Long before Cold Chisel, long before ‘Barnesy’, there was the true story of James Dixon Swan
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. After 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 of a family’s collapse, but also of 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.
ISBN: 9781460752135 Publisher: HarperCollins - AU Publication date: September 19th 2016 Pages: 384
I read this on Audible and it was narrated by Jimmy himself. It was a really great book.
It was a very interesting and poignant book showcasing really well just how tough a life Jimmy and his siblings lived through. However, it’s a book about hope in the face of dire situations.
Jimmy and his siblings way below the poverty line both in Glasgow and even more so when they moved to South Australia but in spite of this he managed to pull himself up and out of poverty and make something of himself. He mentions that he felt they were better off in Glasgow than Elizabeth.
Jimmy shows us that the way Scots tend to solve issues is through alcohol and fighting so we get an insight into this culture.
Many years after arriving in Elizabeth Jimmy’s mum just up and left the children with their alcoholic father. Later on his mother remarried, essentially so she could get the children back. Jimmy felt that his step-dad was so much more like a father to him that he chose to take on this man’s name hence the name Barnes.
The writing style of this book more like that of a conversation between its author and its readers. It’s a bit slow to get into but when you do there is a point where you find your heart strings getting pulled at. This sneaks up on you and it’s hard to let go of. You certainly come out of this appreciating what you have in your own life.
This book really resonated with me as I lived in similar housing to Jimmy so descriptions of things he saw were familiar to me. I also got out of this housing circle and never been back so it’s possible to make a different life for yourself no matter what your circumstances.
Recommend for: Adults Rating: 5 stars