Chrissie Amphlett – circa 1988
“I am just a red brassiere / To all the boys in town / Put this bus in top gear / Get me out of here” – ‘Boys In Town’ (Chrissy Amphlett, Mark McEntee)
The singer screams, tears at her own hair and pouts. Under a dark fringe, she seems to be a schoolgirl. It is certainly a school uniform in which she is incongruously attired, but it is teamed with very adult fishnet stockings. The singer brandishes a microphone stand wrapped in a neon tube. The year is 1981, the band she is fronting is The Divinyls and the singer is Chrissy Amphlett.
Chrissy Amphlett (25 October 1959-21 April 2013) is born Christine Joy Amphlett. In later years, she styles herself professionally sometimes as Christina Amphlett, but there is nothing to suggest that her true forename was ever Christina. Perhaps more often, the singer is known as Chrissy Amphlett so, for the sake of consistency, she will be referred to here as Chrissy from this point. Chrissy Amphlett is born in Geelong (pronounced ja-LONG), Victoria, Australia. “Geelong is a town about an hour south of [the State capital of] Melbourne, and it’s a little town of about one hundred thousand people,” explains Chrissy. “It’s right at the bottom of Australia, as far as you can go before you hit Tasmania [the southernmost State of Australia. The island of Tasmania is separated from mainland Australia by the Bass Strait.]” Chrissy Amphlett is the daughter of Jim Amphlett and Mary Amphlett (nee Banbrook). Chrissy is the couple’s second child; Chrissy’s elder sister is Leigh (born in 1955). Jim Amphlett served in the Australian Army in 1941. After the Second World War, he became the manager of a business equipment company and travelled around Victoria selling Royal typewriters. Mary Banbrook worked at the Geelong Post Office. Jim and Mary married in 1949.
Although Chrissy Amphlett is born in Geelong, after her birth, the family briefly lives in the beachside township of Barwon Heads, to the southeast of Geelong. The Amphletts then settle in a ‘weatherboard bungalow in Eton Road, Belmont’ – a suburb of the port city of Geelong. When Chrissy is only 3 years old, she begins modelling children’s clothes in Geelong stores.
Chrissy Amphlett’s paternal uncle, Joe Amphlett, lives in New South Wales (the next Australian State north of Victoria). Joe’s daughter is born Patricia Thelma Amphlett on 17 March 1949 in Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales. As a 14 year old, recording under the name of Little Pattie, Chrissy’s cousin has an Australian hit single in 1963 with ‘He’s My Blond-Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy’ (AUS no. 19).
When Chrissy Amphlett is 7 years old she begins ballet lessons. Chrissy’s mother, Mary Amphlett, sends Chrissy to drama and dance lessons, thinking that her daughter might later have a theatre career. Chrissy studies under Lynette Sheldon, an actress and teacher who works in both Australia and the U.S.A.
While all this is going on, Chrissy Amphlett’s father, Jim Amphlett, is running teen dances. Possibly coupled with Little Pattie’s pop success, this serves to sway Chrissy towards the idea of becoming a rock singer. “I don’t think anybody is a superstar in Australia,” Chrissy later muses. Chrissy Amphlett attends Belmont High School but, as she later points out, “I wanted to leave school as soon as I could and sing in a rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Chrissy Amphlett’s parents separate when Chrissy is in her early teens. It seems that Chrissy’s father, Jim Amphlett, was prone to bouts of anger. “I used to find his face sometimes very powerful…because it was frightening,” Chrissy notes. Mary Amphlett moves to Melbourne. “I left when I was about 15,” recalls Chrissy. “I got out of Geelong as soon as I could.” Chrissy Amphlett goes to live with her mother for about a year and then heads off to Europe. “I don’t know if I was wild in those days,” says Chrissy. “I was quite shy, but I was very adventurous.” Chrissy Amphlett travels to England, France and Spain. She is detained in Spain for three months for singing in the street since, at that time and in that place, busking is illegal. Amphlett returns from Europe when she is 20.
Chrissy Amphlett runs away from home to ‘follow her favourite Melbourne group.’ Along the way, she joins ‘her first, derivative, band,’ a group called Daisy Clover. Following this, in 1971 Chrissy is one of the featured singers in One Ton Gypsy. This outfit is spearheaded by Ray Brown, formerly of Australian pop group Ray Brown And The Whispers. One Ton Gypsy is ‘an ambitious country rock band.’ This eight-piece group is said to have ‘pretensions to emulating Joe Cocker and Leon Russell’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen outfit.’ No recordings are made by One Ton Gypsy. During her time with One Ton Gypsy, Chrissy Amphlett experiments with smoking marijuana and taking the psychedelic drug LSD. In order to support herself financially, Chrissy also works in a Melbourne private hospital.
The rock stage musical ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ is performed in Australia. American-born singer Marcia Hines plays the part of Mary Magdalene from the Australian summer of 1973 through to February 1974. Hines is the first African-American to play the part anywhere in the world and her selection raises some eyebrows in more conservative sections of the community. Just to add to the confusion, Chrissy Amphlett (white) understudies for Marcia Hines (black). Chrissy Amphlett goes on to another stage musical, albeit one of a rather different nature…
In 1976 Chrissy Amphlett plays the role of Linda Lips in an ‘adults only’ stage musical, ‘Let My People Come’. Chrissy recalls, “They cast me as Linda Lips and I was the porn queen. We had to take our clothes off in it, which I, kind of – I didn’t care…Mum was supportive and I didn’t tell my father…I had this corset on and these suspenders and stockings and I had rollers in my pubic hairs…[I sang] ‘Cum In My Mouth’.”
In 1979 Chrissy Amphlett moves to Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales. “I was singing in a choir of all things, to develop the top range of my voice,” explains Amphlett. “One night [in 1980], we had a religious concert at the [Sydney] Opera House. The audience was full of priests and nuns, and Mark [McEntee] was there. During the concert my stool fell over and my microphone cord got wrapped in it, and I ended up dragging the stool from one end of the stage to the other.” For his part, Mark McEntee says, “From that moment, I knew something had to be done; that we should form a group.”
Mark McEntee is born on 16 July 1952 in Perth, Western Australia. Mark shows some aptitude for music and plays guitar. “When I started there was guitar lessons, and it was really up to me,” he says. In the early 1970s, Mark McEntee is part of a Western Australia rock trio called Mother Lode. The line-up of this act is: Howard Shawcross (vocals, bass), Mark McEntee (vocals, guitar) and Peter Nelson (drums). Mother Lode releases one single, ‘Smother Me’ (co-written by Shawcross and McEntee).
In 1975 Mark McEntee becomes part of the Australian production of the rock stage musical ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’. Although Chrissy Amphlett had understudied for Marcia Hines (summer 1973-February 1974), by the time McEntee becomes involved the part of Mary Magdalene is being played by Chrissie Hammond. (For those keeping track of such things, Chrissie Hammond is a British-born white woman. She takes up the role of Mary Magdalene in May 1975. Chrissie and her sister Lyndsay Hammond later go on to a recording career as the 1970s Australian pop duo Cheetah.) Some other members of the cast discuss forming a band of their own. Although Chrissie Hammond is involved in early discussions and rehearsals, she leaves the act in 1976. The group under discussion is the Australian soft rock trio Air Supply. The three members are: Russell Hitchcock (vocals), Graham Russell (vocals, guitar) and Jeremy Paul (bass). To fill out their sound, the trio is backed by three musicians from the ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ production: Mark McEntee (guitar), Adrian Scott (keyboards) and Jeff Browne (drums). Mark McEntee plays on the debut album ‘Air Supply’ (1976) (AUS no. 17) and their first hit single, ‘Love And Other Bruises’ (AUS no. 6) (also from 1976). Bassist Jeremy Paul splits from Hitchcock and Russell after the first album. Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell (as a duo) go on to international success with Air Supply.
