of the men on stage also performed the originals.

INXS didn’t end on a high – but at least it did, finally, end. But had Farriss wanted to have legitimately finished things on a triumphant note, I can give five moments that would have provided a more fitting coda.

1. After the Summer XS tour in 1991

You need to understand something important about INXS: They were incredibly successful all over the world. No, even more than you think. Stupidly successful. Like, everyone you knew had their albums in their house successful. Everyone. Like, playing to 120,000 people in Brazil successful. Recording a live album at Wembley in front of 74,000 people successful. And they were huge in the US, massive all through Europe, gods in South America and obviously freakin’ superstars in Australia. We’re talking U2-Gaga-AC/DC big here.

The band were not mystical soothsayers so they couldn’t have known that this was going to be the biggest tour they would ever do, but the triple whammy of Listen Like Thieves (1985), Kick (1987) and X (1990) had cemented them as world beaters. If they’d announced an indefinite hiatus at the end of this tour then they’d have been forever preserved in amber, leaving the tantalising question “what might have been?” hanging forever unanswered in the air, rather than responding with “three more increasingly uninspired albums and a shittonne of dickish rock star behaviour”.

How history would have interpreted it: “There are no more challenges to achieve – we have done everything we ever set out to do. Time to set new goals for our Arcadian talents.”

How history actually interpreted it: “Their live album Live Baby Live went platinum in the US? Are you serious?”

2. After 1993’s Full Moon, Dirty Hearts showed their commercial heyday was definitely over

INXS had long been used to putting out an album and seeing it smash sales of the previous one. Take their US successes: The Swing went platinum, followed by Listen Like Thieves going double platinum and Kick going a freakin’ insane six times platinum. Sure, 1990’s X (which had ‘Suicide Blonde’ and ‘By My Side’ on it) only went double platinum, but the band didn’t really tour that disc, or the subsequent Welcome To Wherever You Are (platinum). But then Full Moon, Dirty Hearts turned up with relatively tepid sales (not even getting to gold in the US) and lacklustre chart action for singles ‘The Gift’ and the Ray Charles duet ‘Please (You Got That…)’. One commercial blip is a freak occurrence, twice can be a coincidence, but three times is looking like a pattern: they must have realised that the world was starting to move on, and they could have nipped things in the bud then and there.

How history would have interpreted it: “We are no longer doing our legacy justice, and we refuse to tarnish it.”

How history actually interpreted it: “At least it wasn’t the dog of an album that 1997’s Elegantly Wasted was.”

3. After Michael Hutchence’s death in 1997

Five members of INXS did not die on 22 November 1997, but groups are not democracies in which majority rules. As every sane person knows there is a recognised order of importance in rock bands, and it goes like this: singer, lead guitar, second guitar, bass/keys (tie), drums. Any band can survive losing the bottom half unless they wrote all the songs (admit it: for all you know Coldplay have performed with a different rhythm section every gig of their lives); replacing #2 is difficult but doable; and #1 is almost impossible (unless you’re AC/DC). When your frontman is also the face of the band and an internationally recognised sex symbol, the likelihood of a successful transplant is reduced to approximately absolutely-not-going-to-happen percent. INXS could have wound things up in the wake of tragedy and declared that it was an impossible task to replace Michael Hutchence – not least because, as the next 15 years were to demonstrate, it was true.

How history would have interpreted it: “The strange alchemy that bound the six of us together has been sundered, and we respect that.”

How history actually interpreted it: “Sure, we’ll just find another one of them singing fellas. How hard can it be?”

4. At their 2001 ARIA Hall of Fame induction

In order for an artist to be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, according to the ARIA website, “the nominees’ careers must have commenced, and ideally achieved significant prominence, at least 20 years prior to the year of proposed induction.” There was no Hall of Fame in 2000, so 2001 was pretty much as close to the wire as a band whose first releases came out in 1980 could get (The Saints were also inducted that night, having been eligible for half a decade by that stage, so INXS were comparatively lucky). How fitting it would have been if they had dedicated their honour to their fallen comrade and used the opportunity to thank everyone for their love and support before charging through ‘Don’t Change’ one last magical time?

How history would have interpreted it: “We’ve accepted Australian music’s highest honour, and we chose this moment to bow out gracefully while honouring everyone who contributed to our legacy – from the industry to the fans.”

How history actually interpreted it: “Really? You’re still going to do this?”

