Jimmy Barnes goes solo with Canadian connection after Cold Chisel hits its peak

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 6, 1986

By Steve Newton

What do you get when you combine the guitarist from Streetheart, the bassist from Headpins, the keyboardist from Sharp Edges, the drummer from the Bryan Adams band, and the lead singer from Cold Chisel?

Well, with a little time, you get a pretty rockin’ band.

“The first month or so we had to get the right direction and focus,” says singer Jimmy Barnes, over the phone from Boston, where his band was touring with ZZ Top. “But it’s really happening now. In our last three weeks we’ve been hitting a good streak where we’ve been doing really hot gigs every night.”

Barnes is the former leader of Australian sensations Cold Chisel, who released eight platinum-plus albums in their homeland. Now Barnes has gone solo, signed a management deal with Vancouver’s Bruce Allen/Lou Blair team, and gathered together four local boys to help take his first North American album on the road. His straight-ahead, no-frills band is made up of guitarist Jeff Neil, bassist Ab Bryant, keyboardist Tom Lang, and drummer Pat Steward. They have the unenviable job of warming up the rowdy ZZ Top crowds, who have a reputation for not taking kindly to opening acts.

“Yeah, I heard that,” Jimmy says. “But they haven’t been hard with us at all. The two bands are compatible, you know. We’re both rock and rollers.”

Barnes has been rocking and rolling for most of his natural life, joining Cold Chisel when he was only 16 and sticking with them for 10 years. One of the things he left behind when he split the group, apart from all the hit albums, was his reputation as a heavy boozer.

“Yeah, I was pretty bad,” he admits. “I cut down before I left Cold Chisel because I was gettin’ to the stage there when I couldn’t remember the end of gigs. So I thought I better do something about that.”

Barnes still likes to party with the band after gigs. (In fact, the cover of his latest self-titled LP shows him holding a guitar and a Japanese beer, and both are within striking distance.) “[But] it’s not like there’s big binges every night,” he says, adding that his previous indulgences were not the main reason for Cold Chisel’s demise.

“I felt that the band had reached a peak. They were a really really good band, but just felt we weren’t playing as good as we had been say 12 months earlier. I didn’t want us to just slip away and become a bad band, you know. Plus I wanted to get out and work with some other musicians.”

Barnes got to work with some pretty big names on his Jimmy Barnes album. As well as Kim Carnes, Mick Fleetwood, Journey’s Jonathan Cain, and former Linda Ronstadt guitarist/sessionman Waddy Wachtel, he had the help of various members from Little Feat.

“I was in Australia doing a tour, and Mick Fleetwood  was touring with his band The Zoo, who he plays with when he’s not with Fleetwood Mac. And in that band was Kenny Gradney, the bassist from Little Feat. They were just playing small clubs. I went to see them, got talking, and they invited me for a sing. And I ended up singing with them for about 10 shows in Australia.

“Then when I went to L.A. last year to record the album, I was knockin’ around with them, playin’ golf with Kenny and drinking with the boys and all that. So I just asked them if they wanted to play and it was fine. Kenny said, ‘Do you need a keyboard player?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ So he got [former Little Feat keyboardist] Bill Payne, which was fantastic. And we had Sam Clayton too, the percussionist from Little Feat. So there’s three of them on there.”

On some of the songs on Jimmy Barnes, particularly “Boys Cry Out for War” and the Jonathan Cain-penned “Working Class Man”, Barnes’ vocals sound curiously similar to those of John Fogerty.

“People used to say that to me back in Australia,” says Barnes. “But up until that time I hadn’t listened to him at all. I have listened to him over the last few years though, and I can see similarities in our styles.”

Okay. So Jimmy Barnes is a guy from Australia, who sings a bit like an American, and plays with a bunch of Canadians. That’s not too unusual. But what’s a fellow who lives on a farm outside Sydney doing with a management team based in Vancouver?

“I think Bruce [Allen] was in Geffen Records one day, and they played him a tape of mine. He really liked it, and he and Lou [Blair] came to Australia and saw a tour. I knew about his reputation, so I went back to Vancouver and we hooked up. And as it worked out, it was a good thing for me.”

Good enough to make Jimmy Barnes the next Bryan Adams? We’ll have to wait and see.

To hear the audio of my interview with Jimmy Barnes from 1986 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

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Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
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Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
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Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Derek Trucks, 1998
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Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
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…with hundreds more to come

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