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Living INXS, Dying Young

Blast Chicago Bureau

I was listening to the radio Friday night, when I noticed that they played two INXS songs, back to back. Strange. I thought big-name bands doing other big-name bands' big hits was the theme of the day. Then I heard the news. Michael Hutchence. Dead. Ritz-Carlton. Australia. Thirty-seven years old. INXS. Preparing for their 20th anniversary tour.

I hit the speed dial to reach my boyfriend's voice mail, super-quick. I knew he wouldn't be there. He left for Detroit earlier that day.

Beep. "Oh my God! Michael Hutchence is dead! They just found him in a hotel room. In the tub, or something! Well, maybe not in the tub. Maybe on the bed. I don't know. They don't know, either. Isn't that weird? We were just talking about INXS last night!"

And so we were. We'd gone out to dinner that night. It was a new phase of our fledgling relationship -- INXS was a band we hadn't discussed yet.

"I've liked them since that song, 'The One Thing,' came out. A lot of people thought that was on their first album, but it was on their third," I boasted.

"I know. I saw them on the 'Listen Like Thieves' tour," he remarked casually.

"Oh my God! So did I!"

"We were in the fifth row," he added.

"Wow. We were pretty close too. It was at the Aragon. November '85. I wish I still had that concert T-shirt."

He asked, "What was the name of that album that 'The One Thing' was on?" I took a bite of my pollo verde, thought for a moment, swallowed, then answered, "I don't know. I can see it in my mind. It had a picture of them naked, except for a sheet, or something."

"Yeah, it was the bookend album."

"Bookend album?" I tried to picture a record (remember those?) holding books up on a shelf.

"Yeah. It started with a really good song," he explained, "and ended with a really good song."

"You're right. 'The One Thing' was the first song, and 'Don't Change' was the last song. Yeah, the songs in between weren't that great. What was the name of that album?"

"I don't know, I can't remember. But it wasn't a title track album, or anything. And it wasn't a self-titled album."

"Of course it wasn't, that was the first album. I liked that one, but I didn't like their second album that much," I stated. "You know, 'Underneath the Colours'?"

"Well, after 'Listen Like Thieves,' they went downhill."

"No way. They peaked at 'Kick.'"

He was incredulous, "'Kick'?!"

"Yeah, 'Kick'!" I insisted.

He laughed, then quoted, adding his own emphasis, "'Guns in the Sky'?"

"Well, OK," I admitted, "That wasn't one of the better songs, but it had some good tunes."

"Like what?"

"'Mystify.'" He looked at me, his face blank.

I sang, "Mystify, you mystify me."

He was mystified, naturally.

I continued, "'Almond looks that chill divine.' Come on, that's a great line!"

"Hmm." He washed down his pollo verde with what remained of his beer.

"X. Now, X was the beginning of the end," I declared.

He groaned, "X was terrible! And once a band's lost me, that's it."

"There was one good song on there," I began.

"Oh God! Please don't tell me it's 'Suicide Blonde.'"

I shook my head, "No! God, no. It's ... oh, how did it go?"

He paid the tab.

"What was it called?" I asked myself.

We stood up to leave. "'Disappear'!" I exclaimed.

And so he has. Michael Hutchence, that is. In a manner of speaking.

They played "The One Thing" on the radio Friday night. As it faded out, I held my breath. Would the DJ say the title of that bookend album?

Speed dial. Boyfriend. Voice mail. Beep. "Shabooh Shoobah!"