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Working Class Boy

by Jimmy Barnes

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944242,858 (4.07)3
The critically acclaimed number 1 bestseller in paperback. A household name, an Australian rock icon, the elder statesman of Ozrock - there isn't an accolade or cliche that doesn't apply to Jimmy Barnes. But long before Cold Chisel and Barnesy, long before the tall tales of success and excess, there was the true story of James Dixon Swan - a working class boy whose family made the journey from Scotland to Australia in search of a better life. Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, but almost destroy, the rock'n'roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have. Raw, gritty, compassionate, surprising and darkly funny - Jimmy Barnes's childhood memoir is at once the story of migrant dreams fulfilled and dashed. Arriving in Australia in the Summer of 1962, things went from bad to worse for the Swan family - Dot, Jim and their six kids. The scramble to manage in the tough northern suburbs of Adelaide in the 60s would take its toll on the Swans as dwindling money, too much alcohol, and fraying tempers gave way to violence and despair. This is the story a family's collapse, but also a young boy's dream to escape the misery of the suburbs with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join a rock'n'roll band and get out of town for good.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
I have been wanting to read this since it was released but it never quite happened. I was not a fan of Cold Chisel as I am not Australian and probably too young. I however found this a riveting read. I know Glasgow well from the 2000s onwards and this was a fascinating read. I am also the child of Scottish immigrants to Australiasia.

The style is easy and the content is not so easy. It is worthy of the reviews and hoopla it has received as a book and due to the style and detail I am now thinking of reading the sequel even though I have little interest in pop biographies. ( )
  Felicity-Smith | Jan 19, 2022 |
This is quite an amazing book. Tells the story of raw and rough life of Jimmy Barnes, singer of Cold Chisel.
Jimmy Barnes is a household name in Australia, with a reputation as a wild rocker. This autobiography lays out his life from birth in Glasgow, migration to Australia as a pre-schooler, and growing up to the point where he joins Cold Chisel.
He lays bare the deprivation and fear of a small child growing up in an alcoholic and violent family. He manages to be graphic without making the reader a voyeur. And he manages to be detail the failings of his parents without wallowing in blame.
I wondered at first if a ghost writer was involved, but could find no reports online, and gradually concluded that it really was his own work The writing certainly seems to be in the voice of Barnes - sometimes to the point that I thought an editor might have been roughing up the sentence structure for more "authenticity".
Maybe I started with low expectations, but I found this a powerful and moving read. Certainly not your average celebrity bio! ( )
  mbmackay | Nov 6, 2019 |
This memoir was generally well received by our group. Everyone found it an easy, yet compelling read and surprised some of us with its frankness. Considering ‘Barnesy’ has little or no experience penning bios or memoirs, he does an admirable job recounting his childhood in a way that is both believable and realistic.

Although slightly repetitious in the early pages, his story did reflect much of what many immigrant families experienced whilst settling in a new country, and Mary was able to reassure us that the streets of Glasgow could be just as tough and disheartening as Barnes portrayed. She grew up close by and Barnesy’s neighbourhood was her playground as a child, and she recognised many Scottish traits in his recollections. But she did find herself a little frustrated with the adults and their somewhat feckless decisions at times.

We had a great discussion regarding immigration, parenting and the Scottish identity, both at home and in Australia. We also discussed whether there was a ghost writer helping Barnes, coming to the conclusion that probably not, as the style and voice felt wholly his own.

A real surprise was the subtlety of the writing, and how Jimmy managed to impart things in a way that did not condemn nor endorse actions or behaviour. Delia managed to pick up on one of these (where the rest of us didn’t) in which he told of the arrival of his youngest sister Lisa.

Childhood memoirs can be a collection of ‘why me’ and ‘what ifs’, but Barnes has taken his story and told it with honesty and a great deal of dignity, both for himself and his family. We can’t imagine anyone finding bitterness within these pages, just an honest attempt at learning how to understand and forgive, which in truth, is simply people being human. ( )
  jody12 | Jun 6, 2018 |
Showing 4 of 4
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The critically acclaimed number 1 bestseller in paperback. A household name, an Australian rock icon, the elder statesman of Ozrock - there isn't an accolade or cliche that doesn't apply to Jimmy Barnes. But long before Cold Chisel and Barnesy, long before the tall tales of success and excess, there was the true story of James Dixon Swan - a working class boy whose family made the journey from Scotland to Australia in search of a better life. Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, but almost destroy, the rock'n'roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have. Raw, gritty, compassionate, surprising and darkly funny - Jimmy Barnes's childhood memoir is at once the story of migrant dreams fulfilled and dashed. Arriving in Australia in the Summer of 1962, things went from bad to worse for the Swan family - Dot, Jim and their six kids. The scramble to manage in the tough northern suburbs of Adelaide in the 60s would take its toll on the Swans as dwindling money, too much alcohol, and fraying tempers gave way to violence and despair. This is the story a family's collapse, but also a young boy's dream to escape the misery of the suburbs with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join a rock'n'roll band and get out of town for good.

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