Jimmy Barnes is the heart and the soul of Australian rock & roll. His
nickname, “Barnesy”, conjures up thoughts of rock music at an ear-splitting
volume, and of soul standards given a unique reading. Jimmy has been
through it all, and literally lived to tell the tales. He has sold more records in
Australia than any other local rock & roll artist. He has enjoyed fifteen #1
albums here – more than the Beatles – and for over 40 years he has delivered
some of our most intense and iconic live performances. He is truly in a league
of his own.
In 2016, Jimmy’s self-penned childhood memoir, Working Class Boy, was a
#1 bestseller and won the Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA). His 2017
sequel, Working Class Man, also topped the charts and won the ABIA making
him the first person to ever win “Biography Of The Year” twice. The two books
have sold over 500,000 copies so far making them the most successful
biographical series in local publishing history. His Stories & Songs live
production based on these memoirs sold out over 100 shows and attracted
unanimous critical as did the related documentary film Working Class
Boy which topped the box office in late 2018. Clearly Jimmy’s life story holds a
unique fascination for Australians of all ages.
His new album My Criminal Record picks up on many of the themes in his
books and is his first new original release in almost decade. The album was
written by Jimmy, with significant assistance from his oldest sparring partner,
Cold Chisel’s Don Walker, whose name appears on six of the thirteen tracks.
Outstanding contributions also come from close friends Troy Cassar-Daley,
Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) and The Living End’s Chris Cheney, as well as
Benjamin Rodgers, Harley Webster and Jade MacRae. It’s Barnes, by his own
estimation, still revealing himself. “There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about me
yet,” he says.
Jimmy is back, older, smarter, healthier, and for My Criminal Record he has
distilled and expanded upon those memoirs in 13 pieces of burning, heartland
rock n roll. It will resonate with anyone who has ever found themselves
standing on the outside, looking in.
James Dixon Barnes of Glasgow via Adelaide was just 16 when he joined the
band Cold Chisel in 1973. Raised on tough soul music and gutsy rock, Jimmy
bought his monumental passion and a versatile vocal style to this five-piece
band who would eventually become the most powerful live act in the heyday of
Australian pub rock.
A big part of Cold Chisel’s appeal was the fury, wit and danger that Jimmy
brought to the stage every night. Fuelled on drugs and vodka, he was capable
of anything and audiences flocked to experience the mayhem first hand at gigs
around the country during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Cold Chisel released a series of classic albums over these years including,
East, Circus Animals and Twentieth Century. Many of their songs – Khe
Sanh, Choirgirl, Cheap Wine, You Got Nothing I Want, Flame Trees, When The
War Is Over – are now virtually national anthems.
When Jimmy went solo in 1984 his debut Bodyswerve topped the charts, as
did his 1986 album, For the Working Class Man, which gave him a signature
tune and cemented his place at the centre of a generation. He spoke directly to
and for them.
The #1 hits kept coming through the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with Freight
Train Heart, the live set Barnestorming, Two Fires, Flesh and Wood, and
of course Soul Deep – an album of R&B classics that sold almost a million
The rewards were great but the booze, drugs and an out of control lifestyle
eventually started to take their toll. The wildness that Jimmy brought onstage
was nothing compared to what was happening inside his head although it
would be decades before he finally revealed the demons that propelled him
through these high octane years.
By 1993 Jimmy was burned out. He and the family moved to Europe where he
tried to regroup. These were difficult years, struggling with his career and
raising a young family of four with the love of his life, his wife Jane who he had
married back in 1981.
The Barnes’ came back to Australia in 1996 and returned to the charts with a
Best Of set (Hits Anthology) that featured a hit single, Lover Lover, cowritten with Jane. A Cold Chisel tour and #1 album (The Last Wave of
Summer) followed in 1998 but that reunion was shortlived as Jimmy’s
offstage demons continued to haunt him.
There were two intense rock albums (Psyclone and Love And Fear) around
this time and a second soul album in 2000 (Soul Deeper) but it was 2005’s
Double Happiness, featuring duets with family and friends that put Jimmy
right back on top.
Since then Jimmy’s career has gone from strength to strength with more
successful and acclaimed solo releases. Then in 2009, Cold Chisel reformed,
eventually releasing two new albums, No Plans (2012) and The Perfect
Crime (2015) and hitting the road again. Their Light The Nitro Tour in 2011
remains the biggest grossing tour ever by an Australian-based band and they
continue to fill stadiums bringing their music to new generations of fans.
