Now, Australia’s rock’n’roll legend Jimmy Barnes (affectionately known by his fans as Barnesy) is no rookie. This man has been on the scene forever, one of our best-loved artists that has endured the test of time and grown up with most through their adolescent years. Barnesy possesses the ability to bring a crowd together on the basis of pure emotion. He is a multi million seller down under, both with Cold Chisel and in a long solo career, upholding an uncompromising attitude of a hard-lived, fearless and extraordinary rocker.
For over 60 years Barnes has brought an inimitable energy to the world, escaped mainstream trends, and lit his own trail. Let us get nostalgic and rough up some of Jimmy Barnes’ top career highlights.
1. Obviously, the birth of Cold Chisel
The five emotionally raw, angry rock’n’rollers became Cold Chisel in 1973 and carried on making music until the band split in December 1983. They were incredibly successful and their adoring fans were absolutely gutted to see them break. To the public’s delight, 1997 saw the band come back together and smash out a few more years of heavy riffs and solid anthem rock sounds.
If you’ve been lucky enough to have seen their live performances, you’d know they barely stop for a breath. You kind of sing less with your head and scream more with your heart. These aren’t guys that put-on fancy costumes and work the crazy stage props, they’re just guys who hold a relentless love for their music.
2. The split that brought solo success
I said Cold Chisel was the birth – no way in hell was it the end. Barnes’ life as a solo artist began when he steered away from the band and branched out on his own; trying his luck with many different genres. You may have relished over the duet with Tina Turner ‘Simply the Best’ as it became one of the greatest sports campaigns of the NRL season in ‘92, or maybe you poured over his ’91 album ‘Soul Deep’. Perhaps you later listened to his 2009 album, ‘They Rhythm and the Blues’ after work with a glass of whiskey in hand. But did you know, he also worked with The Wiggles on the very successful 2018 album for kids ‘Och Aye the G’nu’??
3. Flesh and Wood, the completely acoustic album
You have to separate out this fantastically different album from the rest. The entire thing is completely acoustic, featuring duets with many iconic musicians; Joe Cocker, Diesel, the Badloves and Deborah Conway to name a few. The album is comprised of a mixture of covers and original material that allowed Barnes to showcase his vocal capabilities better than any of his other previous albums; which commonly involve a lot of amplified instruments. From start to finish it’s got that humid afternoon-weekend-vibe-cold-beer feel to it. As Barnes seventh studio album, it certainly sits as the more sophisticated work from his diverse repertoire. Highlights being, “It Will Be Alight’, ‘Ride the Night Away’ and ‘You Can’t Make Love Without A Soul’.
4. Working Class Boy and Working Class Man
Some amazing work was done here. Finally, we were able to get a real insight into the more personal side of our ear-splitting legend. Barnes documented his decades-long battles with drink and drugs in his award-winning 2016 childhood memoir Working Class Boy (#1 Best seller in Australia Book Industry Award), followed by Working Class Man in 2017 which also topped the publishing charts. Both were known to be incredible reads, with Barnes smashing the hard-man stereotype and completely opening up to fans about his struggle and addiction. Working Class Boy later became a film, with its accompanying soundtrack winning ARIA Music Awards Best Original Soundtrack 2018.
Here are some of my favourite quotes from Barnes’ two-biopic novels:
“If there was one thing I tried to instill in my children as they were growing up, it was that you get nothing for nothing. You have to work hard to get any rewards. That applies in music or whatever you choose to do. The same goes in relationships; you will only get back what you put in.”
“I used to think anyone with abandonment issues was a waste of space. But you do need to get help. Blokes don’t talk about those things. It’s a taboo in the bloke world.”
5. My Criminal Record release
My Criminal record is Barnes “first original studio rock album in over a decade”. Listening to it, you can immediately tell it comes straight from the heart. Its lyrics are unschooled, and its sound is whatever the words need it to be, sometimes a smouldery piano-infused blues piece, sometimes a hard-hitting military drummer-boy rock. Barnesy is not a man that aged boring or badly, he just took his learnings and made them into great music for us all to listen to. He has grown with the times, stepped up to the plate, and been a real role model for those that need some guidance in speaking out about their mistakes in order to be a better person.
This is an album long standing fans will be screaming along to like there is no second prize. It stands as a collection of songs that I would love to see performed live.
Speaking of which, Barnesy’s is swinging through Tauranga this week on 5th Feb for one epic NZ Show! You can check out the details here.
“We’ve all felt loved, lost, and afraid sometimes. All at the same time.” – Barnesy.