INXS‘ former manager and current creative consultant says he’s getting closer to mounting a theatrical musical that could make the Australian alternative band — which had multiplatinum success in the 1980s and ’90s — a new sensation all over again.
Chris Murphy, 60, who managed the band during its heyday from 1979 to 1995 and in 2008 began advising its surviving members again, tells Billboard that he’s working with “very strong creatives” in the New York and London theatrical worlds on two different story treatments that would incorporate INXS’ song catalog and, in the next 30 days, will decide which one to bring to producers.
“We’re developing two different scenarios, one of which is very closely related to the band’s story. The other is a separate story altogether,” he says. “We’ll choose the one that works best for the audience — not what works best for the band or their egos.” Murphy declines to name who he is working with but describes them as “top-of-their-game guys” and adds that he is pushing to get the musical mounted in 2017.
If he decides to go with the biographical storyline, there’s a dramatic story to tell. INXS, which counted three brothers, Andrew, Jon and Tim Farriss as members, rose to success in the MTV age with a diverse musical sound that ranged from rock to funk to dance and a telegenic frontman Michael Hutchence who had the combined looks and swagger of Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. Between 1983 and 1997, the band landed 18 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 — seven went top 10, including “New Sensation,” “Never Tear Us Apart,” “Suicide Blonde” and its sole No. 1 hit, “Need You Tonight.” INXS also landed five albums in the top 40 of the Billboard 200 chart, including its 1987 LP Kick, which peaked at No. 3. According to the RIAA, the band has sold a total of 15 million albums.
In the mid-1990s, Hutchence, who had dated model Helena Christensen and singer Kylie Minogue, began a torrid and public affair with Paula Yates, the wife of Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof that led to the married couple’s May 1996 divorce. Months later, Yates gave birth to Hutchence’s daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.
INXS last charted in April 1997 with the song “Elegantly Wasted,” and on Nov. 22, while on tour with the band, Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room in Sydney, Australia. His death was ruled a suicide and reports followed that he was despondent that Yates, who was still engaged in a custody battle with Geldof, was unable to bring Tiger Lily to Australia to spend the holidays with him. (Yates died of an accidental overdose in 2000.)
Since Hutchence’s death, Murphy says INXS’ music has been “overshadowed by the stories and rumors and innuendo, and it’s going to be my job to make the INXS brand bigger than the original band.”
A 2014 Australian biographical TV mini series, INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, put the band’s music back on the charts there, and Murphy says that with Sunny Afternoon, a musical about The Kinks playing in London, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton taking Broadway by storm, “the timing feels right” to expose new audiences to the group’s work.