Great Rock Albums of 1986: Divinyls- What a Life


Like with previous years, there are albums which came out the year before which didn’t come to my attention until early the following year. Such is the case with Australia’s Divinyls and their album “What a Life.” This was also another lesson on not to judge a band on account of one song. When the video for the first single, “Pleasure and Pain” came to MTV, I have to admit that I wasn’t overly thrilled with it. It didn’t suck but I thought it was just another fly by night 80s pop band. Then, not too far later on, I discovered that the Divinyls were on tour supporting the mighty Aerosmith. I came to the conclusion that any band worthy of supporting the mighty ‘Smith.’ was not a pop outfit and deserved a fair listen.

Having given “What a Life” the fair listen it deserved, I can say that it is not an 80s pop album. While it’s not a great heavy rocker, I can see why Aerosmith would have taken the Divinyls on tour with them. After the single opens the first track, the second, “Don’t  You Go Walking” is a nice little light rocker. The guitars are heavier, in fact, guitarists, Mark McEntee and Bjarne Ohlin, do shred a little on the song thus making it my favourite song on the album. Things don’t let up on the next track, “Good Die Young,” either. What separates the two is that on “Good Die Young,” there are parts on the track where the band tries to sound too much like Berlin. Still, it’s a pretty decent song.

A cool intro begins “Sleeping Beauty” before the song goes rather new wave. While back in 1986, keyboards made this metalhead a little nervous, they are used very effectively here. Cool intros continue with “Motion.” On this song, McEntee and Ohlin might be trying to copy East Bay Ray because there is a Dead Kennedys sound to the guitars on this one. Quickly following on is my second favourite track, “In My Life.” This is the hardest rocker on the album and the only reason why it didn’t take number one is that the guitar solo on “Don’t Go Walking” is better. “Casual Encounter” and “Heart Telegraph” both have a new wave sounding edge to them but “Guillotine Day” rocks. I can almost headbang to it and that leads perfectly to the ballad like closer, “Dear Diary.” This a very eerie song to say the least, especially with the carnival sounds in the background. I’ll have to check but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it appeared on some horror film soundtrack.

Anyone who remembers the Divinyls from back in the day might have already noticed that I’ve made no mention of their lead singer, Christina Amphlett. The reason why is that her vocals are pretty consistent through all of the songs, so there was no need to comment on them on individual ones. True, she does contribute to the Berlin sound on “Good Die Young,” but her vocals are sound on every track. Whether it be the fun rocker In My Life” or the new wave infected “Casual Encounter” to the ballad closer, “Dear Diary,” she produces the goods on each and shows that she has a variety of singing styles to use to fit any song. I’ll even venture the thought that Christina is possibly the most underrated female singer from the 1980s.

There were two versions of “What a Life” released, a US one and an Australian version. The four different tracks on the Australian release, “Talk Like the Rain,” “Old Radios,” “Para Dice” and “What a Life” have a more 80s new wave synth sound to them but are okay as far as the album goes.

Track Listing (US)

  1. Pleasure and Pain
  2. Don’t You Go Walking
  3. Good Die young
  4. Sleeping Beauty
  5. Motion
  6. In My Life
  7. Casual Encounter
  8. Heart Telegraph
  9. Guillotine Day
  10. Dear Diary

Track Listing (Australia)

  1. Pleasure and Pain
  2. Sleeping Beauty
  3. Good Die Young
  4. Guillotine Day
  5. Talk Like the Rain
  6. Heart Telegraph
  7. Old Radios
  8. In My Life
  9. Para Dice
  10. What a Life
  11. Dear Diary



Christina Amphlett- lead vocals

Mark McEntee- guitar, vocals keyboards

Richard Harvey- drums

Bjarne Ohlin- guitar, keyboards, vocals

Rick Grossman- bass

By the time Aerosmith’s tour had come to Philadelphia, the Divinyls were no longer touring with them. At the time, I didn’t mind because of who the opening act was that night. Not long after, a friend of mine saw the Divinyls on a co-headlining tour with The Cult. From what I remember, my friend said they were all right. Thinking back, it might have been cool to have actually seen them live but this album does give me good memories.

Next post: Robert Palmer- Riptide

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9 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1986: Divinyls- What a Life”

  1. My buddy Peter had such a crush on her. I knew they had early material but I honestly have not heard any! Just the big album.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gotta admit, never heard of this band.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I assumed from the cover shot that this album included ‘I Touch Myself’.

    Liked by 1 person

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