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Talking Heads -

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Rock star Jimmy Barnes was born in Scotland, and came to Australia when he was five. His band, Cold
Chisel, was the biggest and wildest in the country, with hits like 'Khe Sanh' and 'Cheap Wine'.
Jimmy went solo, and 'Working Class Man' became his anthem. He says his voice is like a Mack truck
- hard to start up, but then hard to stop. We're at his Sydney home for this week's Talking Heads,
Jimmy Barnes. THEME MUSIC Jimmy, great to meet you.

Hi, mate.

Thanks for coming on Talking Heads. Now, you're a freak of nature.

(Laughs) I've been called a lot worse than that.

How are you still alive?

Um... I think, in all honesty, I can put it down to good Scottish genes. I think one of the best
things I inherited from my parents was the constitution of a horse.

What do you think it takes to make a really good rock star? 'Cause you seem to have had those
things, whatever it is.

Well, it helps if you're hyperactive. want to show off. Helps if you really want to make people
like yourself. Helps if you want to be the life of the party. And it helps if you... if you have no

Chisel became the biggest act around.


Why did it have so much impact? It was extraordinary.

Well, it was pretty extraordinary. But it didn't happen overnight. We formed in 1973, and we didn't
record until '77. And the songs developed over the first four years. So by the time we recorded,
we'd had a really strong fan base already. And people know that when they came to see Cold Chisel,
that we were going to give 200%.

Let's look back at the early days of young Jimmy in Glasgow.

I was born James Dixon Swan in April 1956, in Glasgow, Scotland. I weighed 14 pounds. I think I
slapped the doctor. I grew up with my brothers and sisters John, Linda, Dorothy and Alan, and my
young sister, Lisa. Glasgow's a very tough town, so we grew up seeing a lot of violence, a lot of
drinking, and a lot of violence within families. My dad was the featherweight boxing champion of
Britain, in 1956. He was a really good boxer, but as his career started to wane, it was difficult
for him to stick around in Scotland. He didn't feel comfortable. So they looked at emigrating to a
few different places. I remember seeing brochures for coming to sunny South Australia. And my mum
thought it was a great idea, if we went and started fresh, started a new life in a new country. So
we were ten-pound tourists, basically. We got on the boat and moved to sunny South Australia.

SONG: # It's almost summer # And I can almost feel that sweet sunshine... #

NEWSREEL: Elizabeth's sizable community has now increased to 3,000, a large number being new
arrivals from overseas.

I grew up in Elizabeth, on the outskirts of Adelaide. Which, for a kid, it was a pretty good life.
I mean, coming from Glasgow, where there was hardly any trees, and then suddenly getting to
Elizabeth, with lots of open fields and trees and birds and football fields everywhere. Ah, we had
a ball, we had a really good time.

A town just beginning to walk, but showing visible signs everywhere of progress, and promise of
more to come.

Somewhere around the age of 10 years old, I think the whole drinking and violence and womanising
got too much for my mum, and she had to leave for her own safety, and for her own peace of mind.
When my mum left, my dad didn't cope really well at all, and really took to drinking hard. He tried
his best to look after us, but he just wasn't really capable of doing it at that time. So we were
really in danger of being fostered out by the child welfare organisations, And my mum knew that,
and the only option she had was to get married and be settled in a house. Round that time she met a
man who was just a friend, a bloke called Reg Barnes. And she was sitting at the dinner table one
day, telling the story to the girls that she worked with and Reg was there, and she said how she
was... and she was obviously upset about it, and Reg just said, "Well, I'll marry you." And he'd
never even met us. Here was this middle-class Australian bloke, who married a wild Scotswoman, and
before he knew it, had six juvenile delinquents as children. And because of that, I always thought
Reg was a bit of a saint.