Jimmy’s 2014 release 30:30 Hindsight celebrated his 30 years as a solo artist
and featured collaborations with international artists including ‘Miami’ Steve
Van Zandt, Keith Urban, and Journey alongside local chart-toppers such as
Bernard Fanning, The Living End, Tina Arena, Troy Cassar-Daley and many
The following year Jimmy travelled to Tennessee where he recorded an album
of lost soul classics called Soul Searchin’. This was his 16th studio album and
yet another #1. No musician anywhere in the world has had a run of chart
success as strong or enduring as Jimmy Barnes has enjoyed in Australia.
Then in October 2016 he released the first volume of his memoirs – Working
Class Boy. If a book could be rawer than Jimmy Barnes in full flight onstage
this was it. Working Class Boy told the harrowing story of his childhood in
Glasgow and Adelaide surrounded by booze, domestic violence and abuse. The
book revealed Jimmy as a writer of unfettered honesty. He leavened his dark
story with humour and, ultimately, love. In these evocative and emotional
pages readers finally discovered the fuel that had fired this singular performer
across the decades.
The hugely anticipated second volume of his memoirs, Working Class Man
landed a year later. The book was a searingly honest reflection on success,
music, family, love and addiction. But beyond the combustible merry-go-round
of fame, drugs and rehab it was also a story about how it’s never too late to
try to put things right. Like its predecessor, Working Class Man went straight
to the top of the Bookscan Charts and held that position within its category for
10 consecutive weeks.
But the story doesn’t end there. The Working Class Boy documentary film
premiered in cinemas in 2018 to rave reviews, and the companion soundtrack
went on to win the 2018 ARIA Award for Best Original Soundtrack / Cast /
This relentless drive has also been channelled into supporting numerous
causes and charities. As a result in January 2017, Jimmy Barnes was
appointed as an Officer of the General Division of the Order of Australia for
‘distinguished service to the performing arts as a musician, singer and
songwriter, and through support for not-for-profit organisations, particularly to
children with a disability’.
Few Australian lives have been bigger than Jimmy Barnes. His story filled two
books. His music has been our national soundtrack for forty years and his
iconic status in the history of Australian rock’n’roll is reflected in the fact that
he’s been inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame … twice. Lots of things have
changed over his decades in the public eye but the one constant is his powerful
connection with live audiences across more than 10,000 gigs. Night after night.
Year after year. It’s enough to make anyone scream but these days it’s the
wildness of it all that keeps Jimmy Barnes grounded.
“My job,” he says, “is to turn every night of the week into Saturday night for
people. It’s the best job there is.”
o Eleven #1 solo albums and four #1 albums with Cold Chisel – a combined
total that is more than any other Australian artist
o 18 x Top 40 albums with Cold Chisel and 17 x charting solo albums
o Inducted in ARIA Hall of Fame with Cold Chisel in 1992 and as a solo
artist in 2005
o Only person to ever win the ABIA Award for Best Biography twice –
Working Class Boy in 2017 and Working Class Man in 2018
o The Working Class Boy hardback edition remained in the Top Ten in
the autobiography and biography category for 30 consecutive weeks
after its publication in September 2016. The paperback edition
of Working Class Boy subsequently sold another 42,000+ copies after
publication in August 2017.
o Working Class Man debuted as this country’s #1 book during its first
week on sale and it held onto the #1 position in the autobiography and
biography category for ten consecutive weeks. It has gone on to notch
up 26 weeks in the Top Ten to date and is on track to replicate the
success of Working Class Boy.
Cold Chisel Studio Albums:
Cold Chisel (1978)
Breakfast At Sweethearts (1979)
Circus Animals (1982)
Twentieth Century (1984)
The Last Wave Of Summer (1998)
No Plans (2012)
The Perfect Crime (2015)
Solo Studio Albums
For the Working Class Man (1985)
Freight Train Heart (1987)
Two Fires (1990)
Soul Deep (1991)
Flesh and Wood (1993)
Love and Fear (1999)
Soul Deeper… Songs From the Deep South (2000)
Double Happiness (2005)
Out in the Blue (2007)
The Rhythm and the Blues (2009)
Rage And Ruin (2010)
30:30 Hindsight (2014)
Soul Searchin’ (2016)
Working Class Boy: The Soundtracks (2018)
My Criminal Record (2019)