Divinyls were an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in 1980 and featuring vocalist Christina Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. As the focal point, Amphlett performed on stage wearing a school uniform and fishnet stockings, often using an illuminated neon tube as a prop and displaying aggression towards band members and the audience. The band, originally a five-piece, underwent numerous lineup changes with Amphlett and McEntee as the core members, before breaking up in 1996.
In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "Science Fiction" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. The band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and in late 2007 Amphlett and McEntee reconvened to record a new single and begin working on a new album. The band played a short series of live gigs in Australia in late 2007 and early 2008.
Divinyls have released five studio albums, with four of them reaching the Top 10 in Australia and one, Divinyls, reaching No. 15 in the US. Their biggest-selling single, "I Touch Myself" (1991) achieved No. 1 in Australia, No. 4 in the US and No. 10 in the UK.
1980s: Formation and early albums
Main articles: Christina Amphlett and Richard Grossman (musician)
Amphlett is the cousin of 1960s Australian pop icon Patricia "Little Pattie" Amphlett, who had been married to Keith Jacobsen—younger brother of pioneer rocker Col Joye and leading promoter Kevin Jacobsen. In her autobiography Pleasure and Pain (2005), Amphlett described breaking into the music scene from the age of fourteen, being arrested for busking when seventeen and travelling in Spain, and how her performances drew upon childhood pain.
Amphlett and McEntee (ex-Air Supply were introduced by Jeremy Paul (ex-Air Supply) in the car park of a small music venue in Collaroy, Sydney, after Amphlett and Paul had finished a gig with their then band, Batonrouge. Amphlett and McEntee met again at the Sydney Opera House where Amphlett and Paul were singing in a choral concert in 1980. They recruited Bjarne Ohlin and Richard Harvey, and for almost two years they performed in pubs and clubs in Sydney's Kings Cross. During this time, Paul negotiated publishing and recording agreements that led to the band signing with WEA. Australian film director Ken Cameron saw Divinyls performing in a club. This led to them providing the soundtrack for his 1982 film Monkey Grip and also gave Amphlett, Paul and McEntee supporting roles in the movie. The group released two singles from the soundtrack, Music from Monkey Grip EP, "Boys in Town", which reached No. 8 on the national singles chart, and "Only Lonely". After the bands initial success, original manager and bassist Jeremy Paul left. He was replaced on bass, briefly by Ken Firth (ex-The Ferrets) and more permanently by Rick Grossman (ex Matt Finish). Grossman left in 1987 to replace Clyde Bramley in Hoodoo Gurus. By early 1988, Divinyls consisted of Amphlett and McEntee with augmentation by additional musicians when recording or touring.
Over the decade Divinyls released four albums, Music from Monkey Grip EP on WEA in 1982, Desperate on Chrysalis Records in 1983, What a Life! in 1985 and Temperamental in 1988. The latter two albums were also released by Chrysalis in the US. They had hit singles in Australia with, "Science Fiction" No. 13 in 1983, "Good Die Young" No. 32 in 1984 and "Pleasure and Pain" which was written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman (The Best, Love Is A Battlefield)) and went #1 in 1985. Their later manager Vince Lovegrove organised Divinyls' transfer from WEA to Chrysalis and their first tours of United States. They established a fan base there, without achieving major commercial success. Divinyls also had Australian hits with cover versions of The Easybeats' "I'll Make You Happy", and Syndicate of Sound's "Hey Little Boy" ("Hey Little Girl" with the gender switched) which reached No. 25 in 1988. Amphlett became a controversial and highly visible celebrity for her brash, overtly sexual persona and subversive humour in lyrics, performances and media interviews.
