Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - In­ter­view DAVID CAMP­BELL In­tro­duc­tion AL­LEY PAS­COE Pho­tog­ra­phy STEVEN CHEE Styling MA­RINA AFONINA Cre­ative di­rec­tion ALEKSANDRA BEARE

Jimmy Barnes sits down with his son, David Camp­bell, to dis­cuss his “des­per­ate” child­hood and how he’s de­ter­mined to work through his is­sues for the sake of his chil­dren.

The mood was al­ready a highly charged emo­tional one when Jimmy Barnes sat down last month to be in­ter­viewed by his son, David Camp­bell, for Stel­lar.

Ear­lier that week, the 60-year-old had lost his mother, Dorothy – a woman who plays a lead­ing role in her son’s up­com­ing book, Work­ing Class Boy, in which the le­gendary rock star re­veals the des­per­a­tion and vi­o­lence he ex­pe­ri­enced while grow­ing up.

Speak­ing to his son for the first time about the of­ten-shock­ing fam­ily his­tory, and har­row­ing rec­ol­lec­tions he writes about in the book, had both men break­ing down at times.

But while Barnes tells Camp­bell of the dif­fi­culty in com­mit­ting his pain to

pa­per and be­ing on the brink of shar­ing his story with the world, he is adamant it is a story that needs to be told.

DAVID CAMP­BELL: How are you feel­ing about the re­lease of your new book, Work­ing Class Boy? JIMMY BARNES:

Imag­ine the dilem­mas I’ve had be­fore ev­ery­body reads it, all the fam­ily. It’s in pro­duc­tion now. I can’t change it. They gave it to me to do the last read and the last edit while my mum was on her deathbed… I wanted to change stuff, but I just said, “No, I’m not go­ing to read it again.”

It’s been an in­tense time. Your mum a book died, that andis re­ally we’re all talk­ing about abouty­our par­ents and the ef­fect they had on your life. How does it feel know­ing all this is go­ing to be out there soon?

It’s strange, be­cause I’ve been wrestling with how I was go­ing to let them read it. I make it clear at the start that this is purely my way of look­ing at life and what I’ve seen from my eyes.

The book starts in Glas­gow, where you were born. What do you re­mem­ber about your time there?

I re­mem­ber all the stuff from Glas­gow, and I was five when I left. I can even re­mem­ber the house I was born in, and we moved out of that be­fore I was 10 months old. I’ve drawn pic­tures of it. Of course, I’ve spo­ken to ther­a­pists about it and they reckon that mem­ory at that early age is nor­mally due to trauma. So there was prob­a­bly vi­o­lence in the house. I re­mem­ber the smells and streets in Glas­gow. I re­mem­ber the sense of fear all the time, and the cold. We lived in these ten­e­ments, these slums, which are now trendy in­ner-city dwellings in Glas­gow. They had about eight apart­ments in them, and one toi­let down­stairs in the en­trance foyer, [called] the close. It was filthy. I was ter­ri­fied of go­ing down there; you couldn’t go at night be­cause the lights were al­ways smashed. One of my sis­ters was at­tacked in the close and it was quite se­ri­ous. That was when we were four or five.

There’s a story in the book about you and one of your mates get­ting taken by the gang in the next street and be­ing belted with rocks.

We then both they got were belted go­ing withto throw rocks. bot­tlesBut and I ran like hell. They told me to run, and I ran. And he froze. They lit­er­ally cut him up. I think they cut his wrists and set fire to this shed he was in and left him in it. He was re­ally badly burnt and ended up in hos­pi­tal.

You couldn’t go out of your street with­out your fam­ily with you. Kids were just bru­tal and vi­o­lent.

And then al­co­hol is added to that. Booze is on every page in this book. It’s like a main char­ac­ter.

There was a lot of drink­ing. Ev­ery­body we knew drank, and they drank way too f*ck­ing much. My mum tried to make ends meet and bat­tled with my al­co­holic fa­ther who would drink away all the money.

To know that al­co­holism was in the fam­ily was in­ter­est­ing. Here was a guy, your dad, who would get all the money and then go to the pub and drink it all away.

And he’d be look­ing at Mum to feel sorry for him. “Oh, I re­ally f*cked up.” And this hap­pened from Scot­land through to when he left when I was 11. He did that all the time; he would come back and he was re­ally sorry. And he’d work re­ally hard and try re­ally hard. Then he’d get money and he’d just go crazy. He gam­bled, too.

