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I don’t know of anyone’s mom who wasn’t completely smitten with Michael Hutchence. The INXS frontman forced children all over to confront their mothers’ raging libidos. One time my family stayed at the same resort as INXS and after consuming a few Whiskey Sours in the sizzling summer sun, my mother vouched that she would track Michael down in his penthouse when my father (also a Michael) had his back turned. I remember this because it was the first time I heard real, adult desire creep into my mother’s voice. It was alarming and necessitated a cleansing dip in the hotel pool.
Inevitably, I inherited my mother’s infatuation with Australia’s answer to “sex with cherubic curls.” During the Kick years, I probably developed an inchoate sexual attraction without realizing, at that time, exactly what it was. Whenever Hutchence sang, “makes me sweat!” in “I Need You Tonight”, I imagined him perspiring heavily, recumbent in a clean, white motel bed in the middle of the dark. I could hear his every breath, his come-hither eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling, yet searing into my ignorant, innocent head. It unsettled my stomach like I had had a bad taste of something.
My mom’s favorite song was “New Sensation”. She’d turn it up real loud whenever the video played or if it came on the radio. She loved to dance to it in the living room in the hopes that she was embarrassing me with her swaying hips and her snapping fingers, her gold tennis bracelets jangling as she pursed her lips, mocking me, “Oh mommy, please stop it!” When she did so, I imagined her dancing barefoot for the other Michael in her black sundress and when I did, I didn’t feel mortified or outraged or confused or resentful; I felt proud.
INXS’s music is evocative of those moments spent with my mother that transgressed normal mother-daughter boundaries, when I was fortunate enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of who she was: a woman apart from the cake-baking, windexing, morning hair brushing, and other matriarchal duties. She liked pop music, dancing and rock stars whose serpentine movements haunted even a little girl’s dream. I wonder if she cared for Axl Rose.
“This Time” is a song that I do not recall us listening to together, but I like to wonder if she would have cranked it up as the anthemic chorus hits: “This time…will be the last time…