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April 22, 2013 12:22 AM   Subscribe

Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett dies.

Divinyls front person and 80's Australian Rock icon dies of breast cancer at 53.

Amphlett grew up in the Victorian industrial city of Geelong and left home as a teenager and travelled to England, France and Spain where she was imprisoned for three months for singing on the streets - the song Boys in Town relate the experience.

Recently the Australian recording industry named "Science Fiction" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time

Chrissy will be remembered for her aggressive stage persona, performing in a school uniform and fishnet stockings. She had a remarkable edgy voice, and will be sorely missed.
posted by mattoxic (65 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
What a huge loss to Australian music. I'm glad she's no longer in pain. RIP.
posted by goo at 12:39 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by whatgorilla at 12:50 AM on April 22, 2013

. to my first crush
posted by postagepaid at 1:03 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


posted by bdave at 1:11 AM on April 22, 2013

It's a shame that so many people came to their music through 'I Touch Myself', and dismissed them as some kind of one-trick pony. Their earlier music was amongst the best of the Australian post-punk scene. What a giant loss.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:14 AM on April 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

Her autobiography was gripping, I couldn't put it down.

The Divinyls were the soundtrack to my 80's teenage years. I feel like I've been smacked in the head with a shovel.

And just 53? That's far too young to die.

Too much, too young, indeed.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:17 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


would it be too punny to say she touched us all?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:31 AM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

I just saw this; she was far far too young.

RIP to an amazing talent.

posted by Defying Gravity at 1:33 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by rubbish bin night at 1:45 AM on April 22, 2013

Oh no, what a shock. What a fantastic musician she was. If you're an American who only knows her from "I Touch Myself", you owe it to yourself to get hold of Desperate, their 1983 debut album proper (after their 1982 soundtrack mini-album, Monkey Grip, which is also great). Unfortunately it's harder to track down stateside than it should be, as half its tracks were melded with half of its successor, What a Life!, to create the US CD version of the latter (which is also fantastic in its Australian incarnation, though it has a bit of an '80s pop sheen to it).

Desperate is one of the great, great Australian albums. Along with Midnight Oil and the Hoodoo Gurus, Chrissy Amphlett and her band defined 1980s Aussie rock for this then-teenager.
posted by rory at 1:48 AM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

would it be too punny to say she touched us all?

She honestly did.

posted by New England Cultist at 1:52 AM on April 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am actually in shuck.

I was never a fan but some songs just transcended anything I felt about the band.

I still remember 'Pleasure & Pain' playing over one of the establishing scenes from A Nightmare and Elm Street IV, and the FUSS about I Touch Myself.
posted by Mezentian at 1:52 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by nickrussell at 1:53 AM on April 22, 2013

Essential 1980s Divinyls:

From Monkey Grip (1982):

Boys in Town
Only Lonely
Only You

From Desperate (1983):

Science Fiction
Casual Encounter
Siren (Never Let You Go)
Ring Me Up

From What a Life! (1985)

Pleasure and Pain
Good Die Young
Heart Telegraph
Old Radios
In My Life
Dear Diary

From Temperamental (1988)

Temperamental (live in 1987)
Back to the Wall
Hey Little Boy
Dirty Love

If you want to sample some of her most nutso vocals, try "Old Radios". What a voice!
posted by rory at 2:09 AM on April 22, 2013 [33 favorites]

She was just fucking awesome.

posted by andraste at 2:11 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

. Thanks Chrissie for the amazing music and the added bonus of appalling my parents. They don't make 'em like her anymore.
posted by Jubey at 2:15 AM on April 22, 2013

Ah crap.
In the eighties in Australia, along the eastern seaboard between the big cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns there were dotted little towns with RSL's (Returned Serviceman's Leagues) and rough dive pubs. Many of the bands would drag themselves up and down the coast playing gigs at these venues, and if you were lucky when you went down to the Mooloolabah Hotel or Tommo's on a Friday night you might see The Divinyls, Cold Chisel, Hoodoo Gurus or Mental As Anything for a few bucks. The relentless touring though these small coastal live venues made Australian music in the 80's. I was stuck on the other side of the country in the most isolated city on the earth, Perth, so I missed most of it (we did have The Triffids in Perth, some consolation) but my wife was in the middle of it and saw most of them several times. Divinyls were amazing live, she assures me. Damn.
posted by drnick at 2:22 AM on April 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Goodbye Chrissy, loved your work and your example.
posted by Coaticass at 2:23 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I posted this in the delete thread - but it was such a memory

One of my earliest rock memories is nicking off from School Camp at Tallebudgera Fitness camp and seeing you performing at the playroom next door.