Jeremy Paul introduces Mark McEntee to Chrissy Amphlett at a music venue in Collaroy on Sydney’s northern beaches. McEntee and Amphlett meet again at a choral concert at the Sydney Opera House.
“I just rolled up at Chrissy’s place with guitars and some amplifiers and we just started writing,” recalls Mark McEntee. “We said, ‘This is pretty good.’ So we kept on.” Chrissy Amphlett’s reaction was “Here at last was someone as manic about music as me…We just became a gang of two.” Although there is a definite connection between Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee, at this time in 1980 Mark McEntee is married. (No details appear to be public knowledge about McEntee’s wife or when they were married.)
Chrissy Amphlett, Mark McEntee and bassist Jeremy Paul at first form a soft rock trio. Perhaps they are trying to replicate the success of Air Supply? In any case, this musical approach is at odds with the hard rock songs Amphlett and McEntee are writing so a reassessment is needed. To perform the material they are creating, it soon becomes clear that a band is needed.
In 1980 Bjarne Ohlin (guitar, keyboards, vocals) is recruited to the band being assembled by Chrissy Amphlett and company. Bjarne Ohlin attends Berkeley High School from 1964 to 1969. There are Berkeley High Schools in both California and South Carolina in the U.S.A. Possibly, Bjarne Ohlin grew up in the U.S.A. but this is unconfirmed. If, as seems more likely, Ohlin grew up in Australia, he may have been a student at Illawarra Sports High School which is near Berkeley, New South Wales. Bjarne Ohlin goes on to Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) where he obtains a bachelor’s degree in acting in 1970-1971. As an actor, Bjarne Ohlin appears in one episode of the Australian television series ‘Case for the Defence’ (1978).
Completing the group’s line-up in 1981 is Richard Harvey (drums).
The group put together by Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee is named The Divinyls. The sobriquet is chosen after Chrissy goes on a shopping trip where everything she likes is described as ‘divine’. So, because records are manufactured from vinyl, the band is dubbed The Divinyls. The founding members of The Divinyls in 1981 are: Chrissy Amphlett (vocals), Mark McEntee (guitar), Bjarne Ohlin (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Jeremy Paul (bass) and Richard Harvey (drums). Jeremy Paul also serves as the group’s first manager.
“When the band started I used to just stand there and sing,” says Chrissy Amphlett. “Going on stage used to be a really horrible experience for me. After the show I’d be very unhappy with what I’d done and very unapproachable.” Guitarist Mark McEntee echoes these sentiments: “At first she just used to stand there. She was very shy.” Amphlett is ‘too shy to perform the rockers she is writing.’
The turning point in Chrissy Amphlett’s evolution as a stage performer appears to be the advent in 1981 of The Divinyls’ new manager Vince Lovegrove. He had been part of the 1960s Australian pop group The Valentines alongside future AC/DC frontman Bon Scott. Vince Lovegrove encourages Chrissy to invent ‘a theatrical persona.’ “I went out and got a school uniform and probably Vince got suspenders and stockings [for me]. That freed me and then everything changed,” says Amphlett. Angus Young – the guitarist of Australian hard rock band AC/DC – had been appearing on stage since the mid-1970s dressed in a schoolboy uniform. Chrissy’s schoolgirl outfit makes her seem like the female counterpart to Angus Young. However, while Angus’ get-up is clearly a joke, a send-up of his wunderkind status, a woman in a schoolgirl outfit implies fetishism, role-playing for sex games. Since a school uniform is associated with very young girls, possibly underage, there is a troubling aspect to its sexualisation. “There were all these contradictions going on, it just made me angrier,” says Amphlett. The uniform she buys, a box-pleat tunic, is manufactured by the department store David Jones that supplies girls’ clothing acceptable to the New South Wales State school system. The garment does not appear to be associated with any one specific school. It’s a drip-dry outfit so Amphlett can wash it and dry it in her motel room while the band is on tour. There is also a tartan-checked school-dress that Amphlett sometimes wears for a change.
Guitarist Mark McEntee explains, “Every week we used to play this little pub in a place called King’s Cross, which is kind of like the red light district of Sydney…and that’s where Christy [sic] learned to put together her stage thing, I suppose…” Chrissy Amphlett says, “Gradually…I started doing little things, moving around more and more until it became this volcano that was coming out of me. Eventually it became a matter of directing that and channelling it.” She admits that part of her inspiration was “probably my father’s rage…I was always trying to recreate it.” Chrissy Amphlett concludes, “As the 1980s got under way, Australia needed a monster and I decided I could be it.”
As The Divinyls play around the pubs in King’s Cross, their following grows. One of those who see the band perform is Australian film director Ken Cameron. He is making a movie and thinks The Divinyls would be a good choice to provide the soundtrack. Bassist/manager Jeremy Paul negotiates a contract with WEA Records for that purpose. (Although Vince Lovegrove is The Divinyls’ new manager, he is not responsible for the band’s first recording contract. Perhaps negotiations began before Lovegrove became involved with the band?)
At the start The Divinyls are ‘considered to be a hard rock band.’ That description is generally apt. However, what distinguishes The Divinyls from – for example – AC/DC is a greater inclination towards pop. While AC/DC verge on being a heavy metal band, The Divinyls’ full-bodied guitar attack is moderated by their gift for pop melodies. The Divinyls are also described as a pub rock act or a new wave band. They are a pub rock act in the same way that applies to most of their Australian rock peers i.e. they play on Australia’s pub circuit. However, if pub rock is (more accurately) taken to be a mid-1970s British rock genre that emphasised rhythm and blues and shied away from the pomposity of that era’s prog rock, that tag becomes less applicable to The Divinyls. While The Divinyls certainly don’t cultivate musical pomposity, neither do they have any leaning towards rhythm and blues. New wave is perhaps a bit closer, but still not really fitting. New wave tends to be a bit quirkier and a bit artier than The Divinyls’ more basic meat-and-potatoes rock. Some of Bjarne Ohlin’s keyboard squiggles may be new wave influenced, but at least as often – and probably more often – Ohlin is second guitarist to Mark McEntee and they present a hard rocking front. ‘The group couldn’t quite be labelled new wave…They were too accessible to be called heavy metal, too raw to be power pop.’ So, in summary, The Divinyls are a hard rock band with a tendency towards pop.
Most of The Divinyls’ songs are co-written by vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. Unless otherwise stated, all The Divinyls songs cited here are co-written by that duo. The obvious interpretation is that Chrissy (as the singer) is mainly responsible for the lyrics while Mark (as the guitarist) writes most of the music. There are some cover versions and some other composers sprinkled through The Divinyls’ oeuvre, but it is primarily crafted by Amphlett and McEntee.
