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Music / Cold Chisel

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Ask someone from outside Australia to name an Australian rock band, and the most likely answer would be "AC/DC". However, within Australia, there is one band that is at least as revered as "Akka-Dakka". That band is Cold Chisel.

Cold Chisel were formed in the 70s, during Australia's pub rock boom, which also produced the aforementioned AC/DC, among others. They were fronted by a young man called Jimmy Barnes, with pianist Don Walker writing the bulk of their songs. Even without huge amounts of support from radio or TV in their early days, the band garnered a large following via the pub circuit. In fact, it would be fair to describe them as the definitive Aussie pub rock band. However, despite their popularity in Australia, international success eluded them.

Cold Chisel broke up in 1983, but frontman Jimmy Barnes went on to a solo career, becoming even bigger than he was as a member of Cold Chisel. The band regrouped in 1998 for the album The Last Wave of Summer and a national tour, and still occasionally comes together again.

Drummer and sometimes composer Steve Prestwich died of cancer in 2011, and was replaced by Charley Drayton who has worked with The Rolling Stones and the The B-52s.

Cold Chisel contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Word of God says that the song "Choirgirl" was about a girl getting an abortion and the resulting emotional fallout.
  • Album Title Drop: "Houndog" for Circus Animals. (See also Title Track, below.)
  • The Alcoholic: "Cheap Wine". The narrator seems to have abandoned what was apparently quite a successful career and ditched his lover in order to sit on the beach drinking.
    I left it all behind, for my / Cheap wine and a three-day growth.
  • Anti-Christmas Song: "Home and Broken-Hearted" has elements of this - it concerns a man getting dumped on Christmas Eve.
    What a low down time of the year to pack your luggage and leave...
  • Band of Relatives: In his recent solo career, Jimmy has been backed by his daughters Mahalia, Elly-May, and Eliza-Jane, with drums provided by his son Jackie. During the COVID pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Jimmy and his wife Jane released frequent videos with various music.
  • Break-Up Song: Frequently - "Juliet", "Home and Broken-Hearted" and "Just How Many Times" on the first album alone, and no album is without at least one.
  • Careful with That Axe: Jimmy Barnes became a star on the internet thanks to this trope.
  • Cover Version: The band frequently performed Knockin' On Heaven's Door as part of their live set.
  • Epic Rocking: Most live performances of Bow River.
  • Genre Roulette: a limited example on Twentieth Century which featured twelve songs that were in the classic Chisel sound - and a reggae number penned by Barnes ("No Sense").
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with "Choirgirl," where a young woman has had an abortion and is dealing with emotional and physical trauma in the afermath.
  • Hard Truckin': The song called "Shipping Steel" about the life of a truck driver; after going solo, lead singer Jimmy Barnes released the song "Driving Wheels", which was also about the life of a truck driver.
  • Hot-Blooded: Jimmy Barnes.
  • I Am the Band: Pianist Don Walker is also the band's primary songwriter, and has written the majority of their most famous songs including "Khe Sanh" and "Cheap Wine." This led to some tension towards the end of their first tenure (1973-1983), as the other members felt that he was receiving a disproportionate amount of the band's royalties.
  • Intercourse with You: "Hold Me Tight"
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Letter to Alan", "You Got Nothing I Want" and "Saturday Night".
  • Metal Scream: It's probably the most famous thing about Jimmy Barnes after 2017.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Letter to Alan"
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: "Juliet" and "Forever Now"
  • Sentimental Drunk: Barnes drank a lot while on stage, and would usually reach this state somewhere in the second half of the show. Even now that he's been sober since the early 2000s, he can still be pretty sentimental onstage, telling stories about the band's younger days, talking fondly of his wife and kids, and reminiscing about over late drummer Steve Prestwich. In his one-man show from 2018, he is sentimental about other Aussie musicians who have passed, and specifically mentions the death of Michael Hutchence.
  • Shout-Out: the cover of East was a recreation of Jacques-Louis David's 1793 painting The Death of Marat.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Guitarist Ian Moss does lead vocals on a few songs, usually one or two each album, and sometimes split vocal duties with Barnes, as on "Saturday Night" and "When The War Is Over". He also filled in whenever Jimmy Barnes quit the band. His "Bow River" was a staple of the band's live set. They sounded pretty similar in the '70s and '80s, with Moss having a slightly lower register but a more narrow range.
  • Take That!: "You Got Nothing I Want" is an angry rejection of American music labels that wouldn't accept the band as they were.
  • That's All, Folks!: The band's final single, "Saturday Night", was released in early 1984, three months after its first breakup. In the words of composer Don Walker: "The band I'd been in for ten years was breaking up. I think it's just a 'kissing all that goodbye and moving on into the unknown' song."
  • Title Track: exactly half of their studio albums - Breakfast at Sweethearts, Twentieth Century and The Last Wave of Summer.
  • The Vietnam Vet: "Khe Sanh" is about a young vet with PTSD.
  • War Is Hell: "Khe Sanh" is about a restless Vietnam veteran. "When the War is Over" is about soldiers longing to go home.

Alternative Title(s): Jimmy Barnes