SONG: # Hey, hey, hey # Good old Eagle Rock is here to stay... #

Growing up in Elizabeth, even before Reg came along, it was a wild place, but a great place for
kids, Elizabeth. But when you became teenagers, there was nothing to do. So basically we got
involved in gangs. There was lots of street fighting, and really all the sort of trouble you could
get yourself into, was available there in Elizabeth. So I was heading down a pretty
horrible-looking track. Round that time, I had a little fling with this friends of mine. I was in a
little band, in a garage band, and we were walking home, we sort of... one thing led to another,
and it was a one-off thing, but Kim actually got pregnant. With, ah... With... who was to become
David, David Campbell. So our parents thought we were way too young, and way too irresponsible to
be parents. So David was adopted by his grandparents, and brought up basically as their child. Not
knowing that, in fact, his sister was actually his mother. I... I stayed in constant contact with
him. So he must have thought something was strange, 'cause of this weird rock and roll singer who
kept popping in all the time and saying hello, and bringing presents and taking him out. He thought
I was a friend of the family. But it must have been quite difficult for the young fella. (Sings) #
Cheap wine and a three-day growth... # At about 16 and a half, on of the luckiest things that ever
happened to me, really, was joining Cold Chisel. And it wasn't long until we started doing shows.
And we set about touring relentlessly through the country, and that touring involved a lot of
drinking, a lot of partying, a lot of drugs, a lot of girls. And that was just one night. And we
just built up this reputation as the wildest rock and roll band in the country. And probably quite
deserved it. (Laughs)

See you later.

Yep. Gordon.

I beg your pardon? What does that mean?

Behave yourself.

Jimmy Barnes just told me to behave myself. Well isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?


Well, this became part of Chisel's persona, wasn't it? The bad-boy band?

Well, the thing was we didn't like to play the games. So the more that people like 'Countdown', for
instance, Molly at 'Countdown' would try to get us to conform and want us to be on there and mime
and wear stupid outfits or whatever, the more we'd dig our heels in and just say, "No." And that
grated with the industry a lot. But at the same time, we'd go out and, as far as an audience went,
we were like their mates.

Well, what about the hard drinking, the hardcore act, that really did become... the lifestyle
became the persona of the band, didn't it?

Well, yeah. People knew that when they came to see us, they could have a good time. And part of
that was, you couldn't expect the audience to be completely wild unless you were completely wild
yourself. And I was quite prepared to be wilder than anybody. And halfway through the show, I knew
I had the audience on side, I'd go berserk. I'd trash the place. I'd put the microphone stand
through the roof, and rip the lights down. I'd do terrible things to them. We just wanted to do
things our own way. And we wanted to do things on our own terms. At any cost.

And was that just a moment in history? Is that stuff on these days?

We were lucky enough to be here in a transitional time in Australian rock. When it was changing and
power was going from the powerbrokers back to the bands, which essentially, was back to the people.
Which, in turn made us... We could control ticket prices for shows, and how the bouncers treated
the audiences, and stuff. Instead of leaving all the power just with he powerbrokers-that-be, you

Let's go way back. You haven't really lost that Glaswegian accent altogether, have you?

I grew up in Elizabeth, and Elizabeth... there was a lot of Scots, a lot of Poms, we were very
proud of our Scottish heritage. We had a lot of very close Scottish friends. I was in the pipe

So did the culture of Glasgow transfer to the culture of Elizabeth?

Well, that's exactly what happened. There were beautiful lawns, and trees and schools and things,
but there was also, instantly, a lot of violence. And a lot of wildness.

What was it like in your family?

My mum always... one of those miracle workers, always made us feel comfortable. We'd all be six
kids waiting at home, for the pay packet on a Thursday, and a lot of the times my dad wouldn't make
it home on a Thursday. He'd get back on the Saturday night, drunk, and he'd spent all the money.
And we'd be there, and my mum would be scraping by, trying to feed us and stuff, so it was
pretty... She shielded us from it, but I think for her it was fairly horrific.

Well, was there biffo at home?

I didn't see my dad hitting my mum a lot, but I'd seen him kick doors in and punch holes in walls,
and... and I'd seen my mum hit him. A lot of it we'd be sheltered from. As soon as they started
yelling, my brothers and sisters would hide us, put us in cupboards, that sort of thing. It was a
scary time.

One of the hardest times for you was when your mum finally decided to leave your dad.


And she left you with your dad for some months.

Yeah. Then, when my mum was gone, the little we had, that she always made comfortable, just rapidly
fell apart. At that point, I think we were pretty close to becoming wards of the state.

Well, later on, when you tried to sort all of this stuff out in your life, this was a key issue for


What did you think about it, then?

As a child you see things totally different. You don't see the ugliness of it all. Well, you try
not to. There was things... Looking back on it, there was times that I just think, "Man!" Around 10
or 11 is when I started drinking.

10 or 11?

Yeah. My dad would be out of the house, and we'd sneak booze out, whatever he had left lying

What about singing? When did you start?

I sang for as long as I can remember.

As part of the family, right?

As part of... Scottish tradition. So it was just natural for me to sing. I sang all my life.

It just wasn't you in the family, of course. Your older brother, Swanny, was quite a big influence,
wasn't he, in those days?

