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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Divinyl Intervention - Touching, No?

I've decided to keep the Sunday Jukebox a one-hit-wonder zone for the month of September, but before I go ahead with today's topic, I feel as though I need to offer up a little bit of a disclaimer.

Although I'm not going to be uttering a bunch of useless swears, disgusting, off-colour jokes, or turning this blog into a huge salute to the animated violence found in the recently released “Grand Theft Auto V”, I will be giving this blog a rating of “T” for Teen. I contemplated making the subject rated “M” for Mature, but to be honest with you, I don't think the subject matter is THAT bad.

That said, the subject matter is such that it's kind of on the...well...mature side. Too mature for say, a nine year old, but perfectly acceptable for someone who is thirteen or over.

So as you might have guessed, today's song has some subject matter which I would classify as not really appropriate for younger children. You've been warned ahead of time.

And, as you might have figured out, this song happens to be a one-hit-wonder – at least by American standards anyway.

So, I'm not sure if you've heard of the Parents Music Resource Center (affectionately or non-affectionately known as the PMRC). The group was founded in 1985 by Tipper Gore, Sally Nevius, Susan Baker, and Pam Howar, and if you're looking for the group that was responsible for those black and white “Parental Advisory” stickers that can be found on the bottom-right corner of most albums found in record stores today, they are the ones you can thank (or blame) for that addition.

They also came up with a list of songs at the time the group was founded known as the “Filthy Fifteen”. Songs that the group felt objectionable, and songs which the group believed provided a poor message to the youth of America.

I bet you're dying to know exactly what the so called “Filthy Fifteen” are, right? As it happens, I have that list. And, pay special attention to the ones that I have highlighted in a different colour.

Let Me Put My Love Into You” by AC/DC
Trashed” by Black Sabbath
High n' Dry (Saturday Night)” by Def Leppard
Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton
Eat Me Alive” by Judas Priest
She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper
Dress You Up” by Madonna
In My House” by Mary Jane Girls
Into The Coven” by Mercyful Fate
Bastard” by Motley Crue
Darling Nikki” by Prince
We're Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister
Strap On Robbie Baby” by Vanity
Possessed” by Venom
Animal (F@#$ Like A Beast)” by W.A.S.P.

Okay, so looking at that list, some of them are understandable. The group known as W.A.S.P. may have their fans, but there is no radio station that would play a song with that title unless it was edited out. Prince's “Darling Nikki” is quite the explicit song. I don't even think I can post the link to it. And, let's face it. We all know that Sheena Easton's “Sugar Walls” can only be found...below the belt. Not going to say any more about that one.

But, putting that classic Twisted Sister song on that list? Really? I mean, I suppose that it was sort of wrong to promote violence as that mean old dad kept getting injured...but with his attitude at the beginning of that song, he was sort of asking for it! It's a song that urged kids to challenge everything and to stand up to bullies and to make a stand.

Oh, I know why the PMRC hated that song.

And, really. “Dress You Up” in my love? THAT'S offensive? Not compared to some of the songs that you hear on the radio now. Truth be told, dressing someone up in your love sounds incredibly romantic as far as I'm concerned.

But, I digress.

Whatever the case, the songs on the “Filthy Fifteen” were chosen because their lyrics promoted violence, sex, the occult, and drug and alcohol usage.

So, why have I specifically highlighed the Cyndi Lauper and Prince songs within the “Filthy Fifteen”? Glad you asked. As it so happens, today's song also deals with the same subject that placed Prince and Cyndi Lauper on that “Filthy Fifteen” list. And it's a song that when it was released in the early 1990s, it received quite a bit of controversy given its subject matter.

Of course, controversy seems to sell almost every record. In the case of this song, it took the song all the way to #2 on the Billboard Charts, and topped the charts in their native Australia. In fact, if you're reading this blog from the Land Down Under right now, you'll likely be calling me a liar, as down in Australia, this group was as far from being a one-hit-wonder as you could get. Here in Canada and the United States, this song was the only one to ever reach as high a position on the Billboard Charts.

And that's despite the fact that when the song was released, many radio stations refused to play it because they felt that people would become offended by the song's content. I actually almost died of shock when the retro music station that I sometimes listen to on the radio actually played the song in the middle of the lunch hour!

So, what makes this song so controversial? Well, why don't I just post it, and we'll get the discussion started down below.

ARTIST: Divinyls
SONG: I Touch Myself
ALBUM: Divinyls
DATE RELEASED: December 2, 1990

I'm sure that the title's a dead giveaway.

Of course, before we begin talking about the song, let's talk a little bit about the band.

