Tuesday, 23 April 2013

RIP Chrissie Amphlett of Divinyls

Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald

It is with heavy heart that I read the news of the departing of Chrissie Amphlett, lead singer and rock goddess of Divinyls, a band formed in Sydney, NSW in 1980.

She has been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis for a while, but it sounds as though the breast cancer that she was diagnosed with in 2010 killed her.

In most cases she may have had a squeaky high register voice, but she had one hell of a stage presence, and she could belt out a tune far more successfully than a lot of other female singers I could name. She was a little fiery bottle-rocket in a school-uniform. (I bet you've read that as "a female Angus Young", but please don't!)

While the press obituaries focus on the sexually aggressive nature of her stage persona, personally, I never saw her that way, that is, as any sort of "sex" symbol. I grew up in the 1980s, listening to everything on the radio and of course, Divinyls were a staple of that musical diet. At their peak in 1985-6 when the "What A Life" LP was released, I was 9. I didn't care how she looked, the music was great and she provided the lyrics that I would tunelessly sing along to.

Times were different then: Australian music was actually supported by record labels and played on the radio regularly, resulting in many great Aussie bands having major hits in the charts. Plus, they toured regularly so you could see them play often. I asked my mother to take me to see Divinyls at the Newcastle Workers Club around the time "Pleasure and Pain" was high in the charts. She declined - there's no way they'd let me - aged 9 - through the door!

I did lose interest in the band in the early 1990s. I didn't think much of "I Touch Myself" - I still don't. But most of their work on their first 4 albums is brilliant. Like anybody there are patches of mediocrity, but if you want an introduction to the Divinyls, then the albums "Music from the film Monkey Grip", "Desperate", "What A Life" and "Temperamental" are a good place to start.

Her larger than life stage persona just shows how much of a vacuum Australian music has become. There are very few, if any, female rock stars here that would take up the mantle as the next charismatic, idiosyncratic female pop star. Although we still have her great music, she will be missed.

Vale Chrissie.

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