Get On the Inside

mudra
Michael doing an “Earth Mudra” hand gesture. The Prithvi Mudra or Earth Mudra is a spiritual practice thought to help create balance and emotional security within the body, as well as to control our primal nature and our enhance our connection to the earth.

Few people outside of INXS’ fan base may be aware that Michael Hutchence composed a solo album prior to his untimely death. While we can be certain that Michael was proud of his work with INXS, the fact that he was working on a solo album suggests that he was pursuing alternative creative pursuits so that his success as an artist was not strictly tethered to the band’s relative collective success. His self-titled solo album featured musical collaboration by various influences, including Andy Gill (Gang of Four) and Danny Saber and was released approximately 2 years after he passed away. Lyrically, the album is indicative of the many personal issues Michael was dealing with at the time, especially regarding the media circus that hounded him constantly at the time. His lyrics on this album offer deeply introspective impressions of the struggles he was experiencing as he tried to navigate his way through a celebrity lifestyle that was simultaneously embracing and rejecting him. In some ways, the lyrical content on Michael’s solo album was the suicide note he never left.

While the lyrics to many of the songs on the solo album are dark and introspective, the music is generally funky and upbeat offering listeners a reprieve from becoming too attached to the undercurrent of pensive disquietude pervading the words. Even so, Michael’s whispers beckon us to listen to them all the more intently and in doing so, we can relate to him on a very human level. Although he was glamorous and successful, he struggled with profound insecurities and the tragedies of life just like the rest of us. In interviews he openly admitted to being, as an artist, a more sensitive personality, more prone to numbing the pain with superficial trappings.

One of the songs that resonates with universal themes on this final solo album is “Get On the Inside.” With its funky rock beat and a surface-level sensuality, the music draws the listener in. But beyond the sexy groove, a larger symbolism is codified within the lyrics. Inherent in this song is a message similar to that in the song “Beautiful Girl” where Michael calls on people to allow their inner beauty to shine through while diminishing egocentric, superficial behaviors; misplaced priorities which end up not only not being satisfying, but feeding one’s greatest insecurities and impeding the souls’ growth on both an individual and collective level.

At the time that these lyrics were being written, Michael was coming out of a relationship with supermodel Helena Christiansen, and had been frequenting fashion shows and parties in the fashion world where appearances are everything. When he finally left Helena for Paula, he was ridiculed in the press for choosing someone who was deemed inferior in terms of physical beauty. 

Given that Michael was a regular practitioner of yoga and was familiar with the healing aspects of meditation, the allusions to mindfulness throughout this song are clear. It seems that his intent in singing this song was to shake us out of our illusory and trite patterns of behavior, so that we might live more centered, affirming lives.

“I’M NEVER GONNA MAKE YOU SUFFER

IF YOU WANT MY BETTER SIDE

I’M GONNA GIVE YOU ALL MY SUGAR

WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING THE RIDE
I WILL NEVER LET YOUR WORDS BE WASHED AWAY

THERE ARE OCEANS TO BE NAMED BY YOU

INSIDE WE LAY IN THE SHADOWS

OUTSIDE THEY PUSH THE SKIN PARADE
ALL THE STREETS HAVE TURNED FROM RED TO BLUE

IT’S PROBABLY GONNA STAY THAT WAY

DON’T LET ME GO

AND STOP YOU

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A BETTER VIEW
GONNA TAKE A RIDE

FROM HERE TO HEAVEN

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

GET ON THE INSIDE

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

TO ELEVENTH HEAVEN

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

GET ON THE INSIDE
ARE WE GONNA KILL THE THINGS

THAT MEAN THE MOST

AS A JUNKIE AND A JAILER TOO

WE’RE GONNA RECOGNISE THE FACES

IF WE’RE SEARCHING FOR THE LIFE WE BLEW
ALL THE STREETS HAVE TURNED FROM RED TO BLUE

IT’S PROBABLY GONNA STAY THAT WAY

DON’T LET ME GO

AND STOP YOU

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A BETTER VIEW
GONNA TAKE A RIDE

FROM HERE TO HEAVEN

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

GET ON THE INSIDE

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

TO ELEVENTH HEAVEN

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

GET ON THE INSIDE

ALL YOU PEOPLE TALKING SO LONELY

MAKING PLANS THAT YOUR DADDY WANTED

SETTING IT UP FOR THE BIGGEST FALLING

HOW YOU GONNA LEARN, LEARN TO FAKE IT?

HAVING TROUBLE WITH THE DIRTY MAKE-UP

NEVER GONNA LEARN WHAT

YOU’RE RUNNING FROM

ACTING LIKE THE WORLD JUST OWES YOU

LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
GONNA TAKE A RIDE

FROM HERE TO HEAVEN

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

GET ON THE INSIDE

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

TO ELEVENTH HEAVEN

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

GET ON THE INSIDE
GONNA TAKE A RIDE

(SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT)

GET ON THE INSIDE

(LET ME RIDE)

GONNA TAKE A RIDE

(SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT)

GET ON THE INSIDE

(LET ME RIDE)

GET ON THE INSIDE

(SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT)

GET ON THE INSIDE

(LET ME RIDE)

GET ON THE INSIDE

(SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT)

GET ON THE INSIDE

(LET ME RIDE)

