First published on 9 May 2013. Updated on 3 Jul 2013.
Time Out Melbourne is part of a committee set to petition Melbourne City Council for a laneway named in honour of the Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett, who died of breast cancer on April 22, aged 53.
Minor laneways in Melbourne are often titled Corporation Lane, which has led to past successful petitions to have them renamed after beloved local characters; two pertinent examples being ACDC Lane in the city and Rowland S Howard Lane in St Kilda – the latter of which was approved by the City of Port Phillip just last month.
In the 1970s, Amphlett lived in a mansion in Kew and worked as a typically glamorous shopgirl at legendary Melbourne boutique, the House of Merivale and Mr John. At the start of the Divinyls' career, the band appeared in that most Melbourne of movies, Monkey Grip, and would appear on the set of Countdown in Ripponlea. Her haunts included the Waiters Club in the city. “Melbourne has always had a great night life – the best night life – it’s a place that has influenced me enormously, from clothes to rock’n’roll,” she told Time Out in an interview in 2011.
The petition, started by journalist and author Jessica Adams with the blessing of Amphlett’s partner Charley Drayton, has amassed 5,288 signatures so far, including Baby Animals vocalist Suze DeMarchi, actor Noah Taylor and Amphlett's team of New York doctors (according to Drayton). Many of the friends and fans (including one who has seen her play a mere 45 times) who have signed have taken the opportunity to pay their tributes in the form of comments.
One longterm fan of Amphlett is music industry entrepreneur and Mushroom Records founder Michael Gudinski, whom Time Out spoke to about the laneway proposition.
“Chrissy was unique,” Gudinski says simply. “She had a real stage persona, similar to Angus Young of AC/DC. She was outrageous on stage, and multitalented – she was interested in theatre and poetry, and very intelligent. They came so close to chart success in America, but they didn’t get as big as they should have. She was such great rock band singer at a time when there weren’t many women doing it.”
Gudinski’s ties to the band go back a long way. He first met their late manager, Vince Lovegrove, when he was a roadie for the Valentines – the band fronted by Lovegrove and Bon Scott. Later, when Lovegrove came to manage the Divinyls, Gudinski frequently expressed his interest in signing them. “We spent a lot of time talking about it,” he recalls, “but Mark Opitz who produced ‘Boys in Town’ [the Divinyls’ debut single in 1981], was working for Warner at the time and so Mushroom missed the boat.”
Gudinski and Amphlett stayed in touch over the years, last crossing paths when Cold Chisel reformed. “She was upbeat,” he reflects, “because she had a strong will. But unfortunately she had one illness after another and was pretty hard hit.”
While Amphlett was born and raised in Geelong and has variously lived in Melbourne, Sydney and New York, Gudinski feels Melbourne is fitting to be a city to honour her.
“Melbourne has become synonymous [with] the music capital of the southern hemisphere and the more we acknowledge that through things like this, the better. The outpouring from local fans and media when the tragic news came through really backs that up.”
If you'd like to see a laneway dedicated to Chrissy Amphlett, sign the petition.
Read Jessica Adams' Time Out interview with Chrissy Amphlett