While the band who called themselves “Divinyls” were just a one-hit-wonder band here in North America, it certainly wasn't the case back in their native Australia, with the band releasing a total of five studio albums – four of which made the Australian Top 10 album sales charts. Since the band was founded in Sydney, Australia in 1980, the band released approximately two dozen singles. Most of them only peaked within the Top 50, but a few reached the Top 40. The band even scored their first (and only) #1 hit in 1991 with the song heard above.

At the time that “I Touch Myself” was released, the Divinyls were comprised of Chrissy Amphlett, Mark McEntee (two of the founding members of the group), Tim Millikan, Charley Drayton, Benmont Terch, and Randy Jackson.

(And by Randy Jackson, I don't mean Michael Jackson's brother or the American Idol judge.)

Anyway, the band stood out amongst the crowd, thanks largely in part to the sexuality that lead singer Amphlett brought to every single performance, as well as the brashness and humour she was known to display during talk show appearances and celebrity interviews for magazines.

I suppose given that, it makes sense as to why Amphlett would agree to record a single about...well...touching one's self. An activity that some people believe is a sin.

(Some people. Not myself, but some people.)

Anyway, back to the story. The reason why those songs by Cyndi Lauper and Prince were added to the list of the “Filthy Fifteen” is because those songs included references to...well...touching yourself.

I would imagine that had this Divinyls song been released five years earlier than it was, it more than likely would have kicked the Twisted Sister song off the list. At the very least, it would have gotten one of those Parental Advisory stickers on it, right?

Well, to be honest with you, after listening to the song a bunch of times, I don't think it's as naughty a song as it once was. At least, not compared to some of the other songs that have been played on the radio as of late. Seriously, comparing this song to Rihanna's “Rude Boy”, it makes this song sound like it came from “The Sound of Music” soundtrack.

(Okay, now I have this disturbing image of Julie Andrews singing this song. My bad.)

But seriously...I think that there are a couple of ways that one could interpret this song...and it all stems from the way that you define the words “I Touch Myself”.

Now, we've already discussed the meaning of one of these ways. Obviously, most people will automatically gravitate towards the idea that touching yourself really does mean...well...touching yourself. And, I'm 99.9% sure that this was what the band meant for you to think. It was a killer song with an addictive hook that was hardly ever played on radio because people's minds instantly went there and decided that the song was too hot to be seen on air or played on the radio.

Though, to be fair, Madonna and Quebec chanteuse Mitsou both had videos banned from MuchMusic the same year that “I Touch Myself” was released. I take it 1990 was a year in which everything was challenged and one-upped. I'm just speculating though. I was only nine, and was very much likely shielded from watching the music video clips by my parents.

The joys of growing up as the youngest child in the family...

Now, what if I told you that I have found a different way to interpret the song. It's a stretch, mind you, but had radio and television promoted the single like this, it may have gotten more airplay. Bear with me here.

I'm sure that most of you have heard the saying “I feel so touched”, right? It has nothing to do with the actual sense of touch as it does the feeling of love. Obviously if your true love tells you how they really feel about you in a loving, devoted sense, you'll naturally feel this feeling of warmth and joy...almost as if they've touched your heart in a romantic way.

So, you could also make the claim that every time Chrissy Amphlett thought about her man, it touches her in a way that she never thought if nobody else could ever love her in that way the way that he could.

Again, I'm stretching that explanation more than most people would stretch a piece of taffy. But it kind of works, doesn't it? At least humour me and tell me that this is the case! Please?

Anyway, the song itself still remains a hit in the world of pop culture, and the level of controversy associated with the song faded over time. The song appeared in the 1992 film “Prelude to a Kiss”, as well as in this memorable scene from the 1997 film “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery”.

Yeah...a bikini brief clad Mike Myers using his body to blow up fembots. That's an image that I will have a hard time removing from my brain.

And would you believe that the song has since been covered by Eve 6, Ben Folds, P!nk, and Weird Al Yankovic over the years? Very impressive.

Unfortunately for the Divinyls, this song ended up being one of the band's last hits. Six years later, Amphlett and McEntee had a huge falling out which inevitably broke the band up in 1997, during which time Amphlett pursued a career acting on stage in plays and musicals. Both Amphlett and McEntee would pursue solo projects as well, albeit to limited success. The two reunited at the 2006 ARIA Hall of Fame (ARIA standing for the Australian Recording Industry Association), and released some new material the following year. Sadly, the reunion was cut short in 2009 as Amphlett was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was forced to call the Divinyls quits. And because she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it made her unable to seek out any cancer fighting treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 2010s.

On April 21, 2013, Chrissy Amphlett passed away in New York City at just 53 years old.

However, somewhere up there, I'm certain that Chrissy is probably having a ball telling all of the angels up there about how her song about touching oneself ended up nearly topping the charts here in North America.

At least, we can dream of Amphlett making those stuffy harp-playing angels blush!  

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