A deep dive into the tragic relationship of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and rock journalist Paula Yates.
I have a podcast called Love Will Tear Us Apart where I do deep dives on famous complicated relationships.
So far I’ve featured Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, Tina and Ike Turner, Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, Siegfried and Roy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Martin Ginsburg (not a complicated couple), J. Robert Oppenheimer and Jean Tatlock and now Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates.
These two were not on my short list for my podcast, but after watching the Michael Hutchence documentary, Mystify, I thought this couple would be worthy of an episode because OH MY GOD THEY HAD A BAT-SHIT CRAZY RELATIONSHIP.
Until I watched the documentary, I had been a casual fan of INXS. I was too young to enjoy their heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and by the late 1990s, when their music videos were re-running on VH1, I was still too young to enjoy the quality of their music and Michael Hutchence’s tight pants. (Side note: In my pubescent years, I had a crush on 1970s Elton John and Doc Brown from Back to the Future. So yeah.) The zeitgeist of INXS had passed me by, and by the time I was an adult, I enjoyed the sporadic listen of their greatest hits on Spotify.
Watching Mystify, which is directed by Richard Lowenstein, a friend and music video director for the band, showed me how much I was missing out on. I dove into INXS’ library and realized what incredible songwriters they were, particularly once I listened to their earlier stuff (Shabooh Shoobah forever).
What the documentary also did was make me cry for a man I never knew nor particularly cared about. It’s evident the filmmaker, and Michael’s friends, family and lovers who were interviewed, had a deep love and respect for the flawed man. It is truly tragic that Michael ended his life at the young age of 37, and the doc leaves you feeling that his death was completely avoidable.
If you haven’t seen the documentary yet, I highly recommend it. It’s not a perfect film — it’s sort of non-linear and a little confusing at times, and it also feels a little propagandic in that it only lightly brushes upon Michael’s negative traits — but by the end, your heart breaks.
Lowenstein includes a lot of personal and unreleased footage, which gives you an intimate view of the late singer. From all accounts Michael was a kind, playful, and deeply passionate person who others enjoyed being around. The documentary also reveals that the Michael everyone knew and loved dramatically changed by the early 90s, and I’ll save the reasons why for the podcast.
Even though I didn’t know much about Michael before I did my podcast research, over the years I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of rag mags that sensationalized his relationship with Paula Yates. How could you not? The press HOUNDED the couple for YEARS, particularly in England, and their love story continues to fascinate people to this day.
The Hutchence-Yates relationship is truly an epic tragedy, and while Paula was painted as the villain in the story, as was her ex-husband Bob Geldolf, I’ve come to learn that this complicated love triangle was more nuanced that what the press portrayed it as. I wanted to make sure everyone got a fair shake in this episode.