I Touch Myself

OHW I Touch Myself by krin.jpg

Date Aired
August 31st, 2016
Running Time
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Todd plays "I Touch Myself" on the piano.

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. I'm still...still doing those requests. And yes, I did promise you something a little raunchier than the twee, cutesy song I did last time. Well, here you go.

Video for "I Touch Myself"
Chrissy Amphlett: You're the one who makes me come runnin'
You're the sun...

Todd (VO): You know, I can't believe this is the first time I've covered an Australian band on One Hit Wonderland.

Todd: This means I finally get to bust out my Australian accent. Say some of my favorite Aussie phrases like "good day, mate," and "that's not a knife," and "I masturbate frequently." Oy!

Chrissy: I don't want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself

Todd (VO): The Australian band I'm covering is the Divinyls, who had their one hit in 1991, which, as I've said before, was a...

Todd: ...weird, weird year.

Todd (VO): The '80s were over, but the '90s hadn't really started yet. It was the weirdest of all in mainstream rock, which developed a whole vibe that existed for only that year, [brief clip of Pearl Jam - "Evenflow"] and would be dead and gone once the grunge revolution set in.

Todd: And okay, I may have overhyped how dirty this request was gonna be.

Todd (VO): And even for the time, it was kind of dwarfed by whatever Madonna was doing in 1991. I mean, it's just female masturbation. It's...

Todd: ...you know, she's just...she's...

Chrissy: When I think about you
I touch myself

Todd: You know, I'm discovering I'm really not comfortable talking about...

Todd (VO): ...about, you know, this. And it's...

Todd: ...I don't know why. It's not like I'm unfamiliar with the concept. I have the Internet.

Todd (VO): But even though we in America only know them for their shameless ode to solo sex, there's so much more to this band than just some Aussie chick tossing some shrimp on her barbie.

Todd: I hate myself. But yeah, there's a lot more to them, actually, so let's check them out.

Chrissy: Oh

Before the hit

Todd: There are basically three kinds of artists I cover on One Hit Wonderland. They were A., [album cover of Debby Boone - You Light Up My Life...] not good enough to have a second hit; [...and single cover of Boris Pickett - "Monster Mash"] 2., too weird to have a second hit; or 3., actually good artists that just happened to line up with the popular zeitgeist for one single moment. And usually, they're a big deal in their home country if they're foreign. You have to be kind of respectful for that last one, so it's the hardest one to talk about, especially if their subject matter already makes you kind of uncomfortable. Yeah.

But anyway, yes, the Divinyls are the real deal.

Clip of "Siren (Never Let You Go)"
Chrissy: I knew when I met you, I would not forget you
I knew I'd have to let you know, oh,

Todd (VO): Let's start at the beginning. The Divinyls are two people: lead singer Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee, and a bunch of rotating other guys. One of the original members was [clip of live performance by...] previously the bass player for Air Supply, so...

Todd: ...gee, wonder why he didn't fit in.

Clip of "Sleeping Beauty"
Chrissy: Still waiting for my ship to come in

Todd (VO): Anyway, Chrissy and Mark met [pictures of the Sydney Opera House] here, in Sydney, Australia. And I didn't just pick this as a generic picture of Sydney. I mean specifically, right there. The Opera House. McEntee first saw Amphlett performing at the Opera House...

Todd: ...with a church choir.

Brief clip of live performance

Todd (VO): I don't think "I Touch Myself" had been written yet, but if it had, I'm sure it's what they would've performed.

Clip of trailer for...

They released their first album in 1982: a soundtrack for a movie called Monkey Grip. It's about a [clips from Monkey Shines and The Road Warrior] psychotic killer monkey that terrorizes a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland. I don't know...

Todd: ...what this movie's about. But I like the songs from it.

Clip of "Boys in Town"
Chrissy: I must have been desperate
I must have been pretty low

Todd (VO): Musically, this band reminds me of [brief clip of "Message of Love" by...] the Pretenders a lot, not the least because Chrissy Hynde and Chrissy Amphlett are pretty similar-looking women with the same first name. Same hair, even. [Clip of "Science Fiction"] But the Divinyls, I think, never really lost their punk edge the way the Pretenders did. The Pretenders were always kind of mainstream. The Divinyls were a little more New Wave, and they were [clip of "Hey Little Boy"] pretty popular in the US on the college circuit, too.

Chrissy: Hey little boy
You don't have to hide nothing no more

Todd (VO): And they seem to have been pretty consistently popular in Australia. Not like huge pop stars or anything, but they had a few hits. And, as you can see, [clip of "Pleasure and Pain"] Chrissy Amphlett was not shy about playing up the sex angle from the very beginning.

Chrissy: It's a fine line between pleasure and pain
You've done it once, you can do it again

Todd (VO): Which is not to say she was another pop music pin-up. She was a lot more confrontational than a Britney Spears. Although, like Britney, she did like wearing [picture of Chrissy in a...] school uniforms, much like [brief clip of AC/DC - "Back in Black"] Australia's most famous band...although it looks a little better on her.

