I was sitting on the stone steps of the Boston Public Library, watching a partial eclipse with good friends on a warm day in May 1984. As the sky turned gauzy, “Don’t Change” by INXS blared from someone’s speakers, underscoring the moment, transient and perfect.
The sky above won’t fall down.
The song, two years old by then, was their first breakout. It’s ironic that “Don’t Change” in fact changed everything for the band, and Michael Hutchence’s vocals exude the joy of arrival on the cusp of the greatness that followed.
The song is epic, from the opening keyboard riff as the Prophet 5 calls out, its entreaty fattened by an additional layer of keyboards. The guitar jumps in, heroic, as confident as the drums are insistent in their gallop under Hutchence’s perfectly punctuated vocals.
But time has peeled away the cheerful top note.
In the film Mystify: Michael Hutchence, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, model Helena Christensen tells of how Hutchence was punched by a cab driver, an altercation that caused a traumatic brain injury which resulted in him losing his sense of smell.
“He confessed to me that it changed everything for him,” U2’s Bono said in the film. “He kind of lost his way and forgot who he was.”
Hutchence plummeted into depression. He missed the sensory pleasure of enjoying food and wine, missed the smell of his girlfriend, of his beloved daughter. He committed suicide in 1997.
The lyrics now take on an undertone, the keyboards sound doppler-esque, a warning call of danger.
Two and a half years ago, I lost my sense of smell. The sweetness of the air before rain, the smell of weed wafting out the window of a passing car, the scent of my husband when he hugs me, the popcorn-y smell of my dog’s feet are all now eclipsed from my life. Anosmia has cast my world in perpetual shadow.
Still, the sky above won’t fall down.
“Don’t change,” the song implores. But everything does.
(Song recommendation by Stephanie Feuer)