It’s about Jimmy Barnes and his life from leaving Adelaide in the early 70s with Cold Chisel and his solo career.
“Working Class Boy” is the book the covers his childhood in Scotland, the trip to Australia and growing up in a broken and violent home. This one was a tough and uneasy read because of the stories he told.
Chisel like all bands of that era started off as a cover band. They introduced originals for one gig and the audience was disappointed. Back to covers they went.
Jimmy Barnes left the band early on to fill the Fraternity vocal spot left vacant by Bon Scott joining AC/DC.
But it didn’t last long and he was back with Cold Chisel albeit a more focused singer courtesy of the tutelage given to him by Fraternity bassist Bruce Howe who was the taskmaster in that band and he wanted the singer to sound a certain way. Barnsey reckons that Howe also assisted in Bon’s singing prowess.
Like all bands of the era they gig and get crowds and they get managers who promise things and deliver nothing and they kept changing them with the hope that one of em would push the band with the labels.
And a post party gathering at a posh apartment involving sex and drugs which Don Walker attended, ending up being the event that sealed the deal for them in relation to management.
Rod Willis was at the party and he was bemoaning the lack of great managers in the Australian business. Walker was listening and after watching the band play live, Willis became their manager for 32 years.
And in Willis, main songwriter Walker had an ally when it came to implementing new music into their sets. So they started rehearsing.
And all of this is up to 1976.
They got their deal in September 1977. And got a crash course in copyright. There are two copyrights for each song.
The first belongs to the artist who recorded the song, which the record label controls as they paid the money for the recording and they are meant to keep it for a limited time before returning it back to the artists.
The second belongs to the writer/s. And this is controlled by the music publisher.
Barnes sums up his first recording experience in the best way.
“Recording was making something in a dark room with no one to bounce things off, and then waiting three months until it was finished, and then another three months until it came out – only to listen six months later and say to yourself, “Oh, I wish I’d done this or that”.
He wanted to put the producers head in his hands for the second record “Breakfast at Sweetheats”.
Live music television was unmasked as miming to a recording version of the song and Chisel did that for their first appearance but the higher they got the more power they had and when it came to the Countdown awards Chisel was allowed to play live so they upped the ante by walking on with half a bottle of Vodka, and then proceeding to play a song which they changed halfway to slag off the Awards and then smashed their instruments and everything else. .
The more popular Chisel got, the more wilder Jimmy Barnes got. And you need to read his recollection of their North American tour starting with the first show in San Diego, opening up for Loverboy, and ending with their last show in LA in which their Elektra label rep didn’t even turn up for, because it was his Djs friends dog birthday.
The US tour put the writing on the wall. Chisel then imploded and he went solo. His first release “Bodyswerve” went to number 1 in Australia.
And while he’s doing songs in the U.S with Jonathan Cain and other writers for what was hoped what be his break through album in the North American market with Geffen Records, Eddie Van Halen and Ted Templeman paid him a visit, asking him to audition for the vacant singers spot in Van Halen.
According to Barnesy, EVH mentioned it’s gonna be a new band and their gonna do ballads.
He said “no”.
“For The Working Class Man” came out in 1985 and Barnesy became a legend in Australia. It was everywhere and it debuted at Number 1. But it bombed in the U.S.Apparently it sounded too Australian.
Whatever that means.
Eventually the Geffen deal went bad when Barnes took the masters for the “Freight Train Heart” album back to Australia because he wasn’t happy how Jonathan Cain was producing it.
In Australia, he could do no wrong and his manager organized another US deal with Atlantic this time. In the space of 12 years, Barnes had deals with Elektra with Cold Chisel and Geffen and Atlantic as a solo artist.
Like Ozzy and Black Sabbath, the more records Barnesy sold as a solo artist and singing a few Chisel songs live, generated to a lot of sales of their former bands catalogue.
Black Sabbath and Cold Chisel grew during the 80s and 90s because of the deeds of their singers.
But for all his successes, by 1994 he was almost bankrupt. And he was still out of control.
A lot of rebuilding commenced.
Read the book to find out.
4 thoughts on “Working Class Man”
That sounds like a wild ride. He’s always interested me, but never got any traction here in the States. I might need to add this the ever growing list of books I need to read.
He’s dealings with the US labels are detailed well in his book.
VH angle is crazy. Never heard that. Jimmy in the truest sense is a survivor. Sounds like a great read Pete. Cain producing right there is a red flag for me!
Yeah I know, that came out of left field. Cain was auto tuning Barnesy’s voice and adding samples to things …