Vale Chrissy Amphlett

Published April 22, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

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.

Chrissy Amphlett Photo: Tony Mott

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.

11 comments on “Vale Chrissy Amphlett

  • Great piece. I recall boys I know making vile comments about her and not understanding her/her lyrics such that I would listen when they weren’t around so I didn’t have to hear their opinion of her.vale Chrissy.

  • I’ll be thinking of Chrissy while I’m walking in the Relay for Life. I’ll dedicate a lap to her.

    Smeg. Another original struck down by cancer.

    You know, every time a powerful woman entertainer comes along, the chorus goes up. ‘Oh, she’s so angry! Listen to all the negativity! She’s not a lady! Why would anyone want to listen to all that loud, unladylike, dirty stuff? Now be a good girl and go put on a Doris Day album.’

    They said it about Janis Joplin, they said it about Chrissy, they said it about Melissa Etheridge, and Madonna, and Joan Jett, and dozens of others. They’ll say it about the next great ‘unladylike’ singer, too.

    The good news is that every few years or so, a powerful woman comes along and shows us how it’s done. And even though there are lots of little girls who aren’t allowed to listen to them, those little girls do just what you did: they sneak and hide and even steal, but they GET the music. They GET the words. And they grow up knowing what strong and unashamed looks like. And if they’re very, very lucky, the go on to live it, too.

    And then, like you, they help show us all how it’s done.

    • You’re right Twistie. We find ways to listen and watch and read and hear their messages, even when the world conspires to silence them. Let’s commit to signal boosting as many fierce as fuck women that we can find!

  • Hi there,
    Great post!
    This is unrelated, but I was reading Red No.3 and noticed that after regular blogging, the author has stopped cold over the last 10 months with no explanation. Any chance that you know what’s up with that? Just thought that maybe you might know since the two of you are quite well known in the fat acceptance blogging community!

  • Wow… I have to say thank you for bringing Chrissy to my attention. Growing up in the states during the era of riot grrrls, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard more about her! “I Touch Myself” got some airtime in the 90s. but that’s about it. I just bought all 3 of the Divinyls albums I could find online. So sad that we’ve lost this fierce feminist icon, but her music and her legacy lives on!

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