Yeah. Well, John, he was seriously wild. He ran away from home when he was about 13, which was
probably around about the same period. And he moved to Melbourne and joined a rock and roll band,
as a drummer. Musically, and emotionally, and everything, John's been probably the most important
influence in my life. I wanted to be like him.

How did you meet Jane?

I met Jane in November, 1979. I was doing a tour, and I walked into this room, and across the room
I seen this girl who I just... who immediately I was completely smitten with. Who I just thought
was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. That was the beginning and the end for her, really. I
followed her, I used to visit her every day and to call her, till she wanted to go out with me.

And as we're about to see, Jane played a crucial role in you, later on, telling David that you were
his dad.

(Sings) # Oh, I'm dreaming Of a white Christmas... #

Somewhere around 1986, and by this point, David had been coming away on holidays with us, Jane
actually prompted this a lot, she said, "Look, this is your son, "you really have to spend more
time with him "and I think he has to know that you're his father." So we told David and obviously,
for a kid of that age, it took him a couple of years to really come to terms with it.

I love Christmas time. What I love about it is that you get to spend it with your family. Having
Christmas in my house, with Jimmy as a father, that's a loud Christmas. Imagine him singing carols,
if he was up here tonight. (Screeches) # SILENT NIGHT! #

But, to his credit, he's an incredible kid. Prior to getting married, I guess, and having kids, I
didn't really care if I wasn't here when I was 30 or not. But nowadays, I'd probably prefer to
stick around a bit, and see the kids when they get older. SONG: # I need money # That's what I want

# That's what I want... #

At that same period of time, I'd obviously started having children of my own with Jane, I'd bought
a house in Bowral, I was making a lot of money at that time. I started getting number one albums as
a solo performer. And realising how much money was actually to be made in the business.

Jimmy Barnes is at the top of the rock pile in Australia. And everyone wants a part of his success.

But as the money came in, we just spent it. We spent it either on the kids, or on the house, or on
the studio, or we'd travel, or on her friends. We didn't really care about money that much. (Sings)
# Working hard to make a living # Bringing shelter from the rain... # Unfortunately, I didn't
really have much of an idea about financial planning, so I lagged a bit behind on tax, and I took
some bad advice on some investments, I was precariously straddling the razor and not being prepared
for the future. Somewhere around the early '90s it really all started getting on top of me, and got
to the point where it was really a lot of strain on me, and I was drinking a lot, and I was doing
drugs, and all sorts of stuff. At a certain point we decided that we really had to sell the house.
Which was an earth-shattering thing for me. Because my house in Bowral was the first house anybody
in my family had owned, even my parents, and everything. So we sold the Bowral house, and paid off
all our debts, narrowly avoiding bankruptcy. And at that point in my life, I thought it was the end
of my life. But it was really funny. As soon as we sold the house, this huge weight was lifted off
my shoulders. And I realised I was left with the things that were really important to me. I had my
wife. I had my children. And I could sing. SONG: # Calling out around the world # Are you ready for
a brand new beat? # At that same time, I'd been working a lot in Europe, Mushroom had opened up an
office in London. So we moved to France and spent three years living in a place called
Aix-en-Provence. Michael Gudinski, who was not only my manager, and owned the label, Mushroom
Records at the time, was also my best friend. Michael knew that I was in big trouble, and he bought
a house in France, and just said, "There you go, go and live there." And really looked after us
really well, and it was something that I'm forever in Michael's debt for, because suddenly, from
hitting rock bottom, I was living in a 200-year-old farm, surrounded by wheatfields and wineries.
And my children were going to lovely schools in France, which was great for them. They all speak
fluent French now. And I was having a great time. I was touring Europe. And it gave me a whole new
take on music, because I'd moved to France, where suddenly, nobody knew who I was. And I got to
really look at myself a lot more honestly from then on. (Sings) # I spent the whole night breakin'
all the rules... # After three years in France, we decided we were going to move back to Australia.
Main reason we initially thought about coming back was there was talk of a Cold Chisel reunion. In
the meantime, I released a 'Greatest Hits' album, which was very successful. Cold Chisel toured,
the 'Last Wave of Summer' tour in 1998, we had a successful album, and the whole thing started
again. I was touring relentlessly, drinking copious amounts of vodka, and that nearly killed me.
And it got to a point where I just had to do something about it.

At that time, when you looked at yourself in the mirror, what did you see?

