He may have lived the high life of rock stardom, but INXS singer Michael
Hutchence was a deeply troubled man who plummeted into a downward spiral
of drugs and depression, according to Australian journalist Vincent
Lovegrove's unofficial biography "Michael Hutchence: A Tragic Rock &
In his often grim look into the life of the sex-symbol singer, the author
and onetime bandmate of late AC/DC singer Bon Scott depicts the high
life and frequently depressed times of a jet-setting rocker who Lovegrove
claims became a victim of his own excesses and vices.
"It is an emotional stretch into his life to try and understand how a
man, seemingly with so much, should die in such a lonely and premature
fashion," Lovegrove said recently about the book. "I tried to find out
about the man, not the myth, not the legend."
Lovegrove, who claims to be the last person to have interviewed Hutchence, said
he never intended for the book -- one of several unauthorized bios released
since his death -- to be viewed as the definitive biography of
the charismatic, singer who rose to fame with the Australian rock band
and such songs as "What You Need"
and "Devil Inside" (RealAudio excerpt).
In one of the more controversial passages in the book, Lovegrove calls
into question the definitive assessment by the Rose Bay, Australia,
coroner's office that Hutchence's death was a suicide.
Hutchence was found hanging from a leather belt in his Sydney, Australia,
hotel room Nov. 22, 1997. He was 37. Lovegrove suggests in the book that the
oft-mentioned possibility that Hutchence was engaged in autoerotic
asphyxiation is not out of the question. Autoerotic asphyxiation is a
sexual practice in which a person cuts off oxygen to the brain while
reaching orgasm through masturbation.
The late singer's father, Kelland Hutchence, would not comment on the
book but said he strongly objected to Lovegrove's assertion that the
coroner's report contained inaccuracies. "I have looked into all aspects
of the coroner's report and am convinced that it is accurate and there
is no suggestion of any autoerotic behavior," Kelland Hutchence said.
"I know [the press] like to whip up sensational stories to hold your
audience but I [respectfully request that you] let my beloved son rest in
For the book, Hutchence's younger brother, Rhett, told Lovegrove he
found it hard to believe that Hutchence was alone in his hotel room when
he died, as police reported. The singer's mother told England's Q
magazine that Hutchence had been involved with a group of sadomasochists
in the months before his death, according to the book, a suggestion the
singer's brother supports by telling Lovegrove that Hutchence was into
bondage and was tired of having sex "the normal way."
One of the more startling revelations in Lovegrove's book is his claim
that an accident may have contributed to the singer's allegedly depressed
state. Lovegrove says Hutchence suffered a serious head injury in
Copenhagen, Denmark, in the summer of 1992. The author says Hutchence
fell after being punched by a cab driver during a night of drunken
motorbike riding with his then-girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christiansen.
"It had a very strange effect on Michael," Lovegrove said. The alleged
injury also caused the singer to act erratically, abusively and to suffer
insomnia, according to the author. In addition, the intensely "sensual"
performer was said to have suffered a loss of his sense of smell and
taste, which led to his use of antidepressants, Lovegrove says in the
"It is without doubt a pivotal point in Michael's life," Lovegrove said
of the singer, who is depicted as an abuser of drugs ranging from heroin
and cocaine to ecstasy and prescription medication. "There's no doubt it
was a key factor in Michael's emotional and self-confidence dive into
Additionally, Lovegrove paints the squabbles between Hutchence, his lover
Paula Yates and ex-Boomtown Rats leader Bob Geldof as a "tragic mess of
gigantic proportions," which, he said, Hutchence should not have had to
Geldof was married to and fathered three children with Yates. Lovegrove
provides a transcript of an Australian Federal Police report on a heated
conversation between Hutchence and Geldof during the early morning hours
of his final day, a discussion the author suggests helped push the singer
over the edge.
The book did not receive the backing of Hutchence's bandmates, family or
management, something Lovegrove worked around by using pre-existing quotes
from articles and interviews with Richard Lowenstein, director of the
1987 indie movie "Dogs in Space," which co-starred Hutchence in his film
debut. Many of the singer's relations and friends are depicted in an
unflattering light in the latter part of the book, which shows them
squabbling over Hutchence's estate.
Former Black Grape member and Los Angeles producer Danny Saber
(Rolling Stones, U2) said he had not read the book but took issue with
a quote the author attributes to him. "I never f---ing said that," Saber
said about a statement he reportedly made that Hutchence's music was
"pure genius, better than anything [Oasis leader] Noel Gallagher could
Saber is one of the producers of the not-yet-released solo album Hutchence
was working on before his death. The other producer of that album, former
Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, said he had also not read the book,
but had heard about it from friends.
Hutchence's former personal manager, Martha Troup, was not available for
comment at press time.
The book is not slated to be released outside of Australia, according to
Jessica Warner, a publicist at the book's New South Wales publisher,
Allen & Unwin. Since its April 16 release, it has been one of the hottest
sellers at the Melbourne, Australia, Border's Books outlet, according to
John Keeffe, the store's general manager. "It's hugely popular," he said.
"It's one of the top sellers here and there's a lot of word of mouth
because [Hutchence] is very much in the news here," Keeffe added. He
said the book has sold 75 copies in the past month, which he tagged as an
unusually high number for a rock biography.
The Australian-born, London-based Lovegrove has spent the past four
decades in and out of rock as a performer, manager, journalist and editor.
He has also made two award-winning films about the loss of his wife and
child to AIDS. Those losses allowed the author to empathize with
Hutchence's early death.
"I think of [wife] Suzi and [son] Troy daily, but the deep, deep emotional
turmoil first experienced when they died slowly became scars rather than
raw emotional wounds," Lovegrove said. "Talking with people who knew and
loved Michael stirred up those same feelings I knew so well. I had empathy
and was immediately drawn to the pain of Michael's friends."
Fan reaction to the book has been strong and mixed. One fan, Deb Nichols,
wrote in an online discussion group that she felt the book was "a collection
of mismatched quotes, hearsay and bullsh--," while another unnamed fan
in the group called it the best biography to date.
(Contributing Editors Jeff Apter and Nick Corr contributed to this report.)