CHRISSY AMPHLETT: REMEMBERING AUSTRALIA'S FIRST LADY OF ROCK

April 22, 2013, 3:30 pm Joanna Holcombe The Hype

Chrissy Amphlett, best remembered as the rebellious first lady of Australian Rock and Roll, has passed away aged 53 in New York City after battling cancer.

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Born Christine Joy Amphlett on 25 October, 1959 in Geelong, Victoria, Amphlett started her performing life as a singer and ballet dancer, attending high school in the quiet suburb of Belmont, Victoria.But it was not long before Amphlett was on the road, leaving home as a teenager and travelling the world. During her travels, Amphlett was arrested and jailed in Spain for three months. The crime was very fitting -- singing on the streets.

Chrissy Amphlett performing onstage, time unknown. Credit: Getty Images

In 1980, Amphlett met Mark McEntee at a concert at the Sydney Opera House, a fateful meeting that would give rise to one of Australia's best known female-led rock bands, the Divinyls.While the Divinyls had an ever-changing line-up over their 16-year duration, two constants remained, Amphlett and McEntee. Together both on the stage and off, the pair shared a tumultuous behind-the-scenes relationship.Amphlett's cousin, Patricia Amphlett -- famous in her own right as Little Pattie -- said in a 2012 interview that her provocative, temperamental onstage persona was a far cry from the real Chrissy."Offstage she is nothing like that. She is very lovely, worldly-wise and vivacious company."Little Pattie also praised her cousin as the paving the way for females in the rock industry in Australia. "Before Chrissy Amphlett and the Divinyls, rarely did a female performer front a band. And if they did, they weren’t actually fronting the band.“But when Chrissy came along it was like ‘move over you fellas, it’s all about me now’. She broke the mould of the very male-dominated world of rock music. She broke that forever.”

Amphlett onstage with the Divinyls in 1983. Credit: Getty Images


Over the decades, the Divinyls released a number of albums, starting with "Monkey Grip EP" in 1982 (for the film "Monkey Grip", in which Amphlett and McEntee also had small roles). The band released three more albums -- "Desperate" (1983), "What A Life!" (1985) and "Temperamental" (1988) -- before hitting it big locally and internationally with their self-titled "diVINYLS" album in 1991. Their trademark single from the album, "I Touch Myself", produced the Divinyls' only number one hit in Australia. It went to number four in the US and number 10 in the UK, giving the band their greatest global success. The song, which included the lyrics, "When I think about you, I touch myself" caused so much controversy that during a performance in Texas in 1991, the show's organisers pulled the plug mid-song.Divinyls produced one more album, "Underworld" (1996), before Amphlett and McEntee's personal relationship ended in 1997. They didn't formally disband Divinyls, but the group no longer performed or released music together.

Amphlett with husband Charley Dreyton. Credit: Getty Images

After the separation, Amphlett headed to the stage, playing Judy Garland in the first Australian production of The Boy From Oz to critical acclaim in 1998. Amphlett did not join the production when it hit Broadway in 2003, although she did reprise her role of Judy Garland again in 2006, this time alongside Aussie actor Hugh Jackman in the lead role of Peter Allen.During this time, Amphlett found love again, this time with former Divinyls drummer, Charles Dreyton, who had been with the band since 1991. The pair married in 1999, remaining in New York until her passing.Divinyls reunited in 2006 for their induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, giving their first performance during the awards ceremony in a decade. The band reformed and released a compilation, "Greatest Hits" (2007) as well as a new single. The band officially split in August 2009, with Amphlett announcing she had a new band in New York.
Amphlett was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1990s, although she kept the news of her battle with the debilitating disease a secret until 2007.Speaking to Sunday Night in an interview last year, Amphlett said she first experienced the symptoms of MS while onstage in the mid 90s."Where I think it began, when I was doing the 'Boy From Oz', when I would hit that last note of Judy Garland, my leg would start to shake and I just thought it was nerves."Amphlett continued: "It wasn't until about 2005, I was walking along the street, I was walking along 19th Street. It was very hot and I couldn't walk. All of a sudden my body shut down and I couldn't - I had a lot of trouble putting one leg in front of the other."The singer also admitted to enduring dark times with the disease. "Sometimes you get pretty down. Sometimes you think, well, it's better off me being dead than going through this. I mean, it really gets you down."

Amphlett with Mark McEntee of the Divinyls at the ARIA Hall of Fame induction. Credit: Getty Images

Despite these admissions, Amphlett underwent a controversial treatment for MS just before the interview with Sunday Night aired in April last year. She believed that the treatment, in which they use a stent to unblock stenosed veins, was a success for her. "I think we got it. I think we did... Nice work."MS was not the only disease Amphlett battled. In 2010 the singer revealed she was also battling breast cancer. It was thought in 2011 that Amphlett had beaten the cancer, although reports circulating suggest that she was unable to have radiation or chemotherapy and as such, this was the cause of death. In her autobiography, Pleasure and Pain: My Life (2005), Amphlett also revealed alcohol and drug issues during her time with the Divinyls in the 80s and 90s.Amphlett leaves behind a husband, Charles Dreyton.Molly Meldrum remembers Chrissy Amphlett

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