I remember I drank for days, I snorted everything I could. People had fallen on the wayside, and
I'd end up on my own, still standing there alone, and I'd look in the mirror and go, "What's it
going to take "to kill you?"

Did you want to go on living?

I had that sort of thing where no matter what I had, I would somehow try and tear it down. I didn't
think it was going to last. Sooner or later somebody's going to look at me, and see that I'm a

Now, you weren't like this all the time, were you? Because there was an on-tour persona and there
was an off-tour persona, wasn't there?

Yeah, there was for a while. I used to be very much... I'd be on tour and live hard and party hard,
I'd come off tour and I'd go... the hills of Thailand and meditate with the Buddhist monks and
be sober and straight and healthy. But what happened was that the time off the road became less and
the time on the road became more. And part of that was because of the financial problems that I'd
built myself. I'd painted myself into a corner. I was making number-one records but going out and
working to meet tax commitments or mortgage commitments, and so I became... I was more on the road
all the time.

You were on tour, for a time, with your daughter Mahalia.


And I know she had to confront the fact that maybe she'd go to wake you up and you wouldn't be...

Mahalia's been in my band for many, many years. She was on tour with me since she was about 16. And
she used to ring my room in the mornings, and it must have just got harder and harder to wake me,
and all the time she told me... later on, she told me that she used to ring my room in the morning,
and when I didn't answer, she'd go and get the key, and she'd expect to open the door and find me
dead. And that was probably the thing that most... I realised that I had to do something about my

Well, what about those around you? Like your children, like Jane. They, no doubt... and your
friends, were trying to bail you out?

Drug dealers would say to me, "You don't need anymore, mate." And these are guys who were totally
unscrupulous. They would do anything, but they would say, "Look, you've got to give it a little
rest." I survived it just because I had family that loved me. I survived it because I had a wife
who's incredibly strong, and who just refused to let go.

She refused to let go, but you didn't let go, either.

I think I kept letting the rope slip through, but I didn't want to let go, 'cause I loved her so
much. And I didn't want to leave my children, like my father did, either.

Well, drying out wasn't the problem for you, was it? It was really dealing with the stuff in your
head and your heart, wasn't it?

Really, I guess so. Anybody can dry out. That's just something I know in my heart, that I just have
to keep away from.

You had to figure out how to perform sober.

That was a challenge. I was just terrified about whether I could actually perform straight. And I
went on, did my first show. And it was amazing, because I suddenly realised that I'd been nobbling
myself for 30 years. I got up there, I finished a show, I sang better than I'd ever sang, I had
twice as much energy, I was really focused, and... I could have walked back on stage, done another
two shows.

Jimmy, as if that's not all enough, recently you've had a big heart operation. Let's have a look.

This heart of mine's been through a lot this year. In February I had open-heart surgery, and my
heart stopped beating for three hours. It was just something I was born with.

SONG: # Take another little piece of my heart, now baby

# Oh, oh, baby

# Break another little piece # of my heart, oh darling yeah... # It's pretty amazing, what they can
do with surgery nowadays, so I was up and walking, and started building up my strength again.

SONG: # If you don't know how to do it, # I'll show you how to walk the dog... #

Drop. The kids are getting big, so we got these new puppies, these miniature schnauzers, and
they're like the new babies. They're my best mates. They need as much exercise as they can get.

Don't we all.

Especially that little fat boy. The dogs were part of my recovery. They helped build my strength,
and we go out and walk every day. While I was in bed, recovering, they'd lay on the bed with me all
the time, after the family got sick of running up and down the stairs, pampering me. I was left
there with the dogs. So basically, after a while lying in bed I got bored, and I decided, time to
pick up the guitar. And I started playing guitar, and writing songs. And one of the first songs I
wrote was a song called, 'Out in the Blue'.

Roll sound.

SONG: # He had everything... Out of this horrible situation... Most people would think heart
surgery's a pretty bad thing, but I found something really great. I found the ability to write
songs again, and I found the ability to play guitar again. And these songs were from my darkest
moments, from my drug addiction, alcohol addictions, my fears about losing Jane. These songs had
all this really great meaning in them. And one of the first songs I wrote was a song called, 'Out
in the Blue'. (Sings) # Out in the blue is where I've been # I kept my feelings deep within # My
heart was covered... Basically that song is about, for the last 30 years, I've just been a mess.
And it took Jane to help pull me back in, and find myself again. (Sings) # Out in the blue, you
pulled me back... #

(Both sings) # I walk through the park... #

This family's very diverse. We do lots of different things. Musically, my children and myself are
miles apart, and close at the same time. We all have our own thing going on.