As a singer, Chrissy Amphlett was probably inspired by the example set by her cousin, Little Pattie. However, although Chrissy sings professionally from around the turn of the 1970s, she sees her main influence as Debbie Harry, the vocalist of punk/new wav act Blondie (1978-1982). “She was strong, commanding and, a rarity then, fronting a band, she was a woman. Deborah Harry’s video was the closest thing to an epiphany I’ve ever had,” says Chrissy. In practice, Debbie Harry often uses a feathery soprano that seems beyond Chrissy Amphlett’s – generally – more guttural vocal style. The more conversational singing style of Chrissie Hynde (of new wave band The Pretenders) also seems to be an influence. Less recognised is the impact of Lene Lovich, a new wave diva known for her eccentrically swooping vocals. Her odd, hiccupping ululations are echoed in Chrissy Amphlett’s singing. Among male vocalists, Stevie Wright, of 1960s Australian pop band The Easybeats, seems the most obvious precursor due to his straight-forward and earthy mix of rock and pop. But while the British-born Wright had a vocal style that seemed to come from no country in particular, one of the main characteristics of Chrissy Amphlett’s vocal stylings is her defiantly Australian accent. She adopts a very flat nasal tone, sounding disturbingly like the embodiment of working-class single mothers with a cigarette dangling from their lips.
Before The Divinyls’ first single is released, bassist Jeremy Paul leaves the group. Ken Firth (from Australian rock band The Ferrets) briefly fills in on bass but does not officially join The Divinyls.
The Divinyls’ first single, ‘Boys In Town’ (AUS no. 8), is released in September 1981. Written in 1979, ‘Boys In Town’ was the first song co-written by vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. “I was doing fine around / All the boys in town / Now I want a man around / Get me out of here,” insists Chrissy Amphlett. The intensity of the song increases as she howls, “I must have been desperate / I must have been pretty low.” With its brazen sexuality and an authentic female perspective, ‘Boys In Town’ is galvanising stuff. When coupled with Mark McEntee’s brass-knuckled guitar riff, ‘Boys In Town’ is a virtually unstoppable force. The song comes with ‘an eye-catching video of Chrissy Amphlett at her provocative best, dressed in a school uniform and fishnet stockings, filmed from below as she performs on top of a metal grill.’ The sheer raw vitality of ‘Boys In Town’ renders it the best individual song of The Divinyls’ career.
‘Music From Monkey Grip’ (1982) (AUS no. 25) is a ‘mini-album’ by The Divinyls released in May. There are seven tracks on this release. ‘Music From Monkey Grip’ is co-produced by Divinyls’ vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and Divinyls’ guitarist Mark McEntee. The disc is released by WEA Records. This mini-album’s contents are the songs The Divinyls crafted for Ken Cameron’s movie, ‘Monkey Grip’ (1982). The debut single, ‘Boys In Town’ is on this recording. The chiming guitars of ‘Only Lonely’ make it sound like a Pretenders’ out-take – and that’s not a criticism. Where ‘Boys In Town’ was a fiery hard rock song, ‘Only Lonely’ is more pop-oriented. Amphlett sings, “If it doesn’t feel right / When I hold you tight / Oh baby, it’s all right / I am only lonely.” ‘Only Lonely’ is released as a single, but only in the U.S.A. and Japan – and it has no notable commercial impact in either of those territories. Although ‘Elsie’ has lyrics that are similarly mournful to ‘Only Lonely’, musically it is carved from bleaker, soul-crushing metallic grinding. The next most notable piece on this mini-album is ‘Only You’. ‘Music From Monkey Grip’ was recorded when bassist Jeremy Paul was still with The Divinyls so he plays on this disc.
Ken Cameron’s movie, ‘Monkey Grip’ (1982), is released on 17 June. The film is based on Helen Garner’s novel ‘Monkey Grip’ (1977). The story is about a single mother and her drug-addicted boyfriend. Not only do The Divinyls provide the music but their lead singer, Chrissy Amphlett, has a role in the film as Angela, ‘a temperamental rock singer based on herself.’ ‘The movie has little box office impact’ but Chrissy Amphlett is nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Australian Film Institute Awards.
The Divinyls’ new manager, Vince Lovegrove, extricates the group from its contract with WEA, the label that released ‘Music From Monkey Grip’. The Divinyls have ‘a falling out with WEA.’ “Basically, the attitude of the people who run WEA got our back up,” says vocalist Chrissy Amphlett. “They offended us with a condescending attitude. It was a communication breakdown and we felt it was important enough to get out of our contract.” In a way that becomes typical of their entire career, The Divinyls are ‘rapidly earning themselves a reputation for perverse behaviour’ that is ‘frustrating for all concerned.’ Courted by ‘four international record companies,’ The Divinyls choose to sign with Chrysalis Records. Chrysalis offers ‘to fix Chrissy Amphlett’s protruding teeth,’ but she declines.
The Divinyls require a new bassist and, in 1982, that position is filled by Rick Grossman.
Rick Grossman is born on 28 November 1959 in Sydney, New South Wales. He says, rather vaguely, “I didn’t…feel comfortable in myself, due to a couple of things that happened in my family when I was very young, mainly a parent leaving.” Rick Grossman attends Scots College and then Sydney Boys High School. “I first started playing bass guitar when I first went to Sydney High,” says Rick. The first concert he attends is a show by visiting U.K. heavy metal band Led Zeppelin in 1972. From 1976 to 1979, Rick Grossman plays bass for the following Australian bands: Hellcats, Parachute, Bleeding Hearts, Eric Gradman’s Man And Machine and The Traitors. In 1980 Rick Grossman joins Matt Finish. This group consists of: Matt Moffitt (vocals, guitar), Jeff Clayton (guitar), Rick Grossman (bass) and John Prior (drums). John Prior had attended Sydney Boys High School with Rick Grossman. Matt Finish formed in 1979 with Glen White on guitar and Jeff Clayton on bass but, when Clayton switches to guitar in 1980, it creates an opening for Rick Grossman to take over as bassist. Rick Grossman plays on ‘Short Note’ (1981) (AUS no. 14), the debut album by Matt Finish, which includes the singles ‘Mancini Shuffle’ (AUS no. 57) (from 1980) and ‘Short Note’ (AUS no. 33) (from 1981). After the live EP ‘Fade Away’ in 1981, Matt Finish disbands (though they later reconvene in a different configuration without Rick Grossman). Rick Grossman joins The Divinyls in 1982. “I loved The Divinyls with all my heart,” he says and notes of Chrissy Amphlett, “She terrified the audience.”
The Divinyls’ definitive line-up is now assembled in 1982: Chrissy Amphlett (vocals), Mark McEntee (guitar), Bjarne Ohlin (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Rick Grossman (bass) and Richard Harvey (drums). “We had an orphan mentality…us against the world,” claims Amphlett.
