The song title comes from a phrase describing a woman who colors her hair blonde as "dyeing" from her own hand, making her a "suicide blonde." It was written by Andrew Farriss
and Michael Hutchence, who were the primary songwriters in the group.
The lyric was inspired by Kylie Minogue, who was INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence's girlfriend at the time. When she told him she was planning to dye her hair "suicide blonde," he used it as the title (this according to Lucy O'Brien's Michael Hutchence obit in Q magazine).
One of Hutchence's favorite hobbies was "corrupting Kylie" because of her wholesome image. When they attended the premiere of Kylie's film The Delinquents, she wore an extreme look with the "suicide blonde" hair that made her unrecognizable to many.
INXS hit it big with their sixth album, Kick, released in 1987. They spent all of 1988 and much of 1989 supporting the album, which was huge, bringing them to a U2 level of superstardom. Getting the band back in the studio was a challenge though, especially when Michael Hutchence started a side project with his old mates called Max Q. INXS' label, Atlantic, indulged Hutchence by releasing the Max Q album in 1989, but they buried it, eager to get him working again with their moneymaker.
Kick producer Chris Thomas returned to helm X, which was released in 1990. "Suicide Blonde" was the first single and a substantial hit, but X was a big drop off critically and commercially. To their credit, the band didn't use their existing hits as templates or bring in outside writers, choosing instead to push forward in new musical directions.
The song has nothing to do with suicide, and despite the uneasy title, the band continued to perform it when they toured with other lead singers following Michael Hutchence's death by suicide in 1997
That's Charlie Musselwhite playing the harmonica on this track, although his part was played though a sampler programmed by Andrew Farriss. Musselwhite played directly on two other tracks from the album: "Who Pays The Price" and "On My Way."
Musselwhite, a Mississippi-born white bluesman, has released over 20 albums and guested on Bonnie Raitt's Grammy-winning Longing In Their Hearts. He was reportedly the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd's character in the Blues Brothers.
In America, this song hit the mark on Modern Rock radio, where edgy "alternative" acts were the focus. "Suicide Blonde" rose to #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart.
The band's good friend Richard Lowenstein directed the video, which shows an array of composited images of the band members traveling across the screen, a look he often used in their visuals.
Dance remixes of this song by Paul Oakenfold (the "Milk Mix") and Nick Launay (the "Devastation Mix") were released in 1990 and proved popular in clubs.
This was the last song Michael Hutchence performed live. It was the closing number at the last INXS show before his death, a concert in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 1997.