Tag Archives: Jimmy Barnes

Working Class Boy-Jimmy Barnes.

This morning, I finally finished reading Jimmy Barnes’s harrowing memoir: Working Class Boy. As much as I could write about the book, Jimmy Barnes summed up his reasons for writing the book so well:

“I want people to read this because I know there are other people out there, just like me. People who think they’re alone in life and that their cards have been dealt and that there is nothing they can do to change anything. That’s how I felt too for a long, long time. I nearly killed myself because of it. But now I know there’s always time for change and there’s always a better path. You just have to look for it.

This book was my first real step in looking for hope.

Peace and love

Jimmy”[1]

In many ways, Working Class Boy echoes Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and it has been a great read with meaningful insights on living with adversity. Jimmy’s world was brutal. Not that he throws blame. It was what it was and he shares that journey with a dark wit and philosophical insight you’d hope for from a songwriter, who releases the cry of the heart through music. Working Class Boy covers the ins and outs of his tough and brutal childhood and is something of a prelude to his second book, which will cover his career.

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Our family meeting Jimmy Barnes at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar.

Jimmy Barnes was born as James Swan on the  28th April 1956 in Cowcaddens, Glasgow, Scotland and went on to find success as the front man for Australian rock band Cold Chisel. From there, he has also had  a very successful career as a solo artist.  He grew up in a violent, impoverished family where his father blew his pay packet on alcohol, leaving his mother scratching to feed the family with whatever she could find. Not that she was an angel.  She could throw a punch along with the best of them and was as tough as nails. He writes:

“Mum was tough, too. Sometimes I think that she thought she was tougher than Dad, which might have been a mistake. When she physically fought with my dad after he came home drunk with no money to feed us, she was the one who wouldn’t back down. She would throw herself at him, hitting him with anything she could get her hands on. Night after night she was the one who ended up battered and bruised on the floor, not him. But she just kept getting up.[2]

She even did childbirth tough:

“I was born in that very kitchen. My granny made my mum scrub the floor with a brush to take her mind of the contractions. It killed two birds with one stone. She didn’t notice the pain as much as she had a clean floor. [3]

In 1962, when Jimmy was 6 years old, his family immigrated to Australia settling in Adelaide. Unfortunately, things for the family didn’t improve with a change of scenery and their battles continued. His mother left his father but finally returned marrying Reg Barnes, the guardian angel who stepped in and loved those children like his own.

Yet, his demons pursued him and he was gripped with fear. He takes us into this space throughout the book but most poignantly in the Prologue:

“From the moment I start to drink, I feel absolutely nothing. When I first started taking drugs and drinking, I found the fear that had filled me since I was small almost disappeared. The fear of not being wanted. The fear of letting my guard down. The fear of letting anyone in. The fear of being found out. The fear of not being worthy. The fear of looking into my own eyes. It was gone. All of it. As long as I stayed smashed.[4]

While the book definitely delves into his dark side, there was also love joy, and family and it wasn’t all bad. There does seem to be a glimmer of hope there somewhere, which may just be the fact we know “Barnsy”not only survived but also had a great career and family. He became a success.

So, the book has a very strong tension between the public success of his music career juxtaposed against a brutal childhood Barnes was blessed to survive. It is probably this tension which gives the book much of its force a long with Barnsy’s down to earth, personable wit. After all, you feel like you’re sitting down having a yarn together as you read his story and get to know the man inside the rock legend.

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At the book signing.

While I would recommend Working Class Boy to anyone, I would particularly recommend it to men battling with depression or adversity. Despite its horrors, it really is an uplighting story of success against incredible odds…a great Christmas gift.

Have you read Working Class Boy or have a Cold Chisel of Barnsy story? I’d  love to hear from you.

xx Rowena

 References

[1] Jimmy Barnes, Working Class Boy, Harper Collins, Sydney, 2016 p 358.

[2] Ibid p. 11.

[3] Ibid p 13.

[4] Ibid p I.

Mega Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You might want a cool drink this weekend. It’s warming up around here and we’re enjoying some glorious Spring weather.

It’s not every week that I can tell you that something’s happened. I’m not talking about my usual staring at the waves or up into the clouds and finding peace, joy and harmony in the trees.

No, indeed.

I’m talking about some pretty extraordinary stuff. Not that I’m showing off because I was just in the right place at the right time, which I’ve got to tell you is a bit of a rarity for me…especially when all this happened at our local beach an hour from Sydney. We’re not a backwater but we’re hardly Mecca either.

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The kids learning to surf.

Wednesday morning, the kids started a three day surf course. I was really excited about this as I have a secret passion for surfing, even though I’ve only caught a few waves in my life time and they were lying down. Yet, I loved that sensation of surging through the waves. Wow! My husband has also been interested in learning to surf and so we bought a board when we were in Byron Bay a few years ago but it’s never seen the beach and has been filed away in the deepest, darkest recesses of the garage…a doomed holiday “romance” of sorts.

So, the kids are lined up on the beach learning how it’s done on the sand before they hit the surf. I’m taking a few photos and follow them down to the water.