The Divinyls’ first full-length album, ‘Desperate’ (1983) (AUS no. 5), is released in January. The album is recorded in New York with Australian producer Mark Opitz at the helm. ‘Desperate’ is released by Chrysalis. The album’s title comes from a line in the debut single ‘Boys In Town’ (“I must have been desperate”) – though that song is not on this album (it does appear on the international version of ‘Desperate’). The first single from ‘Desperate’ is ‘Science Fiction’ (AUS no. 13). This track boasts some appropriately weird keyboard sounds from Bjarne Ohlin as vocalist Chrissy Amphlett sings, “I thought that love was science fiction / Until I saw you today / Now that love is my addiction / I’ve thrown all my books away.” Guitarist/keyboardist Bjarne Ohlin writes ‘Siren (Never Let You Go)’ (AUS no. 45) and shares the lead vocals with Chrissy on this forceful and unrelenting piece. ‘Casual Encounter’ (AUS no. 91) is one of the album’s highlights. Mark McEntee’s classic stuttering guitar intro makes way for Chrissy Amphlett’s wary warning, “Don’t ask me what my name is / I know what your game is / It’s just a casual encounter.” Becoming more harsh and indignant, she spits, “Don’t come onto me with all those fancy lines / I can read between them / They’re like neon signs / You just want to get me into bed / So stop pretending that you like my head.” The album opens with a fairly faithful cover version of The Easybeats’ 1966 hit ‘I’ll Make You Happy’ on which Chrissy Amphlett’s vocals are quite rough and strained. Guitarist Mark McEntee has two solo compositions on ‘Desperate’: ‘Victoria’ and the album’s closing track ‘Don’t You Go Walking’. At the close of the latter, Chrissy’s accent and vocal eccentricity mangles a repeated line into “You better stop that, boy-bee [for ‘baby’].” ‘Desperate’ is described as an ‘antidote to techno-pop burnout.’ ‘Desperate’ is The Divinyls’ best album because it best captures the distinguishing characteristics of Chrissy Amphlett’s unmistakeable vocals, Mark McEntee’s carefully crafted guitar riffs, the band’s hard rock power and their ability to channel that through an accessible pop sensibility.
The international version of ‘Desperate’ includes four tracks from ‘Music From Monkey Grip’ – ‘Boys In Town’, ‘Only Lonely’, ‘Elsie’ and ‘Only You’ – at the expense of ‘Casual Encounter’, ‘Motion’, ‘Sahara Rock’ and ‘Don’t You Go Walking’.
Although Chrissy Amphlett’s school uniform stage garb has become an indelible part of The Divinyls legend, by the time of ‘Desperate’ it is already on the way out. She often wears something similar – a tunic and stockings – when promoting ‘Desperate’ and its songs but, by the time of the group’s next album, the school uniform has definitely been retired.
Another change coinciding with ‘Desperate’ is vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee going public about their shared romantic relationship. When they met in 1980, McEntee was married to someone else but, by this time, that marriage is over and the couple’s obvious connection can be acknowledged. “Our relationship is intellectually based. We didn’t even get it on for the first three years,” claims McEntee. Even as the years pass, “We slept together but never spent the night in each other’s arms. It wasn’t a conventional relationship,” says Amphlett, pointing out that they each maintained separate places of residence. The couple is notorious for the ‘volatile’ nature of their relationship, ‘their default setting is argumentative.’ “We had screaming matches that sometimes degenerated into physical fights, usually not hard punching or kicking or anything that would do either of us lasting damage, just slapping and pinching and rumbling,” says Amphlett.
The Divinyls go on a concert tour of the U.S.A. to promote ‘Desperate’. Up to this point, Chrissy Amphlett’s drug of choice was alcohol, but she now begins to dabble with heroin and cocaine as well. This only adds to the fraught nature of her relationship with her partner Mark McEntee. “There was something about each of us that ignited the other, that exacerbated our nastiness and potential to be cruel. That would have happened without the alcohol or drugs, but those substances made us worse. Much worse,” she says.
The road to The Divinyls’ second album is long and complicated. After their U.S. tour, the group returns to Australia and, in October 1983, begins recording again with Mark Opitz. However these sessions are abandoned because ‘the relationship has ceased to spark.’
The Narara Music Festival is first held over the Australia Day weekend in 1983. It actually takes place at Somersby, a short distance from Narara, on the central coast of New South Wales. The Divinyls are lined up to appear at the second (and final) Narara Music Festival on 27 January 1984 to 30 January 1984. However, The Divinyls withdraw from the show, complaining about visiting foreign act The Pretenders getting a higher billing. In the end, The Pretenders still play at Narara – but The Divinyls don’t appear.
In April 1984 The Divinyls start again with recording sessions for their second album. This time, the producer is Gary Langan, an Englishman best known for his work alongside Trevor Horn in The Art Of Noise. The Divinyls release two singles in 1984, both produced by Langan. ‘Good Die Young’ (AUS no. 32) has a more ambitious and arty arrangement than previous Divinyls songs. “City air, toxic taste / A girl falls from innocent grace,” are the opening lines. Rick Grossman’s portentous bass line underlines the title as the song slows down long enough for Chrissy Amphlett to state those words. The Divinyls’ second 1984 single is ‘In My Life’ (AUS no. 47). The caustic guitar line and a romping rhythm put this closer to familiar Divinyls territory. “How did you get this far? / Let’s go!” hollers Chrissy Amphlett by way of introduction. As the song’s narrator she grumbles, “Nothing much happening in my life.” In her broadest Australian accent Amphlett adds a virtually spoken word section advising, “I was born and brought up wrong…When I grew up I went to school / They tried to make me a bl**dy fool…” She has rarely been more distinctive and individualistic.
When The Divinyls finish recording with Gary Langan and hear the final mix, ‘they feel that all the fire has been taken out of their performance.’ So the group seeks to have the tapes re-mixed. “We’ve tried to do things our way and in our own time,” says vocalist Chrissy Amphlett. “That really upsets some people, but the group always comes first.” Mike Chapman, an expatriate Australian who produced some albums for Blondie (the group featuring Chrissy’s inspiration Debbie Harry), is enlisted to knock The Divinyls’ second album into shape. Perhaps more importantly, Chapman works with The Divinyls on two additional songs for the album. These two songs are released as singles by The Divinyls in 1985.
‘Pleasure And Pain’ (AUS no. 11, US no. 76), the first Divinyls single for 1985, is co-written by producer Mike Chapman and Holly Knight. This becomes one of The Divinyls’ biggest hits. Despite being an outside composition, its vaguely sado-masochistic sentiments and its canny mix of pop and rock makes it sound tailor-made for The Divinyls. In the promotional video for ‘Pleasure And Pain’, vocalist Chrissy Amphlett wears a navy sailor-suit. It’s not a school uniform, but a uniform of a sort nonetheless. ‘Pleasure And Pain’ is followed in 1985 by ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (AUS no. 50). On this lush, pop piece, authors Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee sand away some of their customary abrasiveness. The lyrics to ‘Sleeping Beauty’ still sound a bit odd though: “Sleeping beauty / So helpless / Unlock my fantasy / And while I slept you came in / And gave to me your key.” Is that a double entendre?
Finally, a decision is made to include on the international version of The Divinyls’ second album three of the four songs excised from the Australian edition of ‘Desperate’ to make way for the quartet of songs from the mini-album ‘Music From Monkey Grip’ on the international version of ‘Desperate’. (For the record, these salvaged songs are ‘Casual Encounter’, ‘Motion’ and ‘Don’t You Go Walking’; ‘Sahara Rock’ fails to be chosen.) The consequence of this decision is that The Divinyls have to record a couple of new songs for the Australian version of their long gestating second album. Charles Fisher, known for his work with Air Supply, produces ‘Talk Like The Rain’ and co-produces with guitarist Mark McEntee what will become the album’s title track, ‘What A Life’.