Clip of commercial for Blood Brothers

Also, when she wasn't on tour with the band, she did a little theatre work in Australia, too.

Announcer: Christina Amphlett is sensational.

Todd (VO): I only mention because I wanted to share this clip. Alright, hold it, freeze it. [Arrow points to the actor on the right, who is a young...] Recognize him? [Headshot of Russell Crowe] Yep. Never forget.

Todd: All Australians know each other. Next time you meet an Australian, [picture of...] just ask them what Margot Robbie is like, and they'll tell you.

Clip of "Back to the Wall"
Chrissy: When my back's to the wall

Todd (VO): Anyway, after three successful underground albums, Amphlett was poised for stardom, and Divinyls started attracting attention from major labels looking for the next Madonna.

Todd: Clearly, she had the charisma, but could she pull it off.

The big hit

Video for "I Touch Myself"
Chrissy: I love myself
I want you to love me

Todd: Yeah, there's...not a lot of buildup to the whole masturbation thing, is there?

Chrissy: I love myself

Todd (VO): Not only is it in the title and the hook, it's the first line.

Chrissy: I search myself

Todd (VO): Considering how uptight we always are about sex—and certainly, that was true in 1991...

Todd: ...you'd think a song this blunt about female sexuality would be pretty controversial. Was it, though?

Chrissy: I don't want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself

Todd (VO): Honestly, from what I can tell, not really. MTV certainly played this around the clock; I couldn't find anything about it being banned anywhere.

Todd: Which...you know, actually doesn't surprise me.

Chrissy: I close my eyes and see you before me
Think I would die if you were to ignore me

Todd (VO): If anything, it's pretty tame for a hot lady in a short dress and fishnets singing about touching herself. Monocles stayed resting comfortably on people's faces when this song came on.

Todd: I can think of lots of songs about self-pleasure. Tons. I've talked about some of them before. But...

Clips of Devo - "Whip It"...

Todd (VO): ...they're all by guys. Songs about girl masturbation are much rarer. There's [...and Cyndi Lauper's...] "She Bop," which you might not even know was about that if you're not listening closely. And there's...

Todd: ...actually, is that it? I think it might be.

Chrissy: Oh no, oh no, oh no

Todd (VO): Actually, I know why I'm not comfortable talking about this: there's no good euphemisms for it. You know, all the songs about dudes jerking off at least had to cover it in metaphors or be a little coy about it. If you're a chick, though, there's...not really a whole lot of clever words. There's...I guess this song didn't really have a choice except to just lay it out there. Just...

Todd: [slams hand on piano] ...bam. "I touch myself."

Chrissy: When I feel down, I want you above me

Todd (VO): But if I hadn't made it clear, yeah, this song is still awesome. And it's not just a song about touching yourself. It's a song of seduction.

Chrissy: I want you

Todd: She wants you to know that she touches herself thinking of you.

Chrissy: When I think about you
I touch myself

Todd (VO): That is exclusively a female privilege. You cannot be a guy and just go...

Todd: ..."hey girl, I jerked off in the shower thinking about you this morning."

"Well, go on, big boy."

Chrissy: I...
I don't want...

Todd (VO): That's...that's what she's saying. You can't deny, she's killing it, right? There's no way this wasn't gonna be a hit. Beyond that, she looks great. I mean, she's not a model or anything, but the camera still loves her. For that, you can thank the video director: a young up-and-comer named [picture of...] Michael Bay. Which...you can kinda tell, right?

Todd: There's a lot of his trademarks in there.

Chrissy: I love myself, I want you to love me
[Clips of destruction from Armageddon and Transformers]
When I feel down, I want you above me

Todd (VO): But really, you have to be really uptight to object to this. I mean, it's so happy, it's almost innocent.

Chrissy: Ooh

Todd (VO): Okay, yes, it is still kind of dirty, but who cares?

Todd: And I really do this song only could've happened in 1991.

Todd (VO): Not because of the subject matter, just 'cause of the style. We had this idea of what sexy was in media that year. You know, [brief clip of commercial for...] guys wore Bugle Boy jeans and cowboy hats. The music has this kind of desert twang to it, like what the Divinyls are rockin' here. I've listened to the entire Divinyls discography, and they never had a groove as tight as this. And I've given most of the attention...

Todd: ...to Chrissy, but Mark McEntee's guitar work is so good on this song.

Guitar solo

Todd (VO): But yeah, mostly, I think the big factor in this song's success is that she's singing about what she's singing about.

Chrissy: When I think about you, I touch myself

Todd (VO): Did she just say that?

Todd: She doesn't really touch herself, does she?

Chrissy: I honestly do
I touch myself

Todd: Okay, I guess she does. But what else does she do?

