Rolling Stone Australia


Jimmy Barnes


If you've read rock star memoirs before, you know that there are certain things that are typical to the point of being cliché. A hard-knock life taught resilience and strength. Family was key. Music was the ticket out. And all those things are true of Working Class Boy, but not necessarily in the ways that you'd expect.

The first volume of Barnes' memoirs pulls few punches; and there are plenty, both figurative and literal. While there are moments of levity and love (especially regarding his stepfather, the man who was to give Barnes his surname), there's parental neglect, alcoholism, physical and sexual abuse, and the constant threat of random violence. It's not just amazing that he had a successful career; it's downright incredible he and his siblings survived to adulthood at all.

This volume starts with Barnes' birth in the slums of Glasgow in 1956 and follows his family's move to the housing trust estates of Adelaide's flat, grim outer northern suburbs, ending just after he joins Cold Chisel in 1973. Somewhat surprisingly for a musician's autobiography, there's not all that much actual music in it.

It's not simply misery porn, though. Barnes writes with verve and style to present a fascinating story of flawed and compelling personalities, not least his own. The result is unexpectedly compelling.

'Working Class Boy' is available now via Harper Collins. Read an exclusive extract from the book here.

We will be hosting a special 'In Conversation with Jimmy Barnes' night on Tuesday, September 27th, as part of Live Lodge 2016. Tickets available here.


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