‘What A Life’ (1985) (AUS no. 4, US no. 91) is released by Chrysalis in October. The Divinyls’ second album is assembled from sessions with three different producers: Gary Langan, Mike Chapman and Charles Fisher (on the international version, Mark Opitz’ tracks replace Fisher’s – this includes, oddly enough, the title track, which is absent outside Australia). ‘What A Life’ includes the singles ‘Good Die Young’, ‘In My Life’, ‘Pleasure And Pain’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’. A fifth single, ‘Heart Telegraph’ (AUS no. 90), is lifted from the album. This song has some breathy vocals from Chrissy Amphlett and is, musically, fairly close to new wave. Indeed, ‘What A Life’ – as a whole – is The Divinyls’ most new wave-oriented album. This appears largely due to Gary Langan, who produces the bulk of the album (seven of the eleven tracks). “This album represents a whole opening-out time for us. We’ve opened up lots of new avenues which we’re now free to explore in more detail,” says Amphlett. Guitarist/keyboardist Bjarne Ohlin contributes two songs (‘Guillotine Day’ and ‘Dear Diary’) and bassist Rick Grossman co-writes with guitarist Mark McEntee the hard rock – surf music hybrid instrumental ‘Para-Dice’. ‘What A Life’ took almost two years to complete from when recording began. Despite success in Australia, The Divinyls’ record label ‘Chrysalis perceives the album [to be] a failure.’
Recording ‘What A Life’ took a toll on The Divinyls’ members. Drummer Richard Harvey is sacked in 1986. He started gigging in 1984 with The Party Boys, an all-star Australian collective with a casual attitude who recorded cover versions of their favourite old hits. Richard Harvey continues to work with The Party Boys until 1988.
Drummer J.J. Harris works with The Divinyls in 1985-1986 without becoming an official member of the band. He plays some shows with The Divinyls while the band is still working on ‘What A Life’. The Divinyls decide to record their third album with producer Mike Chapman. Rehearsals begin in Los Angeles in October 1986. It is Chapman who insists on J.J. Harris being sacked because Chapman doesn’t believe Harris is up to the task.
Even before rehearsals began, The Divinyls had suffered the loss of another member. Guitarist and keyboardist Bjarne Ohlin left the band earlier in 1986. By 2017 Bjarne Ohlin is the program manager at Townsville Creative Technologies College in Queensland.
The recording of The Divinyls’ third album is set aside while the band (or what is left of the band) returns to Australia in December 1986 for the Australian Made series of gigs. This is a project that brings together a number of Australian acts: INXS, Jimmy Barnes, Mental As Anything, The Divinyls, The Models, The Triffids, I’m Talking and The Saints. There are six gigs in six Australian States from 26 December 1986 to 24 January 1987. A documentary concert film by Richard Lowenstein, ‘Australian Made’ (1987), chronicles the event. (A digitally restored version of the documentary is re-released in October 2016). For these shows, The Divinyls consists of: Chrissy Amphlett (vocals), Mark McEntee (guitar) and Rick Grossman (bass) assisted by Kenny Lyon (keyboards) and U.S. musicians Frank Infante (guitar) [from Blondie] and Tommy ‘Mugs’ Cain (drums).
After the Australian Made shows, bassist Rick Grossman quits The Divinyls in 1987. Grossman checks himself into a rehab facility to deal with his heroin addiction. In 1988 Rick Grossman joins Australian band The Hoodoo Gurus. While still with this act, Grossman also works with a side-project band, The Ghostwriters, from 1990. Along the way, Rick Grossman marries. Although the name of his spouse is not public knowledge, the couple have two children, Amelia and Michael.
Also around this time, The Divinyls lose the services of their manager Vince Lovegrove. He later dies in a car crash on 24 March 2012 at the age of 65. Andrew McManus takes over the role of The Divinyls’ manager after Lovegrove’s departure.
From 1987 to 1988 Matthew Hughes plays keyboards with The Divinyls at some gigs.
‘By early 1988 The Divinyls consist of vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee with augmentation by additional musicians when recording or touring.’ From this point, it becomes difficult to distinguish any additional ‘official’ members of The Divinyls from substitute musicians employed for specific recordings, tours or gigs. Accordingly, all parties, other than Amphlett and McEntee, will be treated equally here.
In 1988 Chrissy Amphlett appears in the stage musical ‘Blood Brothers’ written by Willy Russell. Also in the cast is Russell Crowe. Up to this time, Russell Crowe had only appeared in Australian TV series, such as ‘Neighbours’ in 1987. Crowe’s earliest well-known movie roles – ‘Proof’ (1991), ‘Romper Stomper’ (1992) and ‘The Sum Of Us’ (1994) – are all still in the future.
The Divinyls’ third album, ‘Temperamental’ (1988) (AUS no. 11), is released in May. ‘Temperamental’ is produced by Mike Chapman. The album was recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles. Backing up vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee on this disc are: Kenny Lyon (keyboards), Tim Millikan (bass) and – from Australian band The Machinations – Warren McLean (drums). On ‘Temperamental’, The Divinyls are seen as more glamorous in their image, a move in keeping with the ‘modern pop music’ of this album. The album is preceded by its first single, ‘Back To The Wall’ (AUS no. 33), released in March 1988. This is a dark and brooding song. “We are living in desperate times / These are desperate times, my dear / There’s no way out of here / There’s no way out I fear,” Chrissy Amphlett intones in standard gritty mode, giving a nod to the title of the band’s debut album, ‘Desperate’. “Like a time bomb ticking away,” Amphlett works up to the chorus where she cautions, “Don’t push / Don’t shove / You better watch what you do / When my back’s to the wall / I might do anything at all / When my back’s to the wall / I might tyke [take] any chance at all.” ‘Back To The Wall’ is co-written by Amphlett, Mark McEntee and Richard Feldman. Less dramatic, but more fun, is the album’s second single, ‘Hey Little Boy’ (AUS no. 23). This is a cover version of the 1966 song ‘Little Girl’ by California garage rock band The Syndicate Of Sound, given a gender reassignment to better suit a female vocalist. McEntee’s guitar races along the chord changes and Amphlett chuckles through the lyrics, pausing only to bawl, “I’m talking to you-hoo” with that familiar hiccup in her voice. As the song fades, McEntee snarls, “Get out of here.” The video is a blast too with Amphlett in a little black dress in full mock (?) sex-pot mode, thrusting her chest out like a chicken. The vague compassion of ‘Punxsie’ shows The Divinyls’ softer side even though, when it is released as the disc’s third single, it fails to chart. The album’s opening song – and title track – ‘Temperamental’ is an acknowledgement of The Divinyls’ reputation for wilfulness: “Like the sun / Like the wind / Like the women / You are / Temperamental.” The shuddering lash of McEntee’s guitar on the verses opens out to a soaring chorus. The album ‘Temperamental’ is considered ‘more focused and back-to-basics.’
‘Temperamental’ is the last Divinyls album recorded for the Chrysalis label. “We still owed them more than a million dollars – unpaid reimbursement of their advances for recording, distributing and promoting three albums and supporting all those tours, yet they let us off the hook,” says vocalist Chrissy Amphlett. “Chrysalis knew, as did we, that we’d never be able to repay such a sum. They figured that because ‘Temperamental’ hadn’t broken us in the [United] States, we were never going to make it there and they’d be smarter to write off our debt as a tax deduction. ‘It’s time to split,’ they said. ‘We can’t do anything more with [The] Divinyls.’” Despite this, Amphlett still thinks ‘Temperamental’ has some of the band’s best songs, pieces written “throughout the emotional maelstrom of the exits of [manager] Vince [Lovegrove], [guitarist/keyboardist] Bjarne [Ohlin], [bassist] Rick [Grossman] and [drummer] J.J. [Harris].”
In 1989 Andrew McManus starts to share management of The Divinyls with U.S. ‘powerbroker’ Freddie DeMann.