The failed follow-up

Todd (VO): Okay, this is their follow-up [single cover] "Love School," which is not the name of a VH1 reality show...yet.

Clip of "Love School"
Chrissy: I don't want anybody else

Todd (VO): That's not part of the actual song, they just added that for the video. And no matter how many times I see something like that happen on this show, it will always, always stink of insecurity. It's like saying out loud, "yes, please remember our first song 'cause we know this one could never become a hit on its own." Which it didn't.

Chrissy: Hey, don't you be a fool
You need to go to love school

Todd (VO): I guess this song isn't terrible, but it's just not something very memorable. Honestly, I think it's one of the weaker songs on the album; I don't know why it was the follow-up. And she is working it extra hard in this one. I mean, she was always in control of her image from the very beginning, it wasn't like it was foisted on her, but it does seem like she's trying maybe a little too much at this point. Right? Right, am I right?

Todd: Anyway, I liked the third single a lot better.

Clip of "Make Out Alright"
Chrissy: I know where you go
You're gonna make out alright
Or break out alright

Todd (VO): This is "Make Out Alright," and it did alright. It's a lot more fun than "Love School," at least. It's got a groove to it. One that, for some reason, I can only think of as...

Todd: ...Australian.

Todd (VO): Like, whatever Australian rock sounds like, it is this. But it didn't really catch on here, nor in Australia, nor anywhere else. I mean, that's the problem with having your first hit song be about masturbating.

Todd: The thing about masturbation is, once you're finished, you feel sad and gross and you want to forget everything about it.

Clip of "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore"

Todd (VO): But since they had this big international audience all of the sudden, their next album was a compilation album of all their own hits...

Todd: ...plus a handful of new singles that were all covers.

Clip of "Wild Thing"
Chrissy: Wild thing
You make my heart sing

Todd (VO): Even in 1993, we did not need...

Todd: ...any more covers of "Wild Thing."

Did they ever do anything else?

Todd: Well, they only released one more album ever. Didn't do very well.

Clip of "I'm Jealous"
Chrissy: What she got that I don't

Todd (VO): By this point, it was 1995, and the landscape had changed so dramatically that it was difficult to imagine any way the Divinyls could've fit themselves in. In the age of Alanis, Hootie, Green Day? No, the Divinyls would forever be confined to 1991.

Todd: Of course, a part of it might be that, at this point, Amphlett was drinking pretty heavily.

Clip of "Human on the Inside"
Chrissy: I'm only human on the inside

Todd (VO): Also, she and McEntee had a pretty volatile relationship, by which I mean yes, they were sleeping together, and yes, they were fighting pretty constantly at that point. And so the band just kinda gave up and called it off.

Todd: In the meantime, Chrissy went [album cover and picture of Chrissy in...] back to theatre. She played Judy Garland in The Boy from Oz. She also got married to one of the band's drummers, [picture of...] Charley Dayton [sic], who you might know better for this.

Clip of B-52s - "Love Shack"
B-52s: The Love Shack...

Todd (VO): Yeah, before he was in the Divinyls, he was in the B-52s, another band who built up a cult following in the '80s, broke through in the early '90s, and then disappeared.

Clip of live performance

Chrissy and Mark didn't talk for a long time, but in 2006, they reunited for a brief tour after being inducted into the Australian Music Hall of Fame.

Clip from ceremony
Hugh Jackman: I'll never forget the first time I saw the Divinyls, led by the charismatic Chrissy Amphlett.

Todd (VO): See, I told you. Everyone in Australia knows each other.

Todd: Unfortunately, in 2010...

Clip of interview

Todd (VO): ...Amphlett was tragically diagnosed with breast cancer. Would it be tasteless if I made a joke about...touching yourself to check for breast lumps?

Todd: That'd be out of line, wouldn't it? I'm sorry.

Clip from HLN Morning Express
Robin Meade: And now, stars like Olivia Newton-John are hoping to encourage women to do self-exams through one of the band's hit songs.

Todd (VO): Oh, okay, I'm good. Phew. Anyway, Amphlett also had multiple sclerosis, so she couldn't receive chemotherapy, and she passed away in 2013.

Todd: A truly sad day for an underappreciated icon of Australian music.

Did they deserve better?

Todd: Yeah.

Chrissy: I don't want anybody else

Todd (VO): Did they deserve better in the sense of, did they deserve more than one hit song? Yeah. But they were a cult band through and through. They just weren't a band that could be appreciated by the mainstream, but they are still considered one of Australia's best rock bands, if their Hall of Fame induction is any indication. But even if they had only ever had this one song, they'd still be great. Just a solid guilty pleasure about guilty-pleasuring yourself.

Todd: The Divinyls—they touched themselves. They also touched all of us.

Chrissy: I touch myself

Closing tag song: Nightcore - "I Touch Myself"

"I Touch Myself" is owned by Virgin Records
This video is owned by me


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