INXS Svengali Chris Murphy Dies At 67
– Chris Murphy
One of Australia’s most globally successful artist managers and music entrepreneurs, Chris Murphy, died at his Sugar Bay Ranch home in regional New South Wales Jan. 16 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 67.
Murphy was best known as long time manager and strategist with INXS. He first looked after them from 1979 to 1995, during which time the act went on to sell 50 million records globally. As copied by today’s generation of Australian managers, Murphy aimed from the start to achieve success outside Australia, signing them directly to Atlantic Records in the US and bypassing the Australian subsidiary, and setting up an office in New York in 1983.
Their hits included US Number Ones as “Need You Tonight” and “Suicide Blonde” and albums as Kick, X and Welcome To Wherever You Are. Fronted by the late Michael Hutchence, INXS were nominated in 1986 and 1989 for the Pollstar Concert Industry Awards.
In between he managed The Models, and set up alt-rock rooArt Records which signed You Am I, Ratcat, The Hummingbirds, Wendy Matthews and Screaming Jets
Between 1995 and 2008, Murphy took a break from the music industry to work on his organic farming and digital pioneering interests. When he returned to the fold, Hutchence was dead and the band made do with a number of singers before calling it a day as a live act in 2012.
Murphy worked tirelessly to keep their catalogue in the spotlight. These included the two-part teleseries Never Tear Us Apart on the free-to-air Seven Network, a ratings bonanza. Around the time of his death, Murphy had signed with Michael Cassel Group to co-produce a Broadway-style musical based around INXS songs, commissioned a movie script, and started work on an entertainment/tech hub X Building which housed an interactive INXS exhibition. In December INXS’s Very Best Of was certified diamond and ‘Need You Tonight’ used in a TVC by Virgin Australia airlines.
He was also developing a retirement village for musicians and music executives in NSW.
INXS commented: “Without Chris’s vision, passion and hard work, the INXS story would be totally different. Chris’s star burned very bright and we celebrate a life well lived and send all our love to his family.”
His family remembered: “As well as his love of the music and entertainment business, CM was passionate about agriculture, horse breeding, racing pigeons, surfing and rugby. His competitive spirit seen on the polo field and the ice hockey rink was alive right to the end as he fought Mantle Cell Lymphoma.”
Murphy cut his teeth in the family’s MMA booking agency, set up in 1960 by his father Mark. After his death, 16-year old Chris took over its running with his mother, and introduced the policy of the door deal for his acts. He read military strategy and financier biographies for inspiration, which he used with a personality that was part charm, part-masterful strategy and part aggression.
When the unknown INXS approached him in 1977 in Sydney he initially turned them down. They persisted. He relented on the condition they commit themselves to being a global success. In the last few years he guided the career of country rock siblings trio The Buckleys, achieving a number of country hits Down Under and planning to break them Stateside in 2021.