Johnny Diesel

Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes at Hard Rock Calling

Hyde Park 2012 Hard Rock Calling
Jimmy Barnes at Hyde Park

It was great to see Jimmy Barnes again – fronting Cold Chisel at Hyde Park.

If you were wondering around Earls Court at 6pm on Friday night and saw tumbleweed drift across a veritable ghost town, I think I have the explanation. Cold Chisel, fronted by Jimmy Barnes, were playing at the Hard Rock Calling event at Hyde Park and brought half of Australia’s ex-pat community with them. We were surrounded by nostalgic and dewy-eyed Aussies looking at each other and saying things like “Ah, this is my favourite…” It was a little unsettling and it must have been hell getting served in many of London’s bars due to a lack of staff…. (ok, I promise that’s the only joke I’ll make about the Aussies).

Hyde Park 2012 Hard Rock Calling

Cold Chisel are huge in Australia albeit pretty much unknown anywhere else. But frontman Jimmy Barnes and I go way back, because he had something of a solo career in the late eighties, when he lined up with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain from Journey for a couple of albums. The 1987 album Freight Train Heart and its predecessor Working Class Man were minor AOR classics and for a time Jimmy Barnes looked like he might be Australia’s answer to Bruce Springsteen. It turned out he was more like the Australian Rick Springfield, which was complicated, as the latter is also Australian. There was only room for one Australian Bruce Springsteen in the USA and Springfield got there first.

I saw Jimmy Barnes play live at Brixton Academy on 26th May 1988, where these next pictures are from (I have dug these out of my old photo album).

Johnny Diesel
Jimmy Barnes in 1988 at Brixton

It’s interesting to see how the passage of time has had its effect! In Jimmy Barnes’ band that day were Neal Schon and Johnny Diesel, the latter of which went on to fame with Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. Of course, when I say “fame” I mean he became famous in Australia, which means he was a big flathead in a small billabong. Good debut album though, and an endearing talent for breaking his heavy gauge guitar strings by constantly hitting them too hard.

Neal Schon of Journey playing with Jimmy Barnes at Brixton Academy in 1988

Back to Cold Chisel, Jimmy Barnes still has his trademark gravelly voice and can still reach the high notes, doubtless helped by his continued ability to squeeze into a pair of tight leather trousers. The verdict from my (non-Australian) friend who was new to Cold Chisel was that Barnes was a “pub singer who got lucky” but I think this is a little harsh. The verdict from his many Australian fans is that he is a living legend. The noise they made singing along to Chisel classics Khe Sanh and Cheap Wine only backed that up.

Record #71: Jimmy Barnes – Driving Wheels


2 responses to “Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes at Hard Rock Calling”

  1. Martin Hawley Avatar

    Saw them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Wednesday night, great show. Although I did feel like the only Englishman there 🙂


    1. every record tells a story Avatar

      That’s how I felt on Friday – and in 1988! In fact, I remember a girl asking me something at the Brixton gig and after I replied she blurted out “Oh, English!”…


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