There truly isn’t band in the United States that could be miniseries worthy in the way Australia’s INXS were. I think you could make a case for Nirvana, but there wasn’t the longevity that INXS had. There was the absolute tragedy and of course all the conspiracies that might make for an interesting film, but the US just isn’t the miniseries type anymore. We seem to be attracted to the ultimate lows of reality television. There wasn’t enough dirt in Never Tear Us Apart, the two part miniseries released in Australia over the course of the last couple of weeks, to suck in an American fan base. In the US we are fickle with our rock icons. Will we ever see INXS in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? I’d like to think yes because before there was alternative rock there were bands like INXS that broke through the fringe of college rock into the mainstream. INXS had the new wave thing down with the sensibilities of riffs that would take them into the rock and roll genre. Make no mistake about it, INXS were a rock and roll band. Who can deny one of the greatest riffs in rock and roll history? The opening to Need You Tonight is as memorable as Smoke on the Water, Smells Like Teen Spirit or (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Why INXS never gets their due or respect is because they were for the most part a pop band, but even a pop band deserves their moment to shine. With a string of hits all over the world INXS was one of the greatest bands in the world for a time.
For me it started with a song from The Swing, “I Send a Message”. It was played at the teen dance clubs that I would frequent in my youth. Then came a cassette (yep cassette) I would buy at a flea market in South Carolina while on vacation in Myrtle Beach in 1986. Their songs were already on the radio by that point but for a week I had two things to listen to. One being Listen Like Thieves and the other being REM’s Fables of the Reconstruction. I played the hell out of side one of Listen Like Thieves. Track one; “What You Need” on to track two “Listen Like Thieves”, then “Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)”, and then “Shine Like it does”. After that, while I don’t mind it, I wasn’t as drawn in as I were those four cuts. A couple years later they would release Kick, an album that assisted on multiple levels in getting the girl. Every girl loved Michael Hutchence and every guy wanted to be like him. He had the voice and sex appeal, and I was hooked on that CD (it was 1987, I upgraded from cassettes). “Never Tear Us Apart” was a staple on all my sappy sentimental mixtapes to the high school girls of the tri-city area. Beyond that, the album itself was hit after hit. I got to see INXS 4 times during that period. They put on an amazing show. I had 4 different dates to each of the shows. I put on just as amazing of a show apparently.
Back to the miniseries though. It was too short for me. It moved through too quickly. I wanted more back story. I wanted a little more dirt. They were very respectful in the film. In the States it never would have been green-lit because it was a bit tame. However, I must say I like the full frontal nudity that comes with foreign television. We freak out if you see an ass cheek here in the states, seeing boobs is always a plus. Much like in the career of INXS, Hutchence was the star of the show. The rest of the band members were supporting characters at best. Pengilly’s part was glazed over and none of the band had much dialogue. Pretty sure it was embellished a bit with how the band started out in the garage, etc. Was it factual? I guess as factual as you could be. My main bitch was they really glazed over the whole Sir Bob Geldof part of the death of Michael. Geldof was a complete asshole about the custody of the kids. He used his fame, and power and that child as a giant fuck you to Michael and Paula Yates. He would send Hutchence into deep bouts of depression and rage. I think Geldof got off on it.
Overall it was as good as it could be I guess. I enjoyed it. It was a little fluffy at points. It was entertaining and somewhat informative of what the band went through. I think the cast was pretty amazing. I liked that they remade the videos that they would show pretty much shot for shot with the originals, and yeah there were some tears at the end for me. It was sad, I loved these guys back in the 80’s, don’t judge. Will it ever be released here on DVD? I doubt it will ever make it overseas. After seeing INXS tour the last time in Detroit to a half packed theater kind of tells me there isn’t the audience to market this too. Maybe a VH1 thing? Sure, but the staying power of a truly epic rock and roll film just wasn’t there. I am sure super fans are going to disagree with me, but while it was an entertaining movie it was not “epic”.
What it was lacking for me was the decline in popularity. Specifically the time between Welcome To Wherever You Are to Elegantly Wasted. 1993 – 1997 saw a decline in record sales and popularity for the band here in the United States. Full Moon Dirty Hearts was widely considered a flop and Elegantly Wasted was going to be the comeback. They did a great job showing the rise to success but completely glazed over the decline and lean years. Where was the famous Oasis “has-beens shouldn’t be presenting awards to gonna-bes”? It was a dark time, and it wasn’t presented well. In the end Michael kills himself. We know the end of the story but they did a poor job of painting the picture of why. While they showed some of the decline, they really missed the why that would have sold the story much better. Yates, decline of popularity, the Oasis humiliation, Geldof, custody battles, drugs, band infighting, sexual addiction were barely touched on. It was too sterile and too Disney. I have heard it was to protect the daughter of Hutchence, but in sterilizing the last few years they really missed a big chunk of the story.
I was very happy to have been able to see the miniseries. I was highly entertained. I thought it was a pretty good film, but certain embellishments and omissions make me think of Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” which after 20 years is completely unwatchable. What would have made this a great film was to tell the truth and not hold anything back. Too much was held back and it could have stood to go on for at least another week. The ending itself was amazing seeing that footage in front of that giant crowd. After seeing them at that theater in Detroit I forgot just how huge INXS was. It was a story that needed to be told, but could have been executed a little better. It doesn’t make me think less of the band I loved back in the 80’s at all. They wrote some amazing songs, and are overlooked for being a “pop” band. They deserve their moment. I’m still not sure why they haven’t been a blip on the Rock Hall radar. The Cure are good but INXS isn’t? That just doesn’t make any sense at all. If you get a chance to see the film, by all means do so. You will be entertained for a few hours at the very least.