Hutchence Bio Tells Sad Tale Of Singer's Short Life

Unauthorized biography calls into question coroner's report labeling artist's death a suicide.

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 &

Roll Story."

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"

(RealAudio excerpt)

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

peace."

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

book.

"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

darkness."

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

endure.

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

touch."

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.)