Friday 15 October 2021

Jimmy Barnes - Working Class Man

 Late 1985 / Early 1986 (not sure of the exact date) I won a competition on local radio station Radio 210 (about to be re-branded as 2-TEN since it was now on FM, and about to ditch it's 210 metres Medium Wave signal).

Whilst I can't remember the date, I can remember the question: "Who came alive at Reading in 1980?"

The answer is/was Slade, and for knowing the name of their 1980 Live EP netted me the princely prize of 6 singles.
4 of the singles have been lost to the mists of my memory (although one was Stan Campbell I think?), and they are probably somewhere on the shelf.

But the ones I do remember are a re-release of Blondie's "Denis" (in a blue sleeve, as opposed to the more common red one) and Jimmy Barnes "Working Class Man".
Nope, I had no idea who Jimmy Barnes was - and if I'm being cynical (Qui Moi?) I think it was the DJ just clearing his desk of that weeks promo detritus that had landed.
(which is probably the reason for those old local radio competitions).

Jimmy Barnes ...

He is an Australian singer who had some (Australian) success in the past with Cold Chisel - pretty much unheard of in the UK, but in the top 3 or 4 hard rock/bar rock bands doing the rounds in Australia alongside AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Radio Birdman, The Saints, and early INXS.

Cold Chisel had split in 1983 and Jimmy released a solo debut in 1984 (in Australia only).
Somehow, this got to the ears of David Geffen, and he was duly signed up, plonked in a studio.Geffen must have had high hopes for Barnes as he was assisted in the recording by a high class line-up including Waddy Watchel (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon et al), Johnathan Cain and Neal Schon from Journey, Mick Fleetwood banging pots on a couple of tracks, and backing vocals provided by Kim Carnes.

If you want to make in-roads to the American market surround yourself with those that have already done it.

Now ... not knowing the singer, and going only by the single cover - all clad in denim - my expectation was  a sort of sub-Springsteen/Bob Seger Blue Collar Rock with an AOR sheen.
Well - and bearing in mind the above cast list - that is sort of what I got. I'm not sure the first impressions of the cover did him many favours.  But ... the voice - it was rough, tough, with a shouty blues-y edge.

The single sold by the shed-load in his homeland, and the album continued the usual sales business.  But in the US?  Nitto.
Even the placement of the title track in the film Gung Ho didn't have any effect (the fact the film pretty much tanked at the Box Office probably didn't help either).

The album (which again can't have sold in the numbers intended as I picked it up for a quid) bore the same cover photo. Originally titled 'For The Working Class Man', and later re-titled/re-issued as 'Jimmy Barnes'.
(I listened again recently, and it may not make me say "this is an undiscovered classic", I can't really find fault with it)

And despite the Gung Ho (see what I did there) all-out attack on the US market, there's something defiantly honest, balls-out, and defiant about the it,  Whilst the songs may not be earth shattering, or pushing for inclusion in a journos All Time Top (whatever) lists, there is nothing wrong with them at all.  Throughout, the music is clean, the band well played, and the singing top notch (if all that is a little hampered by an "of it's time" feeling with all the mid-80s production tricks stopping the needles going into the red).

Despite Geffen's (un-rewarded) investment, Jimmy Barnes did make an impression on the US chart (and in the UK) when he provided vocals on the Lost Boys Soundtrack, backed up by Aussie mates INXS ("Good Times" being the most successful and best known, and "Laying Down The Law").

Jimmy Barnes may never have made it out of the Southern Hemisphere, but he's still selling albums and regularly topping the charts in Australia and New Zealand

Working Class Man

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