OH YEAH

(SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT)

OH, OH

(LET ME RIDE)

OH, OH

(SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT)

OH YEAH, OH, OH, OH, OH, OH, OH, OH, OH, OH

(LET ME RIDE)

SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT

LET ME RIDE

SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT

GET IT ON THE INSIDE

SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT

LET ME RIDE

SWEATING IT ON THE SWEET TINY SPOT

GET IT ON THE INSIDE”

The first verse of the song starts out with Michael promising “never to make you suffer if you want my better side.” i.e. the spiritual, connected, empathetic versus the base and disconnected, or the soul versus outward appearance. When he goes on to say he’s “gonna give you all my sugar when it comes to taking the ride,” “sugar” indicates sweetness or perhaps unconditional love. “The ride” that Michael is referring to is not only sexually suggestive, but could also indicate the journey on the path toward spiritual enlightenment, where people become more soul-conscious than self-conscious.

In the next line, Michael addresses his female muse and women in a general sense. He’s acknowledging that the insights, perspectives and views of women are often given a back seat to their appearances (“I will never let your words be washed away”), and her observations are to be treated reverently: (“There are oceans to be named by you”).

The juxtaposition between “inside” and “outside” is furthered in the next line. When  (outside), people tend to mute their higher selves and their inner truths in order to subscribe to the disingenuous narrative that suggests we should be judged by how we look instead of how we act. “Inside we lay in the shadows, outside they push the skin parade.”

When looking at veins on our arms from the outside, our blood appears to be blue, however that is an optical illusion, as blood is actually red inside our veins. Perhaps this is what he’s referring to in the line about the “streets” turning “from red to blue,” in another suggestion that we all need to focus more on perceiving the inner beauty of others. The imagery of red streets does also denote a sense of societal violence, but what is the blue? A washing away of the blood? By noting that “it’s probably gonna stay that way” he is perhaps expressing a note of optimism, that we can wake up to who we truly are on a visceral level and reject the social conditioning that tells us we are not measuring up to media-manufactured societal norms. He goes on to indicate his support of this practice (of perceiving the world through our third eye) where he says “Don’t let me go and stop you if you’re looking for a better view.”

The chorus repeats the refrain “Gonna take a ride. From here to heaven. Gonna take a ride. Get on the inside.Gonna take a ride to eleventh heaven. Gonna take a ride get on the inside.” and this reinforces the idea of someone reaching nirvana (heaven) through ascension meditation. In order to reach a state of nirvana, the soul must participate in a meditative journey through various states of being. As we move through these levels of higher consciousness, we shed our fears, insecurities, greed, etc and upon reaching nirvana/heaven, we ascend beyond our physical bodies and tap into a source of unconditional pure love and light and allowing ourselves to experience true inner peace. Each one of us has this ability, though we get so caught up in “the skin parade” that we often forget about it. It’s no coincidence that Michael refers to the number 11 (11th heaven) several times in the chorus, as it’s well known among the spiritual community that 11 is a very mystical number, especially in yoga numerology where the 11th (and final) body is the combination of all lower bodies and symbolizes full alignment with the universe.

In the second verse Michael asks “Are we gonna kill the things that mean the most, as a junkie and a jailer too?” Here again he is suggesting that by fixating on material, superficial aspects of life, we are, in a sense, “jailing” ourselves, as this becomes an impediment to the purity we find in spiritual enlightenment. The “junkie” reference points not to illicit drugs per se, but to toxic vanity, as we strive to keep our physical appearances consistent with society’s expectations. He goes on to say that “we’re gonna recognize the faces if we’re searching for the life we blew.” His reference to familiar “faces” are the status quo patterns and frameworks laid out for us by society that we have become conditioned to operate within. It’s up to us to break free from these contrived narratives, lest we end up participating in the caustic paradigms that we should actually be rejecting (or blowing off… “the life you blew”).

Later in the song, Michael belts out an admonishment about the negative cumulative effects of living a life devoid of spiritual enrichment. His specific reference to “daddy” may once again point to a society that blindly subscribes to patriarchal norms of self-worth. “All you people talking so lonely, making plans that your daddy wanted, setting it up for the biggest falling, how you gonna learn, learn to fake it.”

The toxicity of physical vanity arises once again where Michael writes “Having trouble with the dirty make-up, never gonna learn what you’re running from, acting like the world just owes you, looking for love in all the wrong places.” When our insecurities run rampant, it becomes a destructive force in how we interact with others. We end up allowing our egos to run interference, and this creates blockages in our ability to tap into our authentic selves which makes it more difficult to love ourselves unconditionally. And if we don’t love ourselves wholeheartedly, how can we truly love each other?

The song wraps up with a sample from a George Clinton/Parliament song called “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” interspersed into the chorus, though instead of singing “Swing low, sweet chariot,” Michael changes it to “Sweating it on the sweet tiny spot.” His reference to the words “sweet” once again evokes the sensuous experience of sweetness or sugar which was described in the first verse as a symbol of universal love, and the tiny spot, while compelling as a sexual metaphor, could also be referencing the relative size of our sphere compared to the entire cosmos (as a nod to George Clinton whose own lyrical mythology involved the idea of a universal mass awakening via a voyage to a distant planet).

gandhi

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