Home > CULTURE, MUSIC, PASSING > R.I.P. Christine Amphlett of the Divinyls, 12/25/1959-4/21/2013

R.I.P. Christine Amphlett of the Divinyls, 12/25/1959-4/21/2013

Christine Amphlett of the Divinyls passed from breast cancer Sunday, April 21, 2013.  Ms. Amphlett had also battled Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years.  Ms. Amphlett was best known as the vocalist for the Australian alternative rock band the Divinyls who had their biggest hit with the alt-rock staple “I Touch Myself” in 1991.

http://youtu.be/wv-34w8kGPM for YouTube of “I Touch Myself”.

Ms. Amphlett’s voluptuously petite frame, pouty lips and grown-out shag reminiscent of Rod Stewart’s enlivened the video screens of many Boston post-collegiate bars.

And for many casual listeners that was the extent of her notoriety.

But Christine was more than just “a red brassiere” as she put it in “Boys In Town”.  Indeed the premature hardening of adolescent sexuality was never more deadening and enlivening as Ms. Amphlett’s wobbly shifts from tenor to contralto to spoken word played hide and seek among power pop guitars.

Romance and cynicism played tag in the polymorphous playground that Christine created and embodied.  “Make It Alright” featured Christine’s growling and yelping of the title leaving one wondering whether “make it alright” was a moral issue or physical potency.

Amateurism and artifice co-mingled in Christine’s vocals.  Audible breathing and clicking teeth provided poly rhythms to the rather stiff Brit beats of the Divinyls.

The diVINYLS self-titled cassette is the only purchase I ever made of their music.  If truth be told it isn’t all that great. Indeed the archaic drumming and percussive guitars wear thin even as Ms. Amphlett’s vocals are endlessly inventive.

Here in the 21st. Century an iPod would store “I Touch Myself” next to Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” to be played at bachelorette parties

diVINYLS became one of those things I listened to once a year.

“Love is the Drug” from the 1993 film SUPER MARIO BROTHERS  featured Christine’s take on the Bryan Ferry written Roxy Music classic ode to meeting “Miss Right (Now).”  Role reversal comedy at its finest as predatory female sexuality found a practitioner more calculating than Madonna and more assertive than the Joan Jett of “Do You Wanna Touch?”

Christine Amphlett’s mixing of persona, intent and accident mark her as a true punk.

“Amphlett” is surely the best birth name ever for the diminutive power that Christine brought to rock n roll.

A major artist?  No, there were only 1/2 a dozen memorable songs and even “Make Out Alright” was made memorable by the dubious virtue of repeating the title ad infinitum, ad nauseum…although “Boys in Town” found it’s meaning in Christine’s yelp as much as in its lyrics.

However, “I Touch Myself” brought a barroom phrase to alt-rock radio and the evocation of female self pleasure with guitar parts from Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone” was funny in more ways than can be illuminated by this chronicler.

Being of a certain age one has outlived the generation of one’s birth parents.  I am fortunate to be a year older than Ms. Amphlett was at the time of her passing.

Ms. Amphlett’s contemporaries are retired, Michael Stipe of REM; hitless, Ali Campbell of UB40; inappropriate, the Pet Shop Boys performing at the Olympics?; or endlessly recycling their glory days; Metallica at Gillette, anyone? 

Artists of my generation are fast receding into the rear view window of iPod permaculture.

There is a certain odd sadness to the passing from life of a contemporary you’ve listened to.

“Make Out Alright”

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