Saturday, November 17, 2007

Simply Divinyls

Time for another long-overdue band salute, this time for a group who is most famous for a rather infamous song, Australia's Divinyls.  There is much much more to this band than their ode to masturbation, 1991's "I Touch Myself"In a nutshell, Divinyls are singer Christina Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee, and a constantly changing lineup of drummers, bass players, et al.  I like to describe the oddly-charismatic Amphlett as a strange hybrid of a white Tina Turner and Angus Young of AC/DC in terms of her semi-slutty schoolgirl antics on-stage, especially in the band's earlier days in the '80s.

My best friend Tom tried in vain early on to turn me on to the band's classic 1983 Desperate album, and for some unknown reason, I just wasn't impressed at the time.  Tom, my brother, I readily admit that I fucked upI hereby take full responsibility for being so unequivocably wrong here, and I apologize profusely for ever doubting you!  I also deeply regret not sticking around to see the group in concert on that beastly hot July day when we were at Six Flags over St. Louis during the great heat wave of '83we were unaware they were scheduled to play there that night when we arrived in the morning, but by mid-afternoon we were both frying like bacon in the sun, and headed back to our hotel and the cool shady swimming pool thereof.  Majorly missed opportunity, although we did eventually see the band a couple years later opening for The Cult at the Uptown Theater in K.C.

Divinyls got a fair amount of airplay on MTV for their 1985 release, What A Life! and the minor hit single "Pleasure And Pain".  They followed that album with the even-better Temperamental in 1988, then were finally noticed in America when they started touching themselvesthe irony being that their biggest hit came from what was probably their weakest album, 1991's self-titled Divinyls.  I more or less lost track of them after that, although they've apparently released other records down under over the years.  I highly recommend their album Desperate from 1983, which is far and away their best from front to back.

My Divinyls Top 10:
10) "Back To The Wall" (1988)  Love the guitar figure near the end that mimics the schoolyard "Nyah nah na nyah nah!" chant.
9) "Boys In Town" (1983)  Lead-off track from the Desperate LP, and a frequent concert opener as well.
8) "Temperamental" (1988)  Title track of their second-best album, IMHO.
7) "Only Lonely" (1983)  This one had hit single written all over it, but it didn't happen here.
6) "Science Fiction" (1983)  Song with a touch of '80s synthesizer in itanother one that should've been a hit single over here.
5) "Guillotine Day" (1985)  Best song off the somewhat-wimpy What A Life album.  Amphlett cracks me up when she sings the line "too many stains in the bed..."
4) "Hey Little Boy" (1988)  Outstanding re-genderfied cover version of Syndicate of Sound's 1966 hit "Hey Little Girl".  McEntee's guitar work is top-notch here.  One of my all-time favorite remakes.
3) "Siren Song" (1983)  Great up-tempo track on which Mark and Christina do a rare duet.
2) "Elsie" (1983)  Lurid mid-tempo song portrait about a troubled and slightly deranged girl, whom Amphlett made seem very real with her vocals here:  "Life can be lonely/Life can be very sad/Life can be something you wish you never had..."  Great bass line on this one too.
1) "I'll Make You Happy" (1983)  Killer remake of 1966 hit by Australia's Easybeats (of "Friday On My Mind" fame), who featured guitarist George Young, brother of AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus Young.  Another of my all-time favorite cover songs.

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