I just heard some sad news an hour or so ago. At a mere age of 53, brilliant Australian rock musician, front woman for The Divinyls, Chrissy Amphlett has passed away after a battle with cancer.
My heart is very heavy on hearing this news, because Chrissy was… well she was fucking awesome. She was wild, sexy, fierce, cool, smart, and a fucking rock goddess. And she was Australian.
I was incredibly young when she first came to my notice. Maybe 8 or 9. She came screaming on to screen dressed in a schoolgirl uniform, with torn fishnets, shaggy hair, loads of makeup smeared all over her face and there was no-one else like her. She was the ultimate rock bitch. Raw and broken, aggressive and sexy, wild and wicked and smoking hot, fiercely intelligent and deeply passionate… and completely unapologetic for it. She was called everything from crazy to dirty to angry and beyond. She was intimidating to everyone – even her fans. But she was completely and utterly badass.
And she wrote (or co-wrote) all of those amazing songs herself. She was no mans puppet, no doll dressed up on stage being pretty and perfect. It was her voice that screamed out, her words, her sexuality, her anger. She screamed and raged and fought her audience and those who tried to intimidate her. If men tried to look up her skirt, or called out disgusting things to her, she raged at them, shoving her stiletto into their faces, hurling her mike stand or anything else she could get her hands on. She was “unladylike” and aggressive, pouting, snarling and screaming. She often described herself as “the monster Australia needed”. Her stage presence was both a persona and her true self, all rolled in to one.
She sang about the pressure of girls to be sexy and slut shaming, she sang about women’s sexuality, she sang about masturbation, she sang about kink and abusive relationships, she sang about real subjects and she got a lot of shit for it. But that never held her back.
I remember my father calling her the most horrific names whenever she appeared on television. He told me I wasn’t allowed to play or like her music because she was a “dog” and a “slut”. But I loved her and thought she was beautiful and amazing. Perhaps he knew just how much she was subverting his power over me, a burgeoning teen who had been taught that women should be invisible and silent, lest they be labelled “dog” or “slut” or dozens of other derogatory names my father had for women that he deemed unworthy (which to be honest, was almost all women).
I kept photos of her cut from magazines in a sewing box under my bed. I wasn’t allowed to buy her music, so I taped it off the radio and hid the tapes, only listening with headphones or when my father and brother weren’t around. Or I taped the music videos and performances on Countdown or other shows off TV, and hid those tapes too. When I was 14 I stole a copy of Monkey Grip (on beta video!) and watched it secretly one day I was home alone sick from school. Boys in Town was my favourite song, and still is.
Sadly I never got the chance to see her live. I had wanted to even see her play Judy Garland in The Boy from Oz but never got the opportunity to do that either.
She was the first truly powerful woman I ever encountered. She was here expressing her sexuality before Madonna. She did angry before Alanis. She was girl power before the Spice Girls. I actually think that women don’t get the opportunity to express themselves like she did now, they are so objectified and marketed to the wazoo. She would be considered “unsellable” now, and would receive so much hate for being who she was. That’s not to say she didn’t get that then, but I think now it’s all about the marketability of women in music… where are the Chrissy’s of today? This is a woman who fronted a band that had huge hits and popularity while also being wildly radical.
She was a legend in her lifetime and I’m sure she’ll go on to be regarded a greater one now that she’s gone.
I hope she’s up in heaven already causing a ruckus.
I think I’ll leave this post with the best way to celebrate Chrissy… with her music.