In the period between ‘Temperamental’ and The Divinyls’ next album, the following musicians are associated with the band: Roger Mason [from Australian band The Models] (keyboards) (1988-1989, 1990); Tim Powles [later a member of Australian band The Church] (drums) (1989); Benmont Tench [of U.S. band Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers] (keyboards) (1990-1991); Randy Jackson (bass) (1990); and Charley Drayton [a U.S. multi-instrumentalist perhaps best known for playing bass with The X-Pensive Winos, a side-project for Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards] (drums) (1990-1996).
‘Divinyls’ (1991) (AUS no. 5, US no. 15, UK no. 59) [sometimes styled as ‘dIVINYLS’] is released by Virgin Records on 29 January. It turns out to be the only all-new album The Divinyls release through Virgin. The label sees frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett as ‘the next Madonna,’ comparing her to that super-popular U.S. singer. On the album cover, Amphlett is provocatively attired in what looks like a metal-mesh dress, using her hands to conceal her feminine attributes. Chrissy explains, “I was standing in a car park in that outfit, and I’m trying to cover myself because I’m modest, because I was naked under that dress, and it looks like I’m touching myself, so it ended up, I suppose, on the front cover.” This album is co-produced by David Tickle, Divinyls vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and Divinyls guitarist Mark McEntee. The songwriting for this album starts in Paris, France, and finishes in Los Angeles in the U.S.A. The album is recorded at Groove Masters studio in Santa Monica, California, a facility owned by U.S. rock star Jackson Browne. On this album, Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee are backed by Benmont Tench (keyboards), Randy Jackson (bass) and Charley Drayton (drums). The first single from the album, ‘I Touch Myself’ (AUS no. 1, US no. 4, UK no. 10), was released in 1990. It is co-written by Chrissy Amphlett, Mark McEntee, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. Kelly and Steinberg wrote Madonna’s 1984 hit ‘Like A Virgin’ (US no. 1, UK no. 3, AUS no. 1) and co-wrote (with The Bangles’ frontwoman Susanna Hoffs) The Bangles’ 1988 hits ‘In Your Room’ (US no. 5, UK no. 35, AUS no. 41) and ‘Eternal Flame’ (US no. 1, UK no. 1, AUS no. 1). Billy Steinberg had the title, ‘I Touch Myself’, in his notebook and had written the first verse (“I love myself / I want you to love me / When I’m feeling down / I want you above me”) and the chorus lyric (“I don’t want anybody else / When I think about you / I touch myself”). Chrissy Amphlett had liked this idea so, the next day, the song’s four authors got together and fleshed out the rest of the song. The result is a somewhat ribald ‘paean to female pleasure, eroticism, orgasm and masturbation.’ Michael Bay films the video for ‘I Touch Myself’ in a nunnery in Pasadena, California. The video shows ‘a tied-up Amphlett back in fishnets.’ The video is nominated for an MTV award (MTV is an all music video U.S. cable television network), but is banned in Australia. The controversy associated with the song puts the focus back on Chrissy Amphlett’s sexuality. In 1991 she says (sarcastically?), “I’m a puppet, I do what I’m told.” Despite all this surface noise, ‘I Touch Myself’ is more than just its lyrics or imagery. Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg know their way around writing a hit song and co-authors Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee ensure that the compositions is infused with their musical identity too. ‘I Touch Myself’ still sounds like The Divinyls, just a very accessible and catchy version of The Divinyls. ‘I Touch Myself’ is their ‘biggest-selling single,’ even if it leaves them viewed in the U.S.A. as a ‘one-hit wonder.’ The follow-up single, the archly gothic guitar rock or ‘Love School’ (AUS no. 43), quotes the “I don’t want anybody else” line of its predecessor. ‘Make Out Alright’ (AUS no. 105) (co-written by Amphlett, McEntee and Martyn Watson) is riffy guitar pop with a gritty vocal from Amphlett. Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg – with no other collaborators – pen the album’s closing track, ‘I’m On Your Side’ (AUS no. 92), a more ballad-like song that features mainly acoustic guitar with a little electric guitar embroidery later in the song. The rest of the album – aside from ‘I Touch Myself’, ‘Make Out Alright’, ‘I’m On Your Side’ and ‘Bullet’ – co-written by David Malloy, Amphlett and McEntee – is written by Amphlett and McEntee. The best of these other songs may be ‘Lay Your Body Down’. Over almost brassy guitar riffs, Chrissy Amphlett boasts, “I’m the mistress of the night / No stranger to your fantasy.”
Musicians who work with The Divinyls to promote their latest album and more over the next few years are: Charlie Owen (guitar) (1991), Duane Jarvis (guitar) (1991), Randy Wiggins (guitar) (1991-1993), Lee Borkman (keyboards, guitar) (1991), Jerome Smith (bass) (1991), Jim Hilbun [U.S. born member of Australian band The Angels] (bass) (1991) and Mark Myer (drums) (1991). Additionally, The Divinyls still have the services of Charley Drayton (drums) (1990-1996) in this period.
The Divinyls’ first compilation album, ‘Essential’ (1991) (AUS no. 17), is released through Chrysalis/EMI on 4 November. The material on this set is drawn from the group’s releases prior to ‘The Divinyls’ (1991) so it does not include ‘I Touch Myself’ or anything else from the same album.
The Divinyls’ next few releases are all songs contributed to movie soundtracks and all of those songs are cover versions. Perhaps the best of them is ‘I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore’ (AUS no. 19). This song was originally recorded by U.S. group The Young Rascals in 1965. The Divinyls’ incisive version features an assertive vocal from Chrissy Amphlett and sharp bursts of guitar. Their rendition comes from the soundtrack to the movie ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (1992), the predecessor of the more famous television series of the same name. The Divinyls cover the 1966 hit ‘Wild Thing’ (AUS no. 39) by British group The Troggs for the soundtrack of the Australian movie ‘Reckless Kelly’ (1993). Finally, The Divinyls contribute a version of the 1975 Roxy Music hit ‘Love Is The Drug’ (AUS no. 126) to the movie ‘Super Mario Bros’ (1993), released on 10 May.
On 31 July 1993 The Divinyls play a show at the ‘notorious’ Boggo Road Prison in Queensland, Australia. Director Chris Fitzgibbon films the performance but it is not released until almost twenty years later as ‘Divinyls Live – Jailhouse Rock’ (2012).
Virgin Records issues ‘The Collection’ (1993) on 6 December. This is an odd assemblage of Divinyls material. It includes the three recent Divinyls soundtrack contributions – ‘I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore’, ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Love Is The Drug’ – as well as some live recordings from the Boggo Road Jail show, some tracks from the prior Virgin album ‘The Divinyls’ and some remixes.
The ‘always volatile’ romantic relationship between The Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee finally comes to an end in 1993.
Subsequently, Chrissy Amphlett becomes romantically involved with Charley Drayton, the U.S. musician who has been playing drums for The Divinyls.