My vinyl copy of Desperate is almost unplayable - so many parties.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 2:27 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I may as well bring the story up to date, as unfortunately there weren't many more albums:

From Divinyls (1991)

Make Out Alright
I Touch Myself (live in 1990)
Bless My Soul (It's Rock-n-Roll)
Need a Lover

Soundtrack covers (1993):

Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart (live in 1993)
Wild Thing (1993)
Love is the Drug (1993)

From Underworld (1996)

Hard on Me
I'm Jealous
Human on the Inside (live in 1996)

Their comeback single (2007):

Don't Wanna Do This

Now I know what I'm going to be listening to all week...
posted by rory at 2:38 AM on April 22, 2013 [13 favorites]

Old Radio is fucking amazing.
Another one gone that I never got to admire while they drew breath. Another bullshit call on" I've seen all I've gotta' see".
Humans can be pretty damn cool, and life is rich pageant indeed.
posted by qinn at 2:40 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by Gelatin at 3:06 AM on April 22, 2013

Awesome trailblazing sexy woman.
I grew up listening to them and only recently downloaded a bunch of their greatest hits so I could reconnect with that gravelly voice of hers.
posted by MT at 3:06 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by acb at 3:09 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by arha at 3:21 AM on April 22, 2013

My age. Too young.
posted by Decani at 3:48 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll be listening to my Divinyls greatest hits album today. I'm On Your Side was always one of my favourites.

Go in peace, Chrissie. You deserved better.
posted by orange swan at 4:05 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by oneironaut at 4:14 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by Smart Dalek at 4:39 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by kjs4 at 4:52 AM on April 22, 2013

This lyric always reminded me to be a grown-up in my relationships:

Don't need your detachment waiting for the storm to pass
Don't need reenactment of things that have happened in the past
I don't need some joker making fun at me
I need a lover I want some sensitivity

Such a strong voice.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:00 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by Mike Mongo at 5:28 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by a non e mouse at 5:39 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by jquinby at 5:45 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by tyllwin at 5:51 AM on April 22, 2013

I saw the Divinyls twice in the early nineties. Two great shows. It was at a beer barn in Adelaide's southern suburbs but it might as well have been a stadium, such was Chrissie's stage presence and sheer commitment to the performance. Both times. She had such a distinctive voice that she used to great effect - a real rock n'roll icon. Sad that she is gone.

If you can find it definitely read her autobiograpy. At the point where she wanted to retire she couldn't because the band owed their recird company a million dollars. So that's why they toured relentlessly.
posted by awfurby at 5:55 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Back to the Wall" is probably one of my favorite songs of all time.
posted by Kitteh at 5:56 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Her husband is reported in the BBC as her wish being for "I touch myself" to be used to raise awareness of breast cancer and self examination. I think that's a fantastic idea.

posted by arcticseal at 6:00 AM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
posted by acb at 6:09 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

First Scott, now Christina. Can we get a moratorium on new wavers' deaths now?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:22 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by jasper411 at 6:41 AM on April 22, 2013

Very sad news indeed.


First Scott, now Christina.
Did anyone do a FPP for Miller? I did not see one.
posted by thelonius at 7:01 AM on April 22, 2013

Yes. He was a friend of a friend, and yet I found out through the MeFi.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:06 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by thelonius at 7:10 AM on April 22, 2013

This has reminded me how shabbily the Divinyls' back catalogue has been treated by record companies over the years. Have a look at the Australian vs US/international track listings of their first three albums:

Music from Monkey Grip
What a Life!

Monkey Grip was an Australian-only release, and none of its tracks appeared on the Australian release of Desperate. When the latter was released internationally, tracks from both were combined to make the US version. This then had a knock-on effect on What a Life! two years later, the US version of which combined some of the remaining Desperate tracks with half of the Australian version of the 1985 album. The international Desperate was still reasonably coherent, as that and Monkey Grip were close in age and feel, but What a Life! featured quite different mid-1980s production values, so the half-and-half version doesn't make much sense.

And not only the US fans missed out on several tracks from all three albums. This was when the CD age was getting started, and the Australian market was a little slower getting started than some. There was a proper Australian CD release of What a Life!, but not many must have been pressed, so it's been next to impossible to find that version of What a Life! on CD in Australia itself, only the US version (Australian online retailer Chaos Music still seems to be selling the US version). The Australian Desperate is a little more prevalent, but not exactly common.

And nothing seems to have changed. An American company remastered Desperate a few years ago, but as the US version, missing the opportunity to do the obvious thing of adding the 23-minute Monkey Grip to the 30-minute Australian version of Desperate as a bonus disk or bonus tracks. As for What a Life!, who knows when that will ever be properly rehabilitated.

