Monday, April 22, 2013

Chrissy Amphlett, Divinyls singer, dead at 53

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Amphletts one U.S. hit lives on.
  • Amphlett's one U.S. hit lives on.

It's a wonder that Tipper Gore and her legion of censors never went after Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer of the one-hit-wonder Australian band Divinyls. Amphlett died Sunday in New York from multiple sclerosis and breast cancer at the age of 53.

The group's 1991 hit, "I Touch Myself," is a dirty little radio love letter in a time long before sexting. As grunge began to take over more of the airwaves and MTV, "I Touch Myself" was practically a throwback when it clawed its way to No. 4 on the U.S. charts the same year that Nirvana's Nevermind was transfixing young listeners.

The song has a classic formulaic late-'80s pop sound, with flourishes of "oh, oh, oh" filling out the chorus, a standard rock hook and a short talking-singing breakdown. But its subject matter and frankness were refreshing for mainstream radio. In fact, it still is. Even today, it's a bit of a thrill to hear about the desire for self-love on the radio. It feels just a bit too raunchy for public airwaves.

"I love myself/I want you to love me/When I'm feelin' down/I want you above me," Amphlett sings. And she opened the song with that. That's a gutsy single. Throw in an allusion to oral sex, and you've got some blushing listeners.

And Amphlett sings with such sincerity. On one chorus shortly before the fade-out, she assures the listener, "When I think about you I touch myself, I honestly do!" Make no mistake. The very thought of this guy leads her to self-gratification.

At D.B. Cooper's, one of my favorite bars in Kansas City, the Internet jukebox had "I Touch Myself" on it for a spell. It has since been swapped out for something more popular, like Miley Cyrus remixes. That's a shame. (The Pitch tackled the death of disc-playing jukeboxes in February.) But for about a year, every week, I'd go to Cooper's with my friend, and we would play the track.

It didn't matter what kind of people were drinking in the bar or their ages. Whenever the chugging opening notes of the song sprang through the dimness, there was some kind of a reaction. Usually, people looked up, trying to place how they knew the track. A few times, a burly guy would place his glass of beer down, and swivel his bar stool to give us a glance.

One time when it came on, a woman asked the bartender, "Who played this song?" It shouldn't have been difficult for her to guess; we were the only people dancing to it in our booth. The bartender fingered us, and the woman gave us a look that said, "What a couple of hairy-palmed skeeves."

Like that was going to dampen our joy for the song. Like Chrissy Amphlett's attitude toward love and self-touching in the song, I have no shame about my love for "I Touch Myself."

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