Some Words for Chrissy Amphlett
I’d consider myself a pretty casual fan of Divinyls, but felt shocked and quite emotional at news of Chrissy Amphlett’s passing. On reflection, perhaps it’s because she always seemed to me to be indestructible. Even after being diagnosed with MS and Breast Cancer in the last few years she oozed attitude, defiance and complete conviction that these horrible diseases would not claim her.
Chrissy Amphlett possessed possibly the greatest female rock voice Australia has ever produced. In my opinion, only Suze DeMarchi is in the same league. Chrissy’s voice was soulful, powerful, passionate and unique. She came across as both tough and vulnerable, but never submissive, often in the space of the same song. She continues to inspire generations of Aussie bands and musicians. Other tributes will dissect the details of Chrissy’s life, of how she became the ‘original rock chick’ in the pub rock man’s world, but I really want to touch on why, even as a casual listener, Chrissy Amphlett’s music is important to me.
The first Divinyls song I vividly remember hearing was ‘Human On The Inside’, one of their later day minor hits. It was towards the end of Hit Machine 14. The thing that stood out more than anything else was the uniqueness of her voice. She sounded a little bit like Stevie Nicks, but without the country twang, and the vulnerability she displayed in that performance didn’t feel faked like almost everything else on that compilation.
It wasn’t until my teenage years that I realised a lot of other great songs in the back of my childhood subconscious also belonged to the same woman. ‘Boys In Town’, ‘Science Fiction’, ‘Pleasure And Pain’, ‘Back To the Wall’ and of course ‘I Touch Myself’ have all been played so much on Australian radio that they’ve become ingrained on a whole generation, tattooed to our brains. Divinyls are part of the soundtrack to my childhood throughout the 80’s and early 90’s.
The way Chrissy turned her desperate plea of ‘get me out of here’ into an angry demand by the end of ‘Boys In Town’ perfectly illustrates the control she had over her vocal performances:
The band tackled New Wave just as easily as Rock & Roll with ‘Science Fiction’:
‘Pleasure And Pain’ was reportedly about Chrissy’s sometimes turbulent personal relationship with Divinyls’ lead guitarist and co-writer Mark McEntee:
By the late 80’s Divinyls were a national icon, even performing at Expo 88:
The band also had that song on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie soundtrack, a tune that was easily more memorable than the movie:
‘In My Life’ featured one of the most volatile and greatest endings to a song ever committed to tape. By the end she sounds as raw as Jimmy Barnes, completely shredding her voice:
On hearing of Chrissy’s passing, I went home and played Divinyls’ 20-track Greatest Hits collection at full volume, letting tears well up in my eyes and a huge smile appear on my face. This is really the best way I can think of to pay tribute to this woman of unique talent and defiant will.
Chrissy Amphlett, may your music and your memory live forever.
By: Clint Morrow