If you're exploring their early material, see if you can hunt down the proper Australian versions. Or, if you have the US versions, look for these missing tracks and recreate the originals with them:

"Elsie (Reprise)"
"Gonna Get You"

"Take a Chance"
"Sahara Rock"

"Talk Like the Rain"
"Old Radios"
"What a Life!"

And don't think you're hunting for filler, either; these are great tracks, by and large.
posted by rory at 7:11 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

She was such a strong and confident performer. She took chances and highlighted her weird and eccentric side when most of her contemporaries were focusing on being glamorous and/or cool. For me that's what made her both glamorous and cool. "Science Fiction" is one of my all time favorite songs and I played the hell out of Desperate when it came out.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:52 AM on April 22, 2013

It's a shame that so many people came to their music through 'I Touch Myself', and dismissed them as some kind of one-trick pony

I suppose it is a shame, but on the other hand, if you're going to have one trick, what a god damned awesome trick. I feel like anybody who dismissed it didn't deserve to know any better.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:29 AM on April 22, 2013

They've dropped the bomb.

posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:37 AM on April 22, 2013

The video for 'I Touch Myself' was filmed at my high school, when I was going there.
My all-girls high school.
My Catholic all-girls high school.
The administration was scandalized!

We thought it was glorious.

posted by ApathyGirl at 9:25 AM on April 22, 2013 [17 favorites]

posted by Brody's chum at 9:31 AM on April 22, 2013

The Divinyls were the first band I profiled when I started writing about rock music back in the 1980s. It must have been 1983, when Desperate came out. I had just started freelancing for a small magazine in the Boston area. It says something about the status of the magazine that Chrysalis Records wouldn't let me talk to either Christina or Mark McEntee. Instead I was shunted off to interview the bassist (that must have been Rick Grossman?) who was fairly new to the band and therefore didn't have much to say. I believe he told me the biggest bands in Australia at the time were Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil. (He may have mentioned the Hoodoo Gurus, too.) I can't remember what I wrote but I'm sure it wasn't very good. I haven't listened to Desperate since but maybe I'll give it a spin today.
posted by Man-Thing at 10:18 AM on April 22, 2013

posted by immlass at 10:34 AM on April 22, 2013

Saw them once, in '83, opening for U2 -- she was amazing.

Hope her passing was peaceful.

posted by scody at 10:47 AM on April 22, 2013

I remember being pleasantly surprised that she sang essential backup on John Prine's sweet cover of Lefty Frizzell's "I Want to Be With You Always," from "The Missing Years," which is an altogether great album. This is an album where the guest vocal appearances are otherwise from Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Phil Everly and Bonnie Raitt.
posted by raysmj at 12:04 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fuck. She had a HUGE influence on my record collection back in the day. And she's the same age as me. This is just all shades of wrong.

I never was able to replace my vinyl with CDs, because when I looked, it seemed like nothing was available stateside and I was too poor to get imports at the time. Then the years passed and so many things I didn't update slipped my mind. I really appreciate the links to the catalog online -- definitely going to grab those and rebuild my Divinyls musical shrine.

Fucking hell. I just hate that she suffered so much.
posted by emcat8 at 1:00 PM on April 22, 2013


That is a drag.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:05 PM on April 22, 2013


The 80s often get slagged off in terms of music but I reckon the live pub scene (in Sydney at least) back then was all kinds of giant kickass.

Vale Chrissy.
posted by peacay at 3:02 PM on April 22, 2013

Formidably powerful voice and stage persona, and a brilliant performer.

Vale Chrissie
posted by chris88 at 3:46 PM on April 22, 2013

Oh Chrissy! With your natural bee-stung lips and edge-of-the-precipice voice. You were the antidote for all the posturing males that wanted to rule the rock scene. As Peter Garrett said this morning, you had "wattage". A shy girl from a dirty ol town you hid under your long fringe before finding your stage freedom in a school girl dress and suspenders. You were beautiful in flight.

posted by Kerasia at 4:08 PM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

A deviant little spark for me growing up in the 80s. Fierce, fantastic woman.

posted by Jilder at 5:46 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


(On a nice-ish note, I played Old Radios and my cat, who was on my stomach, industriously massaging it as he does (as he knows I find it adorable and worthy of petting), stood straight up, ears perked high during the intro.)
posted by Samizdata at 7:27 PM on April 22, 2013

No Sleeping Beauty yet?

posted by Wolof at 9:44 PM on April 22, 2013

posted by gomichild at 4:38 PM on April 23, 2013

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