5. After recording Switch in 2005

Rock Star: INXS was, let’s not beat around the bush, an undignified clusterfuck of wannabes too unconventional looking to be serious American Idol contenders, but it was a legitimately interesting idea. And, hey, it could have worked. Sure, they could have walked in the first day, listened to everyone sing, pointed at JD Fortune and gone, “Oi, Canada dude, you sound like Michael, get in the van”. And given that they’d already toured with Jon Stevens and Terence Trent D’arby by this stage, they’d presumably already gone, “People who don’t sound like Michael don’t really work so well. Let’s get one of those.” And if Switch was a pretty awful album – and it was – it still had enough halfway decent moments like single ‘Pretty Vegas’ to make a case for existing while also making clear that nothing better was in the pipeline.

How history would have interpreted it: “We gave it a red hot go, but it wasn’t to be.”

How history actually interpreted it: “Is ‘Hot Girls’ is the absolute worst song ever written? Yes, I think it is. So, what are Powderfinger up to?”

Comments

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mondo22

mondo22 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

who wrote this article?

mondo22

mondo22 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

and what the hell was Navarro doing associating himself with that JD Fortune guy?

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 14th Nov, 2012



Andrew P. Street, dude, it was in the first line of the article.

grattan

grattan said on the 14th Nov, 2012

Bizarre piece on INXS published in today's Scum:

YOU can do a lot with a little in pop music - as the 2011 Grand Final crowd discovered with Meat Loaf - but never did a band do it with less than INXS.

The mix of sturdy musicianship - they had that, particularly with Kirk Pengilly on sax - and a singer who looked passably like Jim Morrison, was a terrific start.

But when it came to that other fundamental of post-war pop music - writing songs - they were towards the bottom of the class, caring just enough to occasionally glance at the next boy's homework.

Most INXS "songs", let's be liberal with the noun, are thin, hackneyed and repetitive. Thin, hackneyed and repetitive.

Their words aren't genuine lyrics because a lyric suggests a mind at work.

Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss wrote Original Sin and it's about, well, very little. Deep into its three minutes and 50 seconds, Hutchence, having long ago run out of ideas, becomes confused: "Dream on, white boy, black girl, black boy, white girl."

He can't make up his mind - like Charles Dickens' first line in Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" - and if it's good enough for Dicko ...

Original Sin, an extraordinary triumph of style over substance achieved by then popular New York producer Nile Rodgers, who'd once featured in the Sesame Street band. That's true. Rodgers turned on his radio one day and was smitten by a strange, tuneless thumping sound that appeared to be coming from its speakers. It was early disco and he was hooked.

tyler07

tyler07 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

What a load of senseless garbage. The Scum obviously employs some quality writers...

snapcrackleROCK

snapcrackleROCK said on the 14th Nov, 2012

INXS were bigger than U2. True fact. Scum guy is a clown. Who or what is Scum, anyway? Actually, don't tell me. I don't care.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

One thing that could have made the past 15 years less horrendous was if Kirk Pengilly shaved that fucking moustache.

inthepharmacy

inthepharmacy said on the 14th Nov, 2012

interesting article, but i'm gonna take issue with #2. not being able to replace michael hutchence was not why they were never as good - as you pointed out, they were already three albums into a downward trajectory by the time of his tragic death. basically, they just didn't have the writing chops anymore.

also, however charismatic a frontman is, they can always be replaced. henry rollins was black flag's fourth lead vocalist following on from keith morris, ron reyes and dez cadena. bruce dickinson replaced paul dianno in iron maiden, ronnie james dio did a great job with black sabbath for a while after ozzy left, steve hogarth replaced fish in marillion. these bands all had creative and commercial highs with the new guys and any subsequent drop off in quality would probably have happened anyway.

i think inxs's problem was they didn't really want a replacement that was as good as michael.

conditionals

conditionals said on the 14th Nov, 2012

wow, hate on coldplay all you want, but people in the know recognise the talent of their rhythm section, in spite of all the edge-posturing of the guitarist and inanity of chris martin.

captaincrunch81

captaincrunch81 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

that piece by some grouchy babyboomer in the scum today was ridiculous. apparently 'what you need, original sin and the whole nile rodgers / 80s production was style over substance' - wtf the whole decade was style over substance!!!

also agree about coldpaly's rhythm section - those guys are solid players and they never overplay or add anything that the song doesn't need.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

I don't think he was making fun of Coldplay's rhythm section or saying they were shit he was just saying they aren't the focal point of reference in people's minds. No one is thinking of the bass player when they hear the word Coldplay.

snapcrackleROCK

snapcrackleROCK said on the 14th Nov, 2012


i think inxs's problem was they didn't really want a replacement that was as good as michael.