The Divinyls’ next album, ‘Underworld’ (1996) (AUS no. 47), is released in August by BMG Records. It has been almost five years since the group’s last album. Besides the break-up of the group’s principals, vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee as a couple and a change in record labels, the album is delayed repeatedly due to production problems. The album’s first single (released in 1995), ‘I’m Jealous’ (AUS no. 14), is produced by Peter Collins in Nashville, Tennessee. The song is co-written by Chrissy Amphlett, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the team behind ‘I Touch Myself’ (minus Mark McEntee). “You got a new girlfriend, but I still love you,” asserts Amphlett in the opening line of ‘I’m Jealous’. This is a semi-acoustic song; it’s not all hard rock. The brooding anger of its sentiments escalates through a slow burn until Amphlett snaps, “I might kick her face in…What’s she do that I won’t?” The second single (also released in 1995) is ‘Heart Of Steel’ (AUS no. 130). This is produced by Keith Forsey. “If you think that love is for real / You’re gonna need a heart of steel,” warn the lyrics of this song, an ode to resilience played out over a ringing guitar. ‘Heart Of Steel’ is co-written by Chrissy Amphlett, Mark McEntee and Guy Gray. Keith Forsey also produces ‘Sex Will Keep Us Together’ (which Amphlett co-writes with Elton Shipley and Rick Nowels). Amid jagged guitars, the theme of ‘Sex Will Keep Us Together’ is fairly self-explanatory. “’Cause when we argue, when we fight / The best part is making up at night,” sings Amphlett in this song in what sounds like a chronicle of her past relationship (now over) with Mark McEntee. After recording those two songs with Keith Forsey (only ‘Heart Of Steel’ is released as a single), the producer is dismissed. “He was a bit too ‘pop’ for us,” sniffs Amphlett. The remainder of ‘Underworld’ is produced by The Divinyls’ drummer Charley Drayton. ‘Hard On Me’ (AUS no. 94) is super-charged pop with Morse code guitar. In a very ‘Oz-Traylian’ accent, Chrissy Amphlett sings in ‘Hard On Me’, “I hope I’m gonna find me a boyfriend / Who wants to spend more time on his knees.” ‘Human On The Inside’ (AUS no. 59) has a hollow drum sound and, under its attractive pop trappings, shows a more tender side of Amphlett. ‘Human On The Inside’ is co-written by guitarist Mark McEntee and a lady songwriter named Shelly Peiken. ‘For A Good Time’ (AUS no. 163) is vaguely aggressive and sinister as it lurches about with rough and ready guitars. “I like to watch your mouth, I’d like to take it south,” sings Amphlett in this song’s lyrics. ‘For A Good Time’ is co-written by Mark McEntee, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg.
In the 1990s, Divinyls vocalist Chrissy Amphlett ‘becomes an alcoholic.’ “I didn’t realise alcohol was the problem,” she says. It takes a conversation with her partner Charley Drayton for Amphlett to accept the situation. “He said, ‘Chrissy, there’s not room for three people in this relationship’ and that third person was alcohol and that sort of hit home,” she explains. Chrissy Amphlett goes into a rehabilitation facility in 1996 to be treated for alcoholism.
In 1996, The Divinyls break-up. Vocalist Chrissy Amphlett barely speaks to her long-time collaborator (and ex-boyfriend) Mark McEntee after the band breaks up.
A Divinyls compilation album, ‘Make You Happy’ (1997), is released by their former label, Chrysalis. This is followed by ‘Divinyls Live’ (1998), a concert recording from 1991.
Starting on 5 March 1998, Chrissy Amphlett appears in the stage musical ‘The Boy From Oz’. Hugh Jackman stars in the show, a biography of singer-songwriter Peter Allen, and Amphlett plays the part of Hollywood star Judy Garland.
On 27 July 1999 Chrissy Amphlett marries her boyfriend (and former Divinyls drummer) Charley Drayton.
‘Divinyls Live’ (2001), released on 31 July on the Massive label, is a vintage concert recording.
‘Pleasure and Pain/My Life’ (2005) is an autobiographical book written by Chrissy Amphlett and Larry Writer. It is published by Hodder Australia (and re-published in 2007 by Hachette Australia).
The compilation Divinyls album ‘Greatest Hits’ (2006) (AUS no. 50) is released on 14 August by EMI. This set contains twenty tracks. There is a reason for this revisiting of The Divinyls’ history…and that becomes clear two days later.
On 16 August 2006 The Divinyls are inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame.
In the wake of the ARIA honour, The Divinyls is reactivated as a band in 2006. Vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee are joined by Charlie Owen (guitar), Clayton Doley (keyboards), Jerome Smith (bass) and Charley Drayton (drums). Only Clayton Doley is new to the band; the rest of the crew worked together in the last incarnation of the band in 1991.
The revived Divinyls record four songs via satellite link. Chrissy Amphlett and Charley Drayton make their contribution at Palm Studios in Las Vegas, U.S.A. while Mark McEntee records his part in Perth, Western Australia.
The first two songs from this session are released as the single ‘Don’t Wanna Do This’ (AUS no. 148) backed with ‘Asphyxiated’ on 24 November 2007. “Got a lot of things I wanna do / But I don’t wanna have to do this,” sings Chrissy Amphlett rather ominously on ‘Don’t Wanna Do This’. However any lack of enthusiasm suggested by the lyric is belied by the hard rocking tune which sounds like classic Divinyls.
The Divinyls perform ‘Boys In Town’ at the grand final for television talent quest ‘Australian Idol’ at the Sydney Opera House on 25 November 2007.
The Divinyls begin an Australian concert tour in December 2007.
On 7 December 2007 Divinyls vocalist Chrissy Amphlett is interviewed by Richard Wilkins on the Nine Network television program ‘A Current Affair’. In this interview, Amphlett reveals she has multiple sclerosis, a degenerative nerve disease.
The next day, The Divinyls headline the Homebake Music Festival. The third track the band recorded earlier in the year, ‘All Pretty Things’, is given away to a compilation album for the Homebake Festival. (The name and fate of the fourth track from that recording session is unknown.) The Divinyls plan to record a full album of new material if they ‘survive’ Homebake.
EMI issues a compilation Divinyls album, ‘The Essential’ (2008) (AUS no. 14). Despite the name almost being identical to ‘Essential’ (1991), this is a different collection. It has twelve tracks including latter hits like ‘I Touch Myself’.
In August 2009 Chrissy Amphlett says The Divinyls are finished and she has a new band in New York where she resides with her husband, Charley Drayton.
In January 2010 Chrissy Amphlett appears with a thirty piece orchestra for the Australian Rock Symphony. She performs some Divinyls songs as well as other material.
On 20 October 2010 Chrissy Amphlett announces she has breast cancer. She is being treated in New York where she now lives. Amphlett is unable to receive radiation treatment or chemotherapy due to the multiple sclerosis she is also battling. Chrissy’s elder sister, Leigh Forster (nee Amphlett), is a breast cancer survivor.
On 24 January 2011 Chrissy Amphlett claims to be cancer free. ‘Summer Song’ is a single released in 2011 by The Tulips. This act consists of Chrissy Amphlett, her husband Charley Drayton and Kraig Jarret Johnson. In 2011 Charley Drayton joins Australian band Cold Chisel as their new drummer.
Chrissy Amphlett passes away on 21 April 2013 in New York City. Her death is attributed to breast cancer and complications from multiple sclerosis. At the time of her death Chrissy Amphlett was 53 years old.
In 2014 the breast cancer awareness project ‘I Touch Myself’ is launched as a tribute to Chrissy Amphlett by the New South Wales Cancer Council and the late singer’s family and friends.
In 2015 a roadway in Melbourne, Victoria, is renamed Amphlett Lane in honour of the memory of Chrissy Amphlett.
