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Encyclopedia entry for 'Divinyls' LETTER:

Formed in 1980
StyleRock, pop
 Original line-up: Christina Amphlett (vocals), Mark McEntee (guitar; ex-Air Supply), Bjarn Ohlin (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Jeremy Paul (bass; ex-Air Supply), Richard Harvey (drums; ex-Farmer John)
 Albums: Music from Monkey Grip (mini-album soundtrack; WEA, 1982), Desperate (Chrysalis/Festival, 1983), What a Life! (Chrysalis/Festival, 1985), Temperamental (Chrysalis/Festival, 1988), diVINYLS (Virgin, 1991), The Essential Divinyls (compilation, Chrysalis/EMI, 1991), The Collection (compilation, Virgin, 1993), Divinyls Live (Massive, 1994), Underworld (BMG/RCA, 1996), Make You Happy 1981– 1993 (Raven, 1997).

Led by provocative singer Christina Amphlett, whose songwriting with guitarist Mark McEntee is the basis of the band, Divinyls have recorded a wealth of excellent material. The band's sound has ranged from commercial hard-pop and driving arena rock to alluring ballads. As the band's focal point, Amphlett has strutted her stuff across stages the world over, astounding or bewildering audiences with her displays of school uniform-clad bump'n'grind burlesque, unrestrained sexuality and animal grace.

By the time Divinyls formed in 1980, Amphlett had been singing in bands since the early 1970s. Her early bands included Daisy Clover (which she joined at age 14), One Ton Gypsy and Steam-hammer. She had also spent three years travelling throughout Europe, during which time she spent a period in a Spanish gaol. Her travels no doubt gave her a wealth of experience from which to draw her lyrics.

Divinyls emerged out of inner-city Sydney and quickly built up a national following. In September 1981 WEA issued the band's debut single, `Boys in Town'/`Only One' which reached #8 during October. It was lifted from the mini-album Music from Monkey Grip (#27 in June 1982), the soundtrack to the film of the same name directed by Ken Cameron. Amphlett took the small speaking part of Angela in the film. The band supported UK band Simple Minds and Icehouse on an Australian tour. In March 1982, Rick Grossman (bass; ex-Bleeding Hearts, Parachute, Matt Finish) replaced Jeremy Paul. With the help of astute manager Vince Lovegrove (ex-Valentines) Divinyls signed to Chrysalis and recorded the punchy Desperate album in New York with producers Mark Opitz and Bob Clearmountain. Desperate (January 1983) peaked at #3 on the national chart, and produced the singles `Science Fiction'/`I'll Make You Happy' (November 1982), `Siren (Never Let You Go)'/`Elsie' (April 1983) and `Casual Encounter'/`Gonna Get You', `Only Lonely' (live) (August). Only `Science Fiction' charted (#13 in January 1983).

Divinyls continued to tour extensively, both locally and overseas. `Good Die Young'/`9.50' (August 1984) and `In My Life'/`Don't You Go Walking' (November) followed. In 1985, J.J. Harris replaced Richard Harvey on drums. Producers Mike Chapman (Suzi Quatro, Sweet, Blondie), Mark Opitz (Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil) and Art of Noise's Gary Langan guided the band through the confident What a Life! album (November 1985). What a Life! made its debut on the national chart at #5, and reached #2 a week later. The Chapman/ Holly Knight-penned single `Pleasure and Pain'/ `What a Life' peaked at #5 in Australia during November, and also cracked the American Top 40. Two further singles were lifted off What a Life!, `Sleeping Beauty'/`Motion' (December 1985) and `Heart Telegraph'/`Guillotine Day' (May 1986).

Following months of extensive touring across the USA, Divinyls were invited to participate in the enormous Australian Made tour in early 1987. By that stage, the line-up featured Amphlett, McEntee, Grossman and three Americans, Frank Infante (guitar, ex-Blondie, Iggy Pop Band), Tom Caine (drums) and Kenny Lyon (keyboards). Such was the band's arena rock experience that it consistently lived up to audience expectations on the tour.

By the time Divinyls recorded the second Mike Chapman-produced album, Temperamental, the band was basically the duo of Amphlett and McEntee. Helping out were Lyon, Warren McLean (drums; ex-Machinations) and Tim Millikan (bass; ex-Tootieville). Temperamental peaked at #9 on the national chart during May 1988. Its three singles, `Back to the Wall'/`Fighting' (#20 in March), Syndicate of Sound's `Hey Little Boy'/`Para Dice' (#24 in July) and `Punxsie'/`Victoria' (October) were minor hits. In late 1990, Divinyls signed to Virgin and issued the biggest album of their career. Produced by Englishman David Tickle (Split Enz), and aided by American session players like Benmont Tench (Hammond organ), Randy Jackson (bass) and Charlie Drayton (drums), diVINYLS (February 1991) ushered in a revival of the band's fortunes. It spawned the #1 Australian hit single `I Touch Myself'/`Follow Through' (January).

The second single, `Love School'/`Love School' (instrumental), was not quite so successful, having stalled at #43 during April. Likewise the third and fourth singles, `Make Out Alright' (May) and `I'm on Your Side'/`I Touch Myself' (live) (September), were not chart hits. Nevertheless, the provocative `I Touch Myself' (a blatant paean to masturbation) took Divinyls into the US Top 10 (#4) and UK Top 10 (#10). Likewise, diVINYLS went Top 5 in Australia and #15 in the US. `Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart' (Australian #19 in January 1993), Chip Taylor's `Wild Thing' (#39 in May) and Roxy Music's `Love is the Drug' (November) continued the hit run. Director Yahoo Serious used `Wild Thing' on the soundtrack to his feature film Reckless Kelly. `Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart' appeared on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack, while `Love is the Drug' was heard on the Super Mario Bros soundtrack.

For the Divinyls Live album (recorded in 1991), the line-up featured the omnipresent Amphlett and McEntee, plus Charlie Owen (rhythm guitar; ex-New Christs), Jerome Smith (bass), Lee Borkman (keyboards) and Charlie Drayton (drums, by then also playing bass with Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos). Divinyls' first album for BMG/RCA, Underworld (#47 in August 1996), yielded the singles `I'm Jealous' (#14 in April 1995), `Hard on Me' (March 1996), `Human on the Inside' (June) and `Heart of Steel' (October). Drayton played on the album and also produced nine tracks. Divinyls' first release for 1997, `For a Good Time', was the fifth CD single lifted from Underworld.

By 1998, Christine Amphlett and Mark McEntee seemed to have put Divinyls on hold. McEntee recorded with Jimmy Barnes, appearing on his 1999 album Love and Fear. Amphlett turned to the theatre stage, taking the role of Judy Garland for the 1999 season of the long-running musical production, The Boy from Oz (The Peter Allen Story).

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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