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That’s when I spot a group of Tibetan monks on the beach. They’re dressed in their robes. The same coloured robes as the Dalai Lama. Not only that but they’re all lined up carrying surfboards.

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Blessing the Beach.

That’s right. There was a group of Tibetan monks at our beach going surfing. Well, not quite going surfing yet because they were giving a blessing for the beach, posing for photos and talking to the media. Then, they changed into board shorts and life jackets before they headed out.

I’ve written two posts about their visit:

Accidents, Blessings & Tibetan Monks at an Australian Beach.

The Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia

Backtracking a little, that morning I had a nasty fall at the shops and sprained my ankle and tore a hole in my knee. There was no one around at the time and I must admit it would’ve been really good to have someone help me get up. Even better, just imagine if those monks had found me. They could’ve carried me back to the car and blessed me on the way. What a shame! That would’ve been fantastic!

But, I’m Tonka tough. I kept going.

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The Family with Jimmy Barnes at Book Bazaar.

Saturday morning, was planned excitement. Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes was at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar, signing copies of his book: Working Class Boy. I’m currently reading the book and love loving it even though it’s heavy, emotive, dark and very much like Angela’s Ashes. I’ve actually found it pretty hard finding out the back story behind the man. A man who is as Australian as Vegemite. Pretty much every Australian “of a certain age” has a story about Barnsey and or Cold Chisel.

Anyway, meeting Jimmy was pretty nerve-wracking. Not because I was nervous or shy but because I was desperate to get a good photo of him and ideally him with us for the blog. However, I knew they were  expecting 200 people through in 2 hours and they had at least 3-4 queue cops on duty. In the past, I’ve found that while they talk about embracing social media, bloggers don’t even rate a spot at the bottom of the pecking order. I just had to hope. Pray. Usually, the long lens comes through, but queue cops can show no mercy. When you’ve had your allocated 30 seconds, you get the boot.

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This queue cop wasn’t wearing the official t-shirt and looked like he was in the wrong side of the globe.

However, unbeknown to me, I had two magic tricks up my sleeve. I’d at least read some of his book and I showed compassion. Who wouldn’t? He might be a famous rocker now, but once upon a time he was a little boy living in a war zone and as a Mum, I wanted to pick up that little boy, give him a huge hug and a Matchbox car.

Here’s the full story: Jimmy Barnes: What do you say when you meet a rock legend?

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Jimmy Barnes signing our books.

Being a complete and utter dag, I sad as much to him as he was signing the book and made a connection. Just because your famous, it doesn’t mean you don’t need people to care, listen to your story and give a damn.

So, I’ve felt like I’m sitting on Cloud 9 after those outstanding experiences this week and yet, at the same time, the cough is more repetitive and less productive than even though my lungs are clear. My ankle is still swollen and badly bruised from the fall but doesn’t really hurt…the ups and downs of life.

This weekend is also “Bathurst”. That is the “Bathurst 1000”…a 1000km race around Mt Panorama with such thrills as “Hell Corner” “Forrest’s Elbow” and “The Chase”. I don’t think any of this track is what you’d consider “safe”. It’s definitely a case of “maniacs only need apply”. Another aspect of Bathurst is the intense rivalry between Ford and Holden. Will Davison & Jonathon Webb won this year and yes they were driving a Holden!

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one and I’ll be trying to visit everyone for  coffee.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at https://parttimemonsterblog.com/  and you can click through to the linky here

xx Rowena

Jimmy Barnes: What do you Say when you meet a rock legend?

This morning, we rocked into our local bookshop to meet Australian rock legend, Jimmy Barnes,  lead singer of Australian rock band, Cold Chisel. Jimmy’s just recently released his memoir: Working Class Boy. (By the way, as I read those lines out in my head, I’m hearing the voice of Molly Meldrum,  the inimitable host of music show Countdown back in the day.)

So, what do you say when you meet a rock legend and you’re way too old to even think about throwing your underwear anywhere but the dirty clothes basket? When you’re visiting your local bookshop and meeting him as an AUTHOR…a rock legend in a different guise.

I’m not there as a gushing groupie but as a reader who loves his writing and is madly underlining bits throughout his book and loving his writing style as much as his storytelling abilities.

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Indeed, meeting Jimmy Barnes the author is a long way from singing  “cheap wine and a three-day growth” at the top of my lungs at  Schoolies’ Week,  Surfers Paradise back in the Summer of 1987.

Rather, through the book I’m meeting James Swan, the little boy behind the legend. A little boy growing up on the battlefields of Glasgow as a “working class boy”.

To be perfectly honest, while reading his story , compassion was swelling inside my heart wanting to burst its banks.  I wanted to hug that boy, stick a bandaid on his heart and do want mothers do to make their own kids feel better. I also wanted to tell that young boy that it’s going to be okay. That he’s going to find his way out. That despite the war and violence of his childhood, that he will find a place beyond numbing his soul. That while he mightn’t completely escape his battle scars,  that he will find love, family and some kind of peace…along with the trappings of being “Jimmy Barnes” and Cold Chisel.