By 2013 former Divinyls guitarist Mark McEntee is romantically involved with fashion designer Melanie Greensmith. Together, they run the boutique clothing label Wheels and Doll Baby. The operation was founded in 1987 by Melanie Greensmith and her husband, drummer Brett Ford (who passed away in 2007). (Note: Wheels and Doll Baby takes its name from the U.S. spy/comedy television series ‘Get Smart’. In the 1967 episode ‘The Mild Ones’, secret agent Maxwell Smart and his lovely partner Agent 99 go undercover in a motorcycle gang using the aliases of Wheels and Legs. The gang’s leader is Brute and his lady friend is Doll Baby.)
Mark McEntee also manages Macca’s Vintage Aerodrome. This outfit sells World War One and pioneer radio-controlled aircraft.
In order to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Wheels and Doll Baby, Mark McEntee puts The Divinyls back together for a half hour show at the Telstra Perth Fashion Festival on 17 September 2017. Three past members of The Divinyls – Mark McEntee (guitar), Rick Grossman (bass) and Richard Harvey (drums) – are joined on this occasion by two members of the Australian band The Preatures, Isabella ‘Izzi’ Manfredi (vocals) and Jack Moffitt (guitar). Although it is first announced that the five musicians will perform as The Divinyls, as the gig draws closer it seems that the billing will instead be The Divinyls with The Preatures.
The Divinyls carved out a distinctive niche for themselves with their tough, forceful rock. If a few noses were put out of joint by their conduct, at least it always seemed to be in service to a greater artistic goal, however invisible that may have been to people whose names were not Chrissy Amphlett or Mark McEntee. There was never a sense that they were just being difficult because they were powerful enough to get their own way. As for Chrissy Amphlett’s full-on sexuality, that was probably a matter for individual judgement. Was she a victim or was she in control? It’s difficult to say with certainty. “I’ve always just done what I do,” Amphlett shrugged. She really doesn’t seem to be the kind to meekly comply though. “Quite early on, I decided I would be a warrior, not a victim,” is how Chrissy Amphlett phrased it. Remember how she refused something as comparatively innocuous as cosmetic dentistry? This makes it seem like, school uniform and all, the Chrissy Amphlett seen in The Divinyls’ public image is exactly who she wanted us to see. ‘It was their original raw edge…the product of a thriving lunatic partnership’ between Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee which brought success to The Divinyls ‘It was Amphlett’s ability to focus the band and then project it as she did that distinguished The Divinyls from the pack.’
- wikipedia.org as at 21 August 2017
- ‘The Big Australian Rock Book’, ‘Divinyls’ by Toby Creswell (Megabooks, 1985) p. 72, 73
- ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 102, 104, 133, 149
- allmusic.com, ‘The Divinyls’ by Ed Nimmervoll as at 23 August 2017
- graham-russell, blogspot.com.au – ‘Christina’s World: My Obituary for Chrissy Amphlett (1959-2013)’ (18 May 2013) by Graham Russell
- ‘Enough Rope’ (Australian Television program, ABC Network) – Chrissy Amphlett interview conducted by Andrew Denton (17 July 2006) (transcript reproduced on abc.net.au)
- ‘Pleasure and Pain/My Life’ by Chrissy Amphlett and Larry Writer (Hodder Australia, 2005; republished by Hachette Australia, 2007) p. 336 via 1 (above) [‘Temperamental’ LP] and more
- australiandressregister.com – Chrissy Amphlett’s School Uniform – as at 25 August 2017
- ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ (Sydney, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Vocal Warrior who Owned the Stage – Chrissy Amphlett 1959-2013’ by Anthony O’Grady (25 April 2013) (reproduced on smh.com.au)
- Internet Movie Database – imdb.com – as at 25 August 2017
- ‘7.30 Report’ (Australian television program, ABC Network) – Chrissy Amphlett interview (2003) via 9 (above)
- ‘Essential Divinyls’ – Sleeve notes by Bruce Pilato (Chrysalis Records, 1991) p. 2, 4, 5, 6
- themusic.com.au – ‘Picking Up Where Chrissy Left Off’ – Mark McEntee interview conducted by Brynn Davies (3 May 2016)
- ‘Sunday Telegraph’ (Sydney, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee’s Fiery Relationship During The Divinyls Years’ by Cameron Adams (28 April 2013) (reproduced on dailytelegraph.com.au)
- au.linkedin.com – Bjarne Ohlin – as at 22 August 2017
- ‘Georgia Straight’ (Georgia, U.S.A., newspaper) – ‘Divinyls are Attracted to the Seamier Side of Things’ – Mark McEntee interview conducted by Steve Newton (11 July 1991) (reproduced on earofnewt.com)
- powerhousemuseum.com as at 8 January 2013
- discogs.com as at 23 August 2017
- ‘Australian Story’ (Australian television program, ABC Network) – ‘All the Boys in Town’ – Rick Grossman interview (10 November 2008) (transcript reproduced on abc.net.au)
- ‘Rolling Stone’ (U.S. rock magazine) via 12 (above) p. 4
- metrolyrics.com as at 24 August 2017
- musicsonglyrics.com as at 11 January 2013
- australianmusicdatabase.com as at 25 August 2017 [Richard Harvey information]
- facebook.com – Bjarne Ohlin – posting dated 5 August 2017
- news.com.au – ‘INXS and Jimmy Barnes Back Together in Re-release of Local Rock Movie “Australian Made”’ by Kathy McCabe (30 October 2016)
- news.com.au – ‘Chrissy Amphlett Dies at 53, Former Divinyls Manager Andrew McManus says her Final Days were “Incredibly Sad”’ by Nui Te Koha (22 April 2013)
- lyricsfreak.com as at 30 August 2017
- ‘San Antonio Express News’ (San Antonio, U.S.A., newspaper) – Chrissy Amphlett interview conducted by Marc Leffler – reproduced as ‘Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett’s Best/Worst Weekender Interview Ever’ by Robert Johnson on blog.mysanantonio.com (23 April 2013)
- catalogue.nla.gov.au as at 23 August 2017 [publication information on ‘Pleasure and Pain/My Life’]
- flashlyrics.com as at 24 August 2017
- news.com.au – ‘Entire Canberra Suburb to be Dedicated to Australia’s Music Legends’ by Benedict Brook (4 January 2016)
- ‘The Age’ (Melbourne, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Melbourne puts Rock Icon Chrissy Amphlett on the Map’ by Kylie Northover (18 February 2015) via 1 (above) [Chrissy Amphlett]
- theindustryobserver.com – ‘Divinyls are Reforming, Without Chrissy, for a Fashion Show’ by Nathan Jolly (21 July 2017)
- tonedeaf.com.au – ‘Divinyls are Playing a One-Off Reunion Show with The Preatures’ Singer’ by Brandon John (18 August 2017)
Song lyrics copyright EMI Music with the exceptions of: ‘Don’t You Go Walking’ and ‘Temperamental’ (both EMI Songs); ‘Good Die Young’, ‘In My Life’, ‘Heart Of Steel’ and ‘Lay Your Body Down’ (all EMI Music Publishing); ‘Back To The Wall’, ‘Love School’, ‘I’m Jealous’ and ‘For A Good Time’ (all Sony/ATV Publishing LLC); ‘I Touch Myself’ (Sony/ATV Music); ‘Hard On Me’ (EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group); ‘Sex Will Keep Us Together’ (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Spirit Music Group); and ‘Don’t Wanna Do This’ (Unknown).
Last revised 10 September 2017