Early this week we lost a true rock and roll original when Christina Amphlett passed onto the next plane. She was only 53 and the cause of her passing was cancer and MS, the latter a disease she had been fighting for years.

A wild child of the 70s – footloose and Beat – she formed the rock band the Divinyls with guitarist Mark McEntee in 1980. Amphlett’s relationship with McEntee was volcanic and toxic, yet produced some of the most tautly brilliant and exciting Australian rock of all time. Their debut single ‘Boys in Town’ – a tale of suburban teen desolation and “too much too young” – is as wound-up and boiled-over as any great rock and roll song should be.

Chrissy1

Later singles, “Science Fiction” (selected by APRA as one of the top 30 Australian singles of all time) and “Pleasure and Pain” kept the standard high, but it was the paean to masturbation “I Touch Myself” that put the Divinyls on the international stage. Could any other vocalist have carried off “I Touch Myself”s mix of simmering eroticism and self-containment as beautifully as Chrissy Divinyl? I doubt it.

From the start she really stood out like a queen. Whereas Angus Young‘s school uniform was a cartoon, Amphlett’s torn St Trinian’s tunic was a flag, a message to all – quite simply, don’t fuck with me.

The band cut their performing teeth in the clubs and mega-pubs of early 80s Australia, where venues such as Rydalmere’s Family Inn, The Coogee Bay and Narrabeen’s Royal Antler – gritty, brutal beer barns reeking of suburban disaffection, weekend piss-binges and bloody violence – ruled supreme. The Divinyls played the same stages as tough-as-guts outfits such as The Angels, Cold Chisel, The Radiators and Midnight Oil. Whereas Midnight Oil had their seven foot rock’n’roll Frankenstein, Peter Garrett (yes, kidz, our current Federal Minister for Education) to stave off the boozed-up punters, all Chrissy Divinyl had was her tattered school uniform, her attitude and that voice.Chrissy2

Artist Brett Whiteley once referred to Bob Dylan‘s voice as ‘mango and Courvoisier’. Christina Amphlett’s voice was more fresh garbage and Stolichnaya – an over-ripe and unsettling concoction of predatory-sexual growls and little-girl tease. And it all came out of that mouth – one of rock and roll’s great perma-pouts.

Would music today allow a Christina Amphlett? Weird voice, no super-model, scary attitude, sexually in control. I wonder. Rock and roll, that unkillable mongrel music that chews up what it wants and screws what it wants and spits out devilish delights like Elvis, like Rotten, like Chrissy Divinyl, is maybe too self conscious now to give dirty birth to such a brat.

I call her Chrissy Divinyl, because to a certain private schoolboy, she was not of this world, she was of the world that he lived in, in his head, during those gray schooldays. Like Bowie, like T.Rex before, she saved his sanity and his soul – saved his life. And now, all these years later, I thank her for it.

 

Published May 2013 on theorangepress.net

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Di Jones says:

    Great article however Chrissy was born in 1954

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s