As he said: “Life’s good…I’m fit, I’m healthy, I’m doing yoga – who would have thought? Yoga and medication … I mean meditation! And the family’s great, Jane’s great. And I think I’m singing better than I’ve ever sung…” https://www.jimmybarnes.com/biography/

Not unsurprisingly, Australian actor and author, Magda Szubanksi described Working Class Boy as: “Viseral, brave, honest: it’s like Angela’s Ashes  meets Trainspotting– only more brutal. A deep, guttural  howl of a book, it speaks of the pain and hurt that haunt so many men. And it may just save lives”.

I sure hope so because I know there are many of us who’ve yearned to feel numb. Stop the unending anguish and feel nothing at all.

Jimmy writes: “When I first started taking drugs and drinking, I found the fear that had filled me since I was small almost disappeared. The fear of not being wanted. The fear of letting my guard down. The fear of letting anyone in. The fear of being found out. The fear of not being worthy. The fear of looking into my own eyes. It was gone. All of it. As long as I stayed smashed. [1]

Reading the book, my heart is breaking. Forget that he grows up to become one Australia’s greatest ever rock legends with legions of fans. He was once a boy battling on the streets of Glasgow where violence was a way of life. Indeed, they lived and breathed violence.

How could anyone survive this?

I know what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger but hey, these days we think twice before letting our kids ride their bikes on the streets or go to the park… even if we’re with them. We read aloud to them every night and keep telling them we love them. We might also tuck our kids into bed a night, kiss them on the cheek and wish them sweet dreams. It’s not a perfect world and domestic violence is huge. Life is no picnic for many families in Australia now, but that wasn’t my childhood. My Dad was my hero who could save me from anything and anyone and my Mum was mild-mannered. Wouldn’t throw a look at someone else, let alone a punch.

However, there’s no bubble wrap on the streets of Cowcaddens, Glasgow.

If you are old enough to remember the chilling murder of two year old James Bulger[2] by two ten year old boys, you can’t help seeing the similarities with what Jimmy survived. When he was four “myself and another kid of about the same age made the mistake of walking out of our street into the next without an escort.[3]”  “Next thing I knew I was running as fast as I could, dodging a hail of rocks and glass, but I got away. My friend was still frozen and couldn’t move at all. They pelted him with rocks and bottles until they were bored and then they cut him up and set fire to the shelter. He ended up in hospital for a long time…Was life in Scotland that bad that even little kids had no chance? It seemed no one had a chance.[4]

Jimmy’s world was brutal. Not that he throws blame. It was what it was and he shares that journey with a dark wit and the philosophical insights you’d hope for from a songwriter, who releases the cry of the heart through music.

So, what did I say to Jimmy?

Well, before I get to that, let me tell you what’s been running round inside my head in the lead up.

I’d been told that they’re trying to get 200 people through the bookshop in 2 hours and when I said I was thinking of bringing down my son’s guitar for a photo, it was suggested that was a bit over the top and that it was going to be a very fleeting meet and greet.

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Queuing up to see Jimmy Barnes at Book Bazaar.

So, I was intrigued about what, if anything, I would pick up about Jimmy Barnes the person when he was just a face, a signature and the next person was literally breathing down my neck and the “queue Police” would have me out the door before I’d even smiled for the camera.

Obviously I wasn’t expecting much. I mean…how can you connect with someone in seconds? And besides, we’re talking about an uber-famous King of Rock. Sure, I might be reviewing his book for my blog but aside from my long lens, I was a nobody in a very long line of nobodies.

BUT…!!!

I had read some of his book and that made me A READER. It seems even Jimmy Barnes appreciates his readers. Values someone who isn’t just there for an autograph and a selfie, but has actually stepped inside the cover and read his story.

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Jimmy Barnes signing our books.

So, what did I say? What did I say?

So, as he’s signing our book and the queue cop has doubled as a photographer capable of handling my Nikon SLR without flinching (they always have to ask me where the button is), yours truly doesn’t address Jimmy Barnes the rock legend but Jimmy Barnes the boy and says:

“As I was reading your book, I wanted to hug the boy. Give him a matchbox car. Something. “

I should’ve been embarrassed about my gush of emotion but since I’ve never been the cool kid, why start now?

Then, Jimmy looked up at me. Looked me right in my eyes making contact. Not just eye contact, but that experience of two souls meeting and said: “we survived”.

My husband Geoff said that once he saw that I’d read the book and spoke to him from the heart, his whole demeanour changed. I shook his hand and there was warmth, personality and a moment just between the two of us. So, it was there in a crowded bookshop in a long and winding queue, that I knew that I’d really met Jimmy Barnes.

I feel so blessed.

Do you have any memories of Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel? I’d love to hear them. I will be following this up with a more detailed review soon but if you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts and any links.

xx Rowena

Here are a few of my favourite songs:

Sources

[1] Jimmy Barnes, Working Class Boy, Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney. P. 1.

[2] James Patrick Bulger (16 March 1990 – 12 February 1993) was a boy from Kirkby, Merseyside, England, who was murdered on 12 February 1993, at the age of two. He was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Bulger.

[3] Jimmy Barnes, Working Class Boy, Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney, 2016 p. 17.

[4] Ibid p. 18.

Jimmy Barnes Official Web Site: https://www.jimmybarnes.com/