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'I Touch Myself,' 25 Years Later: 5 Things You Didn't Know

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It was 25 years ago that an Australian rock band had fans proudly singing a song in which they boasted about touching themselves.

Yes, the Divinyls’ biggest hit, “I Touch Myself,” was first released in the U.S. in December 1990, whereupon it slowly climbed the charts to become the band’s biggest hit in the U.S. – and quite an unlikely one, when you consider the subject matter. Prudishness about well, you know, that notwithstanding, the song received major radio play around the world and still does today on any station that celebrates that intra-decade overlap between the awesome ’80s and the rocking ’90s. And while it was a song by band and not a single person, it’s hard to extricate the song itself from Divinyls’ lead singer, Chrissy Amphlett. It’s her face in the video, and it’s her voice repeatedly claiming “I honestly do” at the end of the song, just in case there was any question about whether or not she touched herself. Amphlett died in 2013 at only 53 years old, following a long battle with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. But her association with the song lives on today, in ways that some fans might not realize. In honor of the 25th anniversary of “I Touch Myself” being heard around the world, we’ve collected five tidbits that fans might want to know.

1. It has some major songwriting credentials

“I Touch Myself” resulted from an unusual collaboration among Amphlett, Divinyls guitarist Mark McEntee, and the American songwriting power partners of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, whose names you may not know but whose work helped created the soundtrack of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Together, the latter two wrote Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and “I Drove All Night,” the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand by You,” and Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional.” As Steinberg recalled in an interview with Songfacts, the four-way colab shouldn’t have succeeded but did. “Four people, for me, is too many. Two people can write a song together, three people can write a song together but four is kind of awkward,” he said. “But Tom and I by that time had our own method for writing a song and we knew we could read each other’s minds. I put the lyric in front of Tom and he started singing, ‘I love myself, I want you to love me,’ which is one of my favorite first lines in any song I’ve written. From there Chrissy and Mark contributed their bits, but it was mostly Tom and I doing what we do best.”

2. And the song has since been held up as an anthem of empowerment

((concert video goes here)) It’s remarkable that mainstream audiences in 1991 embraces a song that made catchy music about a subject that a lot of people wouldn’t have felt comfortable discussing in private. (And some still wouldn’t today.) Notably the video for the song – filmed in a nunnery in Pasadena, California – was banned in the Divinyls’ native Australia. As a 2013 Cosmopolitan essay about Amphlett notes, “In a world where female sexuality and masturbation is still widely feared and demonized, we need to pay some major respect to the brave women who empower us. ‘I Touch Myself’ is not just a party song, but also an emboldened call-to-action. Amphlett reminded us that we are in control of own bodies and pleasure, and there is no shame in that game.

3. Touching herself changed the course of Amphlett’s life

Make a joke about that statement if you like, but know that literal self-touching proved vital in Amphlett determining that she had breast cancer. As she explained in an interview on an Australian news show, she had sensed that something was not right in her body, but medical tests weren’t showing that she had cancer. “I was having my mammograms and ultrasounds, because I had this, you know, thing. I’m checking it. But it wasn’t until I touched myself, or kept touching myself,” she recalled. Eventually, Amphlett requested a biopsy, nonetheless, and it was determined that she had breast cancer. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=721 http://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/billy_steinberg/ http://itouchmyself.org/ http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/music/chrissy-amphletts-dream-for-i-touch-myself-to-be-breast-cancer-awareness-anthem-comes-true/story-e6frfn09-1226881938784 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinyls_discography