(Both sing) # We try hard not to argue... #

This is Liam, Liam Finn, and EJ, my daughter. And they're about to go on tour, so they're around
the house getting ready and practising and stuff. That's the sort of thing we have to put up with
all the time.

(Both sing) # Everyone gather # To the chapel... #

This... I couldn't tell you.

I put too much in there.

Just put that piece in?

Just put that piece in there.

This is red curry paste, which if you put too much in, it will get too hot. Is that right, darling?
Jane is completely different to me, as, you know, opposites attract, and thank God for that.

Stir it properly, please.

I am stirring it properly. How do you want it stirred?

Just, like...

We love to eat, and we love to cook. And it's something that we share.

Stir constantly. There you go.

Yes, my little nest of vipers. We like doing it because when you're on the road, and you're in
hotels, you just get over eating in restaurants so much, it's just really relaxing. It makes us
feel like we're at home, to get in the kitchen and do stuff together. There's certainly a hierarchy
in the cooking. Jane is way, way, way at the top of the pyramid. But she's really good at making us
think that we are. Look at what I'm made to do. Cleaning. I'm a born machine. She's actually taught
me so I can cook pretty good myself. But really I know that I'm being conned, that in fact, I am
the slave. SONG: # To love somebody The way I love you... #

Is it too, too...

No, it's pretty good. No, it's not, my pet. In reality - don't tell your mum, but don't you think
I'm a much better cook than your mum? (Laughs)

Yes, dad.

Yes, I am, aren't I? And I'm not even deluded at all.

No way.


Jimmy, you've got five kids, and they're really all going down quite different musical roads.

They... Yeah, it's like anything. They all have their own characters. You heard EJ, singing with
young Liam Finn there, and she writes songs that are much more folky, or dark and alternative. It's
the artists she likes to listen to. She listens to Joni Mitchell, she listens to Elliott Smith,
Madeleine Peyroux, different sorts of artists. And Mahalia, obviously, because Mahalia I
brainwashed, she was born, Mahalia, named after Mahalia Jackson. Jackie, my son, at the moment he's
in Boston, studying at Berklee School of Music, which is a really prestigious music school. Doing
really well, studying drums, and Latin percussion. And Elly May, my youngest daughter, who's just
18, she's actually singing in my band at the moment, while her older sister's still singing with
me, and she's sort of being trained up to do her own thing, now. And she's into R'n'B and pop. And
of course, David, I've seen him singing at the Rainbow Room in New York. And by the end of the
song, everybody in the room was crying. He just had people... He really touches people's emotions.
He's amazing at what he does.

When you look at the kids, what do you see? What do you think?

Oh, I see... I think they get their good looks from their dad. (Both laugh) Don't think so. I just
see, 'potential' is probably the best word, I can see in them at the moment.

Well, you've been to hell and back, do you want to steer them?

I'd like to hope that the kids have seen what I've done, and have learnt some from my mistakes. But
I'm a big believer in, people make their own mistakes. And people... the way that you learn, and
grow in life, is by making mistakes. If everything went perfect, we'd all be the same.

So for Jimmy Barnes, what's next?

Well, I've just got a new heart valve, while they were in there, they checked it out, and said the
rest of my heart was good. Five and a half years sober and straight, I feel stronger, better,
more... ..positive than I have, ever have. I just look forward to going ahead, making good music
and having a good life. I reckon I haven't reached my full potential yet.

It's been great talking to you. Thanks, Jimmy.


And that's Jimmy Barnes. We'll be back with another Talking Heads at the same time next week. In
the meantime, you can look at our website: And I'll see you soon. And next week on Talking Heads,
Margaret Olley.

You want to come through? I spend my life going from one place to another. Following the light

Wednesday, on The Cook and The Chef, Maggie and Simon take another look at Christmas turkey.

That is a really good tip.

Cooking for Christmas. That's The Cook and The Chef, Wednesday, 6:30.

This program is not subtitled CC

Tonight - all in the family, John Howard's John Howard's pitch to the hip pocket of parents.

I want to be prime minister again so that we can build an even stronger and greater greater

A terror suspect walks free leaving ASIO in the dock. And cricketers start the summer in style.
Good evening, Haussegger. Many pundits thought the Prime Minister would keep a lid on spending at
the Coalition's the Coalition's official campaign launch in Brisbane today. But they John Howard is
shelling out $9 billion to woo with education the big ticket item. Here's Jim