Just last month, the nation was gripped by the Seven Network’s successful TV mini-series Never Tear US Apart: The Untold Story of INXS.
INXS’ recent revival has a lot to do with the work of one CM Murphy, the band’s original manager who is credited with bringing them to the dizzying heights of global stardom during the 1980s and 1990s.
According to his biography, Murphy: The Making of CM Murphy, he always had a global vision for INXS and wouldn’t settle for anything less.
Murphy also details his recent plans to make INXS a brand and to help them reclaim some of their former glory and popularity, predominantly through the TV mini-series.
In the book Murphy comes across as a man who was always driven to dream bigger and reach for the seemingly unattainable.
And it is also through his dreams, in the more figurative sense, that Murphy recounts having a spiritual encounter with the late Michael Hutchence: “I’ve never had small dreams about Michael. And on the three or four occasions that I have had them, they are so lifelike that it absolutely freaks me out,” he says.
The biography charts the manager’s beginnings as a surfing, country-loving boy growing up in Shellharbour in NSW’s Illawarra region, to the man behind the globally famous rock band.
After losing his father at the age of 14, Murphy moved to Sydney with his sisters as his mother took over his father’s theatrical booking agency.
It was at this agency that Murphy cut his teeth in the world of entertainment, booking bands at venues across Sydney.
He describes meeting INXS for the first time and thinking, “Gee, they’re nice guys”. Nice enough to shift him out of his role as an agent and into a new job as their manager.
The most intriguing part of Murphy’s biography is his account of his years working with INXS. It’s not just an insight into being the manager of a successful band, it’s also an insider’s account of the workings of the music industry at the time.
It was a time when a record contract was a life-changing, career-making event; when hundreds of thousands of dollars were pumped into making music videos to appear on MTV; and when Murphy had to physically travel the globe to discover the latest musical trends.
The book also offers some insight into the music industry before the internet and before iTunes. To read about Murphy’s dealings with big companies like Warner, and the hard sell he made with music industry bigwigs to get INXS the fairest deals he could, shows just how powerful record companies used to be.
At one point, Murphy explains how he had to battle to get music executives to release the band’s most successful album, Kick. The album wasn’t going in the musical direction the executives wanted it to go. He even claims he was offered $1 million by a record company executive to go back and re-record the album.
Throughout INXS’ career from the late 1970s through to the mid-1990s, Murphy is depicted as the man in their corner, fighting their battles and sticking up for their musical directions.
However, the biography reads as a one-sided account of Murphy’s life and career. Some music industry figures, members of INXS and even music journalists have contributed quotes and articles talking up their encounters with Murphy. The comments and anecdotes are largely positive and complimentary.
It is not until the end of the book, when Murphy talks about the making of the TV mini-series, do we get any glimpse of his ruthless side. It’s a side that must have been there in order for him to take on the music industry’s powerful.
The book is an interesting account of the business side of the music industry during an era when record companies ruled the roost, and gives a glimpse into the world of INXS.
* MURPHY: The Making of CM Murphy: The Son, the Father, the Goals, the Wins and the Triumphs of INXS is published by Murphy Media Academy, rrp $39.95