1990s: Divinyls duo
In 1991 Divinyls released diVINYLS on Virgin Records and the single "I Touch Myself" which became their only Australian No.1 single. The song reached No. 4 in the US and No. 10 in the UK. The majority of Divinyls' hits were co-written by Amphlett and McEntee, but in this case they wrote with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. diVINYLS reached No. 5 on the Australian album charts and No. 15 on Billboard Top 200. The drummer for the diVINYLS sessions was Charley Drayton, who became romantically involved with Amphlett and from 2000 they have lived together in New York. A disagreement with Virgin Records stifled future development outside Australia where they released popular albums and achieved two more top twenty singles with "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" No. 19 in 1992 and "I'm Jealous" No. 14 in 1995. During the 1980s and 1990s Amphlett collaborated as a songwriter with other artists including Chrissie Hynde and Cyndi Lauper, and both Amphlett and McEntee worked on solo projects.
A live album, Divinyls Live, was released in 1991 but Divinyls did not provide another studio album for five years. In the early 1990s they recorded a series of cover songs for various movie soundtracks, including the Young Rascals' "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" for Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), the Wild Ones' "Wild Thing" for Reckless Kelly (1993), and Roxy Music's "Love Is the Drug" for Super Mario Brothers (1993).
The song "I Touch Myself" caused such a controversy it had trouble getting airplay in many U.S.A. area markets; so much to the point that while performing their song live in Texas at Austin Aqua Fest 1991 the plug was pulled on the band mid set by organizers.
It wasn't until 1996 that Underworld, their fifth studio album, was released in Australia by BMG. Despite the success of diVINYLS Virgin had not kept them under contract and BMG did not release Underworld in the US. As with What A Life! they worked with three producers, beginning with Peter Collins recording "I'm Jealous" in Nashville, followed by Keith Forsey for "Sex Will Keep Us Together" and "Heart Of Steel". Although "Heart of Steel" was chosen as a single, Divinyls discontinued with Forsey because according to Amphlett "he was a bit too 'pop' for us" and remaining tracks were produced by their drummer Drayton. In early 1997, Amphlett and McEntee had a falling out and separated without formally disbanding Divinyls.
After the separation
Following Underworld Amphlett pursued a stage career, in 1998 she played the role of Judy Garland in the Australian stage production of the life story of entertainer Peter Allen, titled The Boy from Oz. The production was a success and Amphlett's interpretation of Garland, during her final troubled years, brought her critical acclaim: she was nominated for the Helpmann Award for 'Best Female Actor in a Musical'.
Amphlett and McEntee concentrated on solo projects and collaborations with other artists. Amphlett and Drayton lived in New York City from 2000, while McEntee ran a clothing label, Wheels and Doll Baby, in Perth with his partner, Melanie Greensmith. In November 2005 Amphlett published her autobiography Pleasure and Pain: My Life co-written with Larry Writer; she detailed her achievements, drug and alcohol abuse, love affairs and triumphs while a member of Divinyls.
2006: Hall of Fame and reformation
On 16 August 2006 Divinyls were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and had their first performance for 10 years at the award ceremony. They reformed shortly afterwards and a compilation, Greatest Hits, was released by EMI Music Australia in August 2006. A single, "Don't Wanna Do This", was released in November 2007 and an album recorded in Las Vegas was expected to be released in 2008; however its non-appearance may be due to Amphlett's Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
They performed during the Australian Idol grand final at the Sydney Opera House, on 25 November 2007, although their performance of "Boys in Town" (also performed by Idol winner Natalie Gauci) had to be repeated after Network Ten's transmission feed was interrupted. A national tour of Australia followed in December 2007 with a touring band featuring Drayton on drums, Jerome Smith on bass, Charlie Owen on guitar and newest member Clayton Doley on keyboards. Amphlett revealed on 7 December 2007 that she had multiple sclerosis in an interview with Richard Wilkins on Network Nine's A Current Affair nevertheless she was looking forward to touring with Divinyls. The next day Divinyls headlined the Homebake music festival where Amphlett displayed an emotional fragility when attempting to get the crowd to sing along with her. In August 2009, Amphlett announced that Divinyls were finished and she had a new band in New York. Read more on Last.fm
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