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‘Four albums in five years and in some ways that’s too much. It lacks direction, throwing it out all the time. People don’t have time to catch up with it or understand it,’ explained INXS frontman Michael Hutchence in an interview in while promoting their latest album Elegantly Wasted. ‘We just disappeared for a couple of years on purpose and spent time partly me writing for myself on my own record and a lot of it Andrew and I writing lots of songs for this record.’ Released in April 1997, three and a half years after their last offering, Elegantly Wasted would prove to be Hutchence’s swan song with the group as just a few months later the body of the thirty-seven year old star was found in Sydney hotel room.
Having first risen to fame in the late 1980s following several years of constant touring, the overnight success and sudden rise to heartthrob status took the vocalist by surprise and over the next few years the group would work almost constant, with several Platinum-selling albums and Top Ten singles coupled with nonstop appearances on TV shows and festivals around the world. Formed in the late 1970s while still teenagers, INXS initially began as a New Wave band with their self-titled debut in 1980 but but it would be the minor hits Original Sin and What You Need that would break them internationally. Following their appearance on the soundtrack to the teen horror The Lost Boys in 1987, the group released their sixth studio album Kick and suddenly became superstars. The record produced some of their most famous songs – Need You Tonight, New Sensation and Never Tear Us Apart – and their popularity increased with the critically-acclaimed follow-up X three years later.
Spearheaded by Hutchence and guitarist Andrew Farriss, INXS would become one of the most popular acts of the 1980s and his iconic status in pop culture would be further enhanced through his romantic relationships with fellow Australian Kylie Minogue and Danish model Helena Christensen and appearances in such cult movies as Dogs in Space and Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound. By the time of his death on 22 November 1997 Hutchence had been performing with INXS for twenty years and had released ten records but he had begun to yearn for the chance to experiment and upon discovering Black Grape, the latest project from Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder, approached producer Danny Saber to discuss collaborating on a solo album. With the assistance of Andy Gill, guitarist for ’80s group Gang of Four, the trio created a dark and groove-laden landscape that incorporated elements of funk, industrial and R&B, all of which complimented his seductive voice. Yet despite being close to completion, the unexpected death of Hutchence left the fate of the project uncertain.
‘It was pretty much done when he died,’ Saber told Rolling Stone in 2015. ‘It just needed to be mixed. It took about a year before I could even listen to it or think about it.’ The eponymous record was released two years after his death but failed to generate much public interest despite such standout moments as the sultry Possibilities and All I’m Saying. Australian entrepreneur technology Ron Creevey, creator of both the X Studio in Kings Cross and HeliPad Records, has spent the last few years both remastering Hutchence’s final recordings alongside Saber. ‘I heard some time ago about some unreleased music that was sitting out there, and then I approached (Hutchence’s) trust directly,’ Creevey revealed to the Guardian earlier this year. ‘A total of fifteen songs will be released. At least five songs are brilliant.’According to the article Chris Murphy, who managed INXS through their success, had threatened legal action against anyone who released material either under the band or the late artist’s name. The previously-unheard material is set to be released in 2017 to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of his passing. ‘It’s been a hard two years dealing with negativity in the industry but time has punched on and we will finish what Michael wanted,’ explained Creevey in a new article published by Noise11.com. ‘Michael was working on these recordings with Danny Saber in the months leading up to his fateful trip to Sydney. He was proud of what he created and intended for his fans to hear this music. For Michael these recordings were to be the start of his solo career and his break from INXS. They were done with Danny Saber and totally independent of anyone involved with the band. Had he not died, we would be looking back today at these recordings as classic Michael.’
The first track from these lost recordings will be released in January, while a documentary charting his final years was announced earlier this year from filmmaker Richard Lowenstein, whose prior work with INXS included the promo videos for such fan favourites as Suicide Blonde, Need You Tonight and the Escape from New York-esque Listen Like Thieves. ‘I have been working on the definitive documentary film journey into the heart and soul of this complex, shy, poetic and exceptionally charismatic man for many years,’ the director explained.