The Divinyls are singer Christina Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. They wrote this with the songwriting team of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, who have a knack for writing hit songs for female vocalists. They also wrote "I'll Stand By You," "Like A Virgin
," "Eternal Flame
," "True Colors
" and "So Emotional
This is clearly about masturbation, but there's more to it. In our interview with Billy Steinberg
, he said: "What I like about the song is that in spite of the fact that the chorus kind of boldly says that, the verse was much more sort of poetic and kind of meaningful. It says, 'I love myself, I want you to love me, when I feel down I want you above me, I search myself, I want you to find me, I forget myself, I want you to remind me.' Those words I think are very strong and it's not an obvious start to finish jack off song. I like playing with words, and whether it's 'Like a Virgin' or 'I Touch Myself,' I like taking phrases or words that are sort of untapped and find a way to write something meaningful and that has a rebelliousness because really that's what rock's all about. Talking 'bout my generation, you know."
This was certainly not the first song to touch on the subject of masturbation, but it was one of the most obvious. Very few places banned it, probably because it was so lighthearted.
Billy Steinberg told us how this song came together: "I got together with Christina Amphlett, I met her at a little club in Hollywood, I think it's called the Cat and the Fiddle. Sometimes when Tom and I were going to work with an artist versus just write by ourselves, I would get together with the artist and go over some lyric ideas. I had a notebook and I had a lot of lyrics that I'd been accumulating. I wanted to see which ones she responded to, so I nervously pulled out my notebook and allowed her to look through these lyrics. I say nervously because I feel really nervous and self-conscious when someone's reading my notebooks. I had 'I Touch Myself' in there, I had written the first verse and the chorus lyric and that's the one she liked best. I was glad she liked that one because that was the one I liked best. The next day we got together with Tom and with Mark McEntee. Generally speaking, Mark and Chrissy wrote all The Divinyls songs. The four of us got together - 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, 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."
Putting the song structure together took a lot of trial and error. It was recorded to 2-inch tape (this was before digital workstations), so it wasn't easy to edit. After a lot of experimentation, they came up with an unusual structure, with the bridge ("You're the one who makes me come running...") placed after the first chorus. The verse melody ("I love myself, I want you to love me...") leads off the song.
Christina Amphlett of The Divinyls died from breast cancer and multiple sclerosis on April 21, 2013 at age 53. She was not not just a dynamic frontwoman, but also a talented songwriter, co-writing most of the group's songs. When we spoke with Billy Steinberg, he said: "Getting together with The Divinyls was great because as a songwriter, a lot of times you don't get your favorite artist to sing your songs because a lot of times the best artists exclusively write their own songs. For example, you wouldn't try to write a song for Kurt Cobain or Prince. The Divinyls were great. Whether it was The Pretenders or The Divinyls or the Bangles, those were examples of great opportunities for Tom and me to write songs for artists whose records we admired."
Before she died, Christina expressed hope that "I Touch Myself" would remind women to perform annual breast examinations.
An up-and-coming director named Michael Bay did the video for this song. The clip shows many angles fo the intriguing Amphlett, but there's a lot of other stuff going on as well: floating artwork, black-and-white scenes, mystery girls, etc. It did very well on MTV and kept Bay on the rise; he directed videos for Tina Turner and Meat Loaf before getting a crack at feature films with Bad Boys, which was released in 1995.
This was the only US hit for this Australian group. It went to #1 in their home country.
Lou Reed is a big fan of this song, telling Rolling Stone it "captures a whole different world of being in love than these other songs."
This was used in a memorable scene in the 1997 movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery when Austin slays the Fem-Bots with his Mojo.
Shelly Peiken, who co-wrote the Divinyls song "Human On The Inside
" and also hits for Christina Aguilera and Brandy, cites this as a song that was a huge influence on her writing. "I thought it was hooky, it was clever, and her vocals were amazing," she told Songfacts
. "Women wanted to stand in front of the mirror with their hairbrush and their underwear like Risky Business
and sing it. And it was edgy. It was risky because you were talking about something that nobody ever said before."