Barnesy: ‘I was getting really smashed’
For the past six months, Jimmy and Jane Barnes have performed almost nightly to lift the spirits of thousands of Australians starved of live entertainment.
With guest appearances from their family and friends, they have performed more than 100 songs, some generating more than one million views including their renditions of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Love Me Tender and Wonderful World.
While the best-selling author finished off the final chapters of his upcoming collection of short stories Killing Time, Jane would spend the day rehearsing on the guitar.
A much requested song this Wednesday night, for all the Desperados out there. Hope you like it. Full video on my Facebook page pic.twitter.com/kvROzBlCp9— Jimmy Barnes (@JimmyBarnes) September 9, 2020
And he reveals in an upcoming episode of his Story Time with Jimmy Barnes that the goodwill from fans who have tuned in - particularly for Jane's adoring smile as she strums alongside her rocker husband - has inspired them to consider taking the family band on tour.
"Jane and I have done more than 100 songs and to commemorate that, I made a T-shirt with the Jane Barnes band (on front) and 100 songs on the back," he said, laughing.
"I am getting second billing now; the comments we get on social media are 'The singer's OK but Jane's fabulous.
"We did this just to keep people entertained on the day … but we're thinking about going out and doing a family tour with David (Campbell) and Diesel and Mahalia and Elly May and Jane and everyone."
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Barnes is always planning his next creative endeavour months in advance and he has been discussing writing new songs with his talented family to perform as well as some of the most popular renditions of the "Jane Barnes Band."
They are also building a YouTube channel to collate their lockdown performances which they were determined to keep going for fans in Victoria who remain under Stage 4 restrictions.
He said he couldn't stop thinking about the loneliness of people missing family as he sang Neil Sedaka's Solitaire recently.
"It would be doing some of these songs and writing a bunch of songs to be the next stage of the Flesh and Wood album; we might call it Flesh and Blood, so there's the idea of (doing) that," he said.
"There are so many songs I have sung with Jane during this time which have been really emotional for us to do … we know people are struggling and locked away and having a hard time.
"I really love the fact people have connected with this … it's really gorgeous."
While his first two memoirs Working Class Boy and Working Class Man chronicled his harrowing childhood and often self-destructive quest to escape it by joining the rock'n'roll circus, many of Killing Time's short stories are centred on his family and their lives away from the stage.
Fans have also been given an insight into how music and food bind the tight-knit extended family and their friends, with dinner guests such as artist advocate Jenny Morris and upcoming Story Time podcast guest, MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo tapped to join the loungeroom gigs.
Barnes, Jane and other members of their family, will finally get to perform on a stage for the first time since COVID-19 put an indefinite halt to gigs in March when he headlines the Top End Breakout Show in Darwin on September 26.
FINDING AN ANGEL IN LOS ANGELES
Caught in a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, Jimmy Barnes was on a mission to buy the day's fixings to fuel a recording session when an unlikely "angel" stopped him in his tracks.
As the rocker and author reveals in the first episode of his Story Time with Jimmy Barnes podcast, an encounter in the late 1990s with a homeless woman trying to sell her drawings on the streets of Los Angeles set him on a long and slow road to recovery.
Barnes has always felt on edge in Los Angeles, and reveals that while working on his 2000 album Soul Deeper, "I used to get really smashed."
But one late, oppressively hot morning when he ventured out of the recording studio to buy a bottle of vodka and procure cash for cocaine, stopping to talk to an older woman who became homeless after her husband died gave him a much-needed adjustment in perspective.
As he writes in the You've Given Me Enough chapter of his upcoming third book Killing Time, those who are homeless are too often treated as if they were invisible.
"I was in a bit of a bad state … but this encounter made me realise how lucky I was. She was educated, sweet woman who just before this had lived in a nice house with a dog and her husband died and his finances weren't in order and suddenly she ended up on the street. Her kids didn't care, they'd moved away," he recalled.
"She used to be an art teacher … she had (drawings on) bits of cardboard and even the wrappers that go around tins.
"I had a look at her lovely little drawings, talked to her for a while and … said I'll take the lot and gave her $500.
"She tried to refuse and I said 'No, I want to … I was going to spend it on drugs and booze … just take it.
"I went back to the studio and realised I wasn't going to buy any drugs that day but I felt better about myself.
"It's like the dominoes, it was one of those things that started making me change the way I thought about life. She was like an angel and certainly had an impact on me. It was a long slow change but she started it."
THE FATE OF LIVE CREW
Barnes also shares his concerns for another "invisible" sector of his community, struggling from the impact of the pandemic shutdown of the live music industry.
With his mate of more than three decades "Sneaky" Peter McFee - who has been Elton John's production manager since 2010 - Barnes calls on federal and state governments to support the casual concert crew and technicians who have fallen through the cracks of JobKeeper and JobSeeker assistance.
The men warn thousands of highly skilled workers will be lost to the industry forever and it could take up to a decade to replace them.
"What I'd like to see now is we get festivals going and gigs for Australian artists so they can employ people," McFee said.
"JobKeeper needs to be directed at the crews, to pay their wages. To go from having 30,000 people at a gig and then be allowed to (only) have 7500, there's no money there.
"They are struggling … or they're going out and (having) to get another job and they won't come back.
"All these international bands love coming to Australia because there's great people who work in the industry … and we're going to lose a bunch of those really talented people to other industries."
Barnes said governments and the music-loving public had to rally behind Australian music when restrictions ease to get the show back on the road.
"We don't know how long it is going to be before we can get the shows back … six months without working is unheard of, I've never done that in 50 years," Barnes said.
"There's going to be a period where bands from overseas aren't going to come, so it will be a great opportunity for the Australian public to get out there and support the Australian music industry, to all get together and celebrate."
You can listen to the first episode of the Story Time with Jimmy Barnes podcast today at storytimewithjimmybarnes.com.au
Pre-order Killing Time: Short stories from the long road home, released by Harper Collins on October 7, via jimmybarnes.com
Originally published as Barnesy: 'I was getting really smashed'