This makes zero sense.

Brian B

Brian B said on the 14th Nov, 2012

interesting article, but i'm gonna take issue with #2. not being able to replace michael hutchence was not why they were never as good - as you pointed out, they were already three albums into a downward trajectory by the time of his tragic death. basically, they just didn't have the writing chops anymore.

also, however charismatic a frontman is, they can always be replaced. henry rollins was black flag's fourth lead vocalist following on from keith morris, ron reyes and dez cadena. bruce dickinson replaced paul dianno in iron maiden, ronnie james dio did a great job with black sabbath for a while after ozzy left, steve hogarth replaced fish in marillion. these bands all had creative and commercial highs with the new guys and any subsequent drop off in quality would probably have happened anyway.



Do any of those examples really support your point?

lateleigh

lateleigh said on the 14th Nov, 2012

'Full Moon; Dirty Hearts' was a killer album. Way better than 'X'. It was not a commercial record, but it was some of Hutchence's best writing in yonks.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 14th Nov, 2012

about time this wank was hung in the closet.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 14th Nov, 2012

i knew i could count on you!

Ellieangel

Ellieangel said on the 14th Nov, 2012

whilst i agree with some of your remarks you choose to leave out the huge downward spiral was as a result of michael suffering a fractured skull following an assault in denmark in 1992. his mental health deteriorated and even the band admitted that he was nigh on impossible to work with, resulting in the poor full moon dirty hearts. there manager left and the band never recovered. michaels personal life became a problem for the whole band the result of which was bore out with elegantly wasted and a tour of europe that played to half empty venues. as for switch i thought it was very good. pretty vegas, gods top ten, us and after glow were terrific. the band successfully toured north america and asia and everything looked positive. for whatever reason they decided jd was no longer going to be the leader singer and yes to bow out as a support act was a terrible way to go for one of the best bands ever but i think there decision making was odd anyway once michael died. as for scum sorry but there music was better than anything u2, bon jovi, gnr, chilli peppers or another rock band you can think of between 1987 to 1992, end of.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 14th Nov, 2012

personal life = erotic auto-asphyxiation.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

Erotic auto-asphyxiation is difficult to pull off.

Many try hard at it but end up choking.

Some have found it to be a real Luck Of The Draw situation.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 14th Nov, 2012



Do you know who Henry Rollins is?

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 14th Nov, 2012

B Man's point is that this nong disputes the the idea that INXS couldn't find a suitable replacement by naming other bands who did in fact find suitable replacements for front men. this information however doesn't mean dick to the fact that iNXS never found a suitable replacement for Mick and should have quit.

Brian B

Brian B said on the 14th Nov, 2012



Sounds fair BC.

Though It is easy to look at their decision in retrospect and make the call now. I'm sure at the time they hoped they could find someone. Hutchence was pretty unique.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 14th Nov, 2012



No, not at all. What's a black flag?

snapcrackleROCK

snapcrackleROCK said on the 14th Nov, 2012

It's also known as the Jolly Roger. Do you know what a jolly rogering is?

DinkiDIDude

DinkiDIDude said on the 15th Nov, 2012

Erotic auto-asphyxiation is difficult to pull off.

Many try hard at it but end up choking.

Some have found it to be a real Luck Of The Draw situation.

seen the mechanic remake :eek: , damn plausable way to get away with murder as well!

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 15th Nov, 2012



http://www.themistermen.co.uk/images/MrWrong.jpg

RocknrollHendo

RocknrollHendo said on the 15th Nov, 2012



isn't he that dude that rambles on about his life and occasionally tries to be funny when all I want him to do is shut up and sing Damaged in its entirety.

mondo22

mondo22 said on the 15th Nov, 2012



Ahhh I see. I only skimmed through it you see and usually the avatar and username is displayed directly under the photo

zeehaen

zeehaen said on the 22nd Nov, 2012

so tired of the erotic auto-asphyxiation digs. doesn't anyone read any more? those claims were made by his junkie ex girlfriend in a paid interview for 60 minutes. i'd like to add that she died from a heroin overdose a year later. it's obvious she created these speculations to make some quick $$ to feed her own addictions. it's disgusting how she tacklessly defamed the man. so let it go people, and try and respect the man's legacy. after all, no one, including his band, have done anything but walk all over this man since the moment he passed on.

Oflick

Oflick said on the 22nd Nov, 2012



Me too. However, I'm all for autoerotic asphyxiation digs.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 22nd Nov, 2012



That's true. Maybe he was just trying to alleviate the mid-suicide depression with a cheeky wank?