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Working Class Man by Jimmy Barnes - Book Review

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by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Published January 10th 2018
Behind the legend, beyond the clichés
To May Love Jimmy (image by May Cross)

I have been waiting impatiently for this book since I finished reading Barnsey's first memoir. Working Class Man is the sequel to the critically acclaimed and award winning book Working Class Boy. You don't have to read the prequel first but it is a profound insight into his early life and is rocking good, so if you are going to read it anyway, then the two books are best read in order.

Working Class Boy depicts the journey of James Dixon Swan/Jimmy Barnes; from Glasgow to Australia. He dreams of escaping his traumatic childhood and Working Class Man begins when he is leaving Adelaide with a then-unknown band called Cold Chisel. Little did he know he wasn't leaving behind the violence, alcohol and despair that damaged his family. In fact, he is a pressure cooker; a time bomb waiting to explode, tick, tick, tick. The memoir chases Jimmy running away and running out of time, "Running, constantly running and never getting anywhere."

working class man, jimmy Barnes, May cross, memoir, book
Having A Laugh with Jimmy (image by May Cross)

The public persona of Jimmy Barnes needs no introduction. There Ain't No Second Prize for knowing that he found fame with Cold Chisel with songs such as Khe Sanh (my favourite), Choir Girl, Flame Trees, Rising Sun and Cheap Wine. As a prolific song writer and talented performer, he has become one of the most popular and best selling artists of all time in Australia. With five ARIAs and induction into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame in 2005, he is Simply the Best.

working class man, jimmy Barnes, May cross, memoir, book
Jimmy Barnes promoting his latest book (image by May Cross)

His private life was one of extremes and contrasts. There is the womaniser versus the family man (he has children with several other women as well as his long-time, long-suffering wife, Little Darling Jane); he is a sensitive lyricist but an "insensitive bastard" (his words not mine, but I agreed as I read the book); from poverty in childhood (the working class of the tile) to riches and excesses and from addiction to sobriety.

The Good Times and his excesses such as his collection of cars and his "White House" in the southern highlands of NSW led to a MASSIVE problem with the Australian Taxation Office. Facing Rage and Ruin, he went to live in France for some years. But as the costs of touring kept getting higher and higher and so did Barnsey. He had a bad temper, a bad attitude and a bad drug habit.

Having the craic with Barnsey (image from May Cross)

He lived hard and fast (like his music). It's a surprise to me that he lived to write the book. Many of his mates died around him including Michael Hutchence, whom he called "Hutch", and a Cold Chisel colleague. His attitude was that he was not here for a long time; he was here for a good time. He was one Wild Colonial Boy.

This autobiography is an honest, Raw , "warts and all" account of his self-loathing, pain, problems, demons and depression. His self-doubt stemmed from his troubled past and family. He was ashamed, had issues to deal with and was set on a course of self destruction. He'd always been a screamer, but he became a screaming lunatic.

working class man, jimmy Barnes, May cross, memoir, book
Jimmy Barnes signs his book (image by May Cross)

This great Australian rock 'n' roll story is also a story about survival. The memoir peels away the layers, like an onion, to reveal the real Jimmy Barnes. The wild child of rock 'n' roll was staring into the abyss but he kept standing. I Can't Tell You Why he had a Change of Heart. He forced himself to face the hard and ugly truth but ultimately sought Forgiveness from himself and regained his confidence and brilliance.

Song writing: A plus
Book writing: A double plus

Barnsey has long been a legend in my family. Nana reckons he is bigger than the Beatles. Once when I was playing some Beatles' ballads she said, "Haven't you got any Jimmy Barnes you can play?" I told this story to Barnesy and he guffawed as only the Scots can and said, "Was she a bit crazy maybe?" No Jimmy, she wasn't; you've had 11 number 1 albums and 4 with Cold Chisel which is more than the Beatles ever had in Australia. I also told him a Glaswegian joke which made him hoot with laughter. He is a good bloke and great craic. (Craic is a Celtic word meaning fun, entertainment, good conversation and company.)

Jimmy Barnes is " a business where their job is to bring joy to people's lives. That's not a bad thing." Thanks Jimmy - you have brought joy into my life, firstly with your music and now with your books. Double Happiness. And that's not a bad thing.
Goodbye, Goodbye.

working class man, jimmy barnes, autobiography, memoir, book, Cold Chisel, soul man, Barnsey
Cold Chisel and cold chisel (image by May Cross)
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Why? I Can't Tell You Why - it is Simply the Best
When: Saturday Night .... When the Sun Goes Down
Where: Beneath the Flame Trees and the Rising Sun
Cost: $49.99 RRP for hard cover
Your Comment
Loved his first book can't wait to read the second. I agree he's lucky to be alive
by lockw (score: 2|152) 1962 days ago
Dymocks have announced this is the Biography Book of the Year.
by May Cross (score: 3|8375) 1850 days ago
I have just seen this article, more than two years from when you wrote it.
Really good. I feel motivated to buy the books.
by Carole Liivrand (score: 2|899) 1011 days ago
He is a legend!
by lockb (score: 1|99) 1943 days ago
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