Wednesday, May 18, 2022

#55 INXS (+ concert-going rambling)

INXS slots in at #55 in the 1991 MusiCards set. It's a strange posed shot of the Aussie boys each doing their own thing while gathered together in an empty room. Looks kinda like the guy in white is all, "Hey guys, check out this new riff I came up with." Meanwhile Michael Hutchence is all, "Yeah, sounds good, Tim, but I gotta check out this fascinating camera over here."

Sadly, the design's misplacement of the Super Stars logo essentially spoils what could have been a fine looking trading card. Poor Andrew Farriss on the left there gets the "blockhead" treatment while the lower right corner cries out its vacancy. Such a shame. (But stay tuned.)

They had a great run, and give credit to the Pro Set writer for ably summing up the band in the space allotted. Seems like most bands in this set didn't really remain relevant in the wake of the Nevermind sea change happening as these cards were on retail shelves, but INXS were still riding their peak to some degree. Bangers still ahead of them here include "Not Enough Time" and "The Gift", both tracks I remember enjoying on the radio and MTV in the early/mid 90s. But Elegantly Wasted (1997) was kind of a dud, and Hutchence tragically hung himself later that year (...which was rumored to be a case of autoerotic asphyxiation gone awry, though that seems to be just gossipy hearsay, with evidence indicating he was doped up and distraught over drama involving access to his young daughter).

INXS - "Not Enough Time"

The card's back photo is similar to the cover for 1990's X (above), sourced from the same photoshoot and utilizing the same outline effect.

That back image was also used on shirts and posters for that tour. By the way, "X" marked 10 years since their 1980 debut album. I thought perhaps it was their tenth studio album, but that distinction would go to Elegantly Wasted.

The last time we saw a variation in this set, its purpose was to correct a typo on the back of a Debbie Gibson card (#43). This time, the back of the variation is untouched, and the only reason for the revamped card is simply because it makes all the sense in the world to kick the logo to the opposite corner to better fit the photograph.

Ah, this variation found only in Series 2 packs is like a breath of fresh air after the constrictive original. I know I'm sounding like a broken record on the matter, but it sure would have benefitted the set had the layout designer(s) simply chosen which corner to put the black box based on how it worked with the photo from the get-go, rather than forcing it to the upper left before fixing a few problematic cards with later variations.

INXS also have a separate card in the second series (#314), plus there's a pair in the UK edition too, so the band is penciled in for a return to the blog eventually. We'll delve into their career more in those future posts. For now, I've got a couple personal anecdotes I wanted to cover here.

INXS - "Never Tear Us Apart"

In a random early memory of mine, I'm a pre-teen in the late 80s riding in a car with some family members in Chicago on the way to my great grandmother's funeral. I haven't really matured into listening to "real music" by this point, but at sometime during the trip I overheard a catchy song on the radio or something. I forget the context, but somehow I work part of the lyric like "two worlds collided" into the conversation and my cool older cousin kinda perked up and asked "INXS?" I just nodded and felt like hotshit for kinda impressing her with my vague familiarity with current hit singles. As an only child, she was as close as I had to an older sibling, and she would go on to help nudge me along my path of musical discovery as I entered my teen years.

I still love that song-- Kick really is a great album start to finish-- and even worked up a "reimagined" cover version that I enjoy rocking out from time to time when I practice playing guitar. I recorded a rough version in 2015 that's still collecting dust on the internet in case you want to check it out. It's not very tight, but in my defense it's all me: guitar, singing, keyboard, and even the sloppy drums.

I should also mention that-- unless maybe I'm overlooking something?-- pretty sure INXS is the only act in the entire 1991 MusiCards set that I've personally seen perform live in person. Yep, it was June 21st, 2006 at the Embarcadero Marina Park South in San Diego. On lead vocals was the winner from their Rock Star competition reality show, JD Fortune. I had caught most of those episodes (chiefly thanks to Dave Navarro co-hosting, as I was a diehard Jane's Addiction fan at the time), so it was nice having some "bond" with the guy through getting to know him through the show (and the rest of the guys in the band, for that matter), but the experience was still just a step above watching a cover band, hearing all the INXS classics with somebody besides Michael Hutchence singing.

Here's a custom for the latter era of the band. They kept it going as INXS for a few years before finally calling it quits in 2013.

But yeah, it was a fun night at a pleasant outdoor venue. My friend Chris had stumbled into free tickets-- gotta admit I would've never considered actually spending my own money to go to the show, but for free? Sure! My concert-going heyday was the mid 90s through the 00s, but I usually went to alternative/indie rock shows, so there's not much overlap with the MusiCards checklist. While I dug plenty of larger acts of the day-- huge Tom Petty fan, for example-- I just rarely ponied up the dough for large venue concerts. That's still true today, though I have more discretionary income to play with now. I find it hard to pay $100+ for tickets to see somebody play from the rafters when there are several HD video recordings available to watch free on YouTube, ya know? My buddy Doug recently bought a single ticket to see Paul McCartney in Seattle. He's a huge Beatles fan who had never seen him live, so that was monumental for him to pull off. He was texting me video clips while it was happening and it was a vicarious blast. But I don't know if I have a personal equivalent of that where I would pull the whole "Shut up and take my money!" meme to buy a ticket at any cost. That might make a good question prompt for the comments: Is there any musical artist alive today you'd happily buy a $200+ ticket for the opportunity to see perform live if their tour happened to stop at your largest local sports arena?

Maybe this is on my mind because a tour was recently announced with Jane's Addiction opening for Smashing Pumpkins. The current version of both bands is a far cry from their glory days, but I'm debating it. I've seen Jane's several times, but never the Pumpkins (despite being a big fan). Tickets are like $75 and it's at the Moda Center where the Trailblazers play. It's an easy commute for me-- the train passes it on my way to and from work-- but I've never been in the building. I'm sure it won't come anywhere near selling out, so maybe I'll take a look closer to the mid-November date and see if I can score a cheap ticket or two. 

Welp, I've probably rambled enough to fill out the post. I'll have to get around to listing out my favorite INXS songs when we eventually get to their Series 2 card. In the meantime, please let me know in the comments if you've got any thoughts or memories to share regarding INXS. I'm also curious about the aforementioned "expensive ticket" question, and-- if you're looking to kill some time-- maybe count up how many acts you've seen live from the 1991 MusiCards checklist. Might be interesting to find out who among our readers here has caught the most. I'm setting the bar pretty low with 1! (And that one barely counts, considering the replacement singer.)

Oh wait, I just found a second artist in the set that I've "sort of" seen live! Back in August '96, fresh out of high school, Doug and I drove up to Big Bear, California for a music festival in the mountains. We were mainly there to see Porno For Pyros and Love & Rockets (who were both great). Lady Miss Kier also performed a set, and she's featured on a MusiCard with Deee-Lite (#268), who had recently broken up at the time. I don't remember much of her set, as we were still milling around the grounds for most of it, but I recall thinking it was cool to see her-- the far-out lady from the fun "Groove Is in the Heart" song/video-- even if her music that afternoon was a bit too "dance rave" for my taste. So yeah, I'd say that plus seeing INXS with a new singer combines for a solid "1" for my Acts-Pictured-on-a-MusiCard-I've-Seen-Live total, or 2 if we're being really generous about it.