It’s hard to explain how lucky us Aussie Gen X-er’s were in our childhood to those who weren’t there. Some of my fondest memories came out of the radio. Sitting over breakfast, I was treated to INXS’s ‘Just Keep Walking’ as I got ready for my day. In my spare time, I’d hold Dragon concerts on our front verandah with my slippery socked feet, sliding across the tiles frantically as I belted out the lyrics. The days when I wasn’t yet aware I didn’t have a musical bone in my body.
Then, a visit to Gram and Granddad’s house. It was the early 80′s, and a Divinyls song came onto the telly in the background. My Granddad yelled for it to be switched off, as I craned to see and hear as much as I could before someone walked to the TV to turn it off (remember TVs with knobs?). He ranted about how dirty, filthy and disgusting she was.
Well, yes she was. I loved her in that instant. A lifelong fan was born. Chrissy fascinated me. As a child who’d been raised to be a nice girl, prim, proper, to sit with her legs together and not let anyone see my knickers, Chrissy confronted all I knew about femininity. We saw up her dress, we heard her sordid tales of desperation, of shagging all the boys. We gawked at her ripped stockings, her smeared eyeliner. The oldies were shocked, horrified and disgusted. And yet no one died as a result. Her songs were public declarations of things nice girls didn’t say out loud, things nice girls didn’t do.
She was rough, tough, almost even neandarthal. But I’m yet to hear of one person from my generation who didn’t love her without question. She was us, she was just more upfront about it.
Yet beyond the breathy, husky, one of a kind voice challenging us to judge her, was so much more. She gave us her vulnerability, her pain, her darkness. I watched Chrissy go bat shit crazy on the stage (in the days we were blessed enough to not yet call it ‘cray cray’), and the world didn’t spontaneously combust. She voiced my Gen X fear that, ‘I always thought that they’d drop the bomb’. How did she know us so well? I loved her subtle humour in everything she did. If there’s one thing I took away from Chrissy after all these years, it’s not to take ourselves so seriously all the time.
Was there ever anyone more themselves and the hell with the rest of you than Chrissy?
Even as a child, I always marvelled at how she got her voice to be so unique. It still blows me away, but all I can say now is that it was a gift. She was our gift. How did she get to be so gutsy, I always wondered?
Chrissy Amphlett has always been Oz rock royalty here. You yanks had Joan Jett and the Blackhearts asking you to touch her there. You poms have Shirley Manson singing the virtues of the golden shower. Us Aussies had Chrissy Amphlett not only declaring that she touches herself, but she had all of us happily screaming it out at the nightclub.
She gave us Gen X-ers permission to feel natural and normal about our sexuality and to be able to laugh at ourselves.
It’s been my privelige to not only grow up with Chrissy, but to watch her grow from this awkward, troubled girl into a magnificent, juicy beast. Chrissy, I have always admired your unapologetic ferocity. Your originality. That sweet angelic side that shone through the psycho, wayward schoolgirl.
I hope wherever you are now in death, that you can feel the world’s love send you higher. More importantly, I hope you knew how loved you were when you were alive.
You shaped a nation Chrissy, and a generation. As I mourn the loss of you and the end of your era, as I fear for the future of Oz rock, I will make sure that my children know who Chrissy Amphlett was. I will ensure they know all of your songs, word for word.