Thursday, January 13, 2011

Worth Another Listen - Divinyls

Divinyls
Divinyls Divinyls

The Divinyls sprang from the fertile musical environment in Sydney, Australia, first forming in 1980 after a chance meeting between lead singer Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee, who were also the creative force behind the band, writing the songs. Over the years, they remained at the core of the group, as many other players came and left. Before the band, Chrissy was a struggling singer/songwriter, taking gigs to pay her bills. McEntee, on the other hand, was no stranger to working in a band, having spent the middle of the 70s as a founding member of the Aussie band that ruled the Adult Contemporary genre, Air Supply. His move to Divinyls was quite the jump, for it would be tough to think of more diverse music. By 1981 they had their first single in Australia, and were establishing the personality of the band. Chrissy created the character of the bold and strong school girl, with her short skirted uniform, yet remaining big and powerful. She pretty much commanded the attention while they performed. Boys In Town made it to #8 on the Australian charts. In the video, Chrissy displayed her personae, kind of like a coquettish Pat Benatar, a New Wave Lolita.



They finally released their first album in 1983. While it was a success, they didn't capture the success of the two singles. Science Fiction was the second, and the very New Wave sound helped the song rise to #13 on the Aussie chart. However, in 2001, the Australasian Performing Right Association named Science Fiction on of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. Here it is.



In 1985 they put out a second album, and the first 3 singles achieved some middling success, but the fourth, Pleasure And Pain, returned them to the top with a #11 spot on the Aussie chart, and their first foray into the US, getting to #12 on the Modern Rock chart. The video again featured a powerful and pro-active Chrissy.



While they stayed on the Australian charts, it wasn't until 1990 that the band had the big success with the song they will be forever associated with. The lead single off their eponymous 4th album shot up the charts not only in their homeland, but also in the US and around the world. I Touch Myself, with the playful and hyper-sexy edge, catapulted the band to a world stage. For anyone who heard it, you couldn't help sing along with it, grinning every note along the way. The song was not without controversy, as some radio stations refused to play it, and the band did encounter some trouble with promoters who feared community reaction in the US. I believe this might have added to the popularity of the song, and to Chrissy's brazen performance.



Alas, this was the last trip the band made onto the US charts, and their final #1 appearance on the Aussie charts. The band continued on until 1997, when there was rumor of a falling out between Amphlett and McEntee. In 1999, Chrissy married American drummer Charley Drayton, who had began playing with the band in 1990. After the band broke up, Chrissy took to the stage, including creating the part of the older Judy Garland in the original production of The Boy From Oz, for which she received much praise. The couple relocated to New York in 2000. In 2006, the Divinyls were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association [ARIA] Hall of Fame. Amphlett, McEntee and Drayton reformed the band and toured Australia, releasing a few singles. In 2007, it was announced Chrissy was battling Multiple Sclerosis, continuing to perform with the band. By 2009, the band had stopped performing and Chrissy announced she had formed another band in New York. At the end of 2010, it was announced she was once again having health issues, this time battling breast cancer. For more about the Divinyls and to get information about Chrissy, you can check out their FaceBook fanpage here.

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