When you [and your fam­ily] moved to Aus­tralia, ev­ery­body thought it would be the so­lu­tion to their prob­lems, when re­ally they just brought their prob­lems with them.

You’d Aus­trali­abecause think they but,it had wouldn’tre­ally,no back-up.it got hap­pen worse My in here fam­ily has all these wom­an­is­ing and al­co­hol and vi­o­lence prob­lems in Scot­land. And my mum thought we could sim­ply run off and get away from it all. Of course, all of it trans­ferred. Mum had no one to run to. She had no one to go to when she’d been bashed or when we were hun­gry. She was on her own. It lit­er­ally got more and more des­per­ate the fur­ther we got from Glas­gow.

One of the is­sues you touch on in the book, although you don’t go too deeply into it, is do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in the home.

A lot of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in the home. It’s one of the things that un­folded to me as I was writ­ing the book. I never re­ally, as a young man, re­mem­bered much of my dad hit­ting my mum. I just thought my mum was vi­o­lent.

Be­cause she was de­fend­ing her­self.

She writ­ingkids, was my the de­fend­ing­sis­ters, book, hid­ingI her­self. re­mem­beredmy As mumI was the un­der a bed, bat­tered and bruised, so my dad couldn’t find her. My dad was a quiet as­sas­sin. He was re­ally charm­ing and smi­ley and softly spo­ken, but he could knock you out in a se­cond. And he did

the same to my mum. It was al­ways fu­elled by al­co­hol – al­co­hol, fear and ig­no­rance – just des­per­a­tion, re­ally.

It’s a big deal when your mother leaves in the book. Even by to­day’s stan­dards, a mother leav­ing her fam­ily is a shock­ing thing. You were very close to her, so it must have been dev­as­tat­ing.

I was re­ally close to her; I was a mummy’s boy. I think I was about eight years old when she left, so I was re­ally closely bonded to her. The only time I ever felt safe in the world was

when I was near her, in her arms. So, when she left, I couldn’t be­lieve it. I used to think we were a nor­mal fam­ily, that the be­hav­iour in our house was nor­mal, so I didn’t ex­pect her to dis­ap­pear. I just thought, “They’ve got prob­lems; they’ll work through them. We’ll be OK. Ev­ery­thing’s great. Ev­ery­body loves each other.” As kids do. So when I woke up that day and she was gone, it was like the whole rug had been pulled out from un­der my life. I was sit­ting there, wait­ing for her to come back. My dad would just drink and cry. He got de­pressed. He didn’t want her to go, ei­ther. I think it was a shock to him. He didn’t ex­pect her to walk out. In­stead of strength­en­ing him and mak­ing him look af­ter us, he just fell apart even more.

So who looked af­ter you?

[My sis­ter] Dot. She was three years older than me. So she was 11 and she be­came the mother, be­cause my dad was never there. Dot would lit­er­ally steal money from him so she could feed us. I re­mem­ber we lived for­ever on chips. The odd egg here and there. But it was OK be­cause we liked chips [laughs]. I re­mem­ber just be­ing afraid con­stantly. I’ve been afraid since I was born, re­ally. But when my mum left, it was this whole dif­fer­ent de­gree of fear. I was wait­ing for the world to col­lapse on us. We were all the same.

I want to talk about some of the close calls. A cou­ple of them are re­ally the worst things you could ever think of. You were hitch­hik­ing and get­ting in cars with peo­ple you didn’t know, who could have eas­ily taken ad­van­tage of you.

Oh yeah. I had some­one look­ing out for me the whole time. As bad as it sounds, I think I was lucky. Ei­ther I had re­ally good sur­vival in­stincts, or there was some­body out there look­ing af­ter me.

There was an in­ci­dent where you saw a woman be­ing gang raped.

I toned that down [in the book], but I re­mem­ber it so vividly. I was stunned. I was nine years old or some­thing and re­mem­ber see­ing this go­ing on, but I didn’t know what the f*ck it was. They re­minded me of a pack of dogs. It re­minded me of an­i­mals. I just thought, sh*t. But noth­ing hap­pened. [The men] ended up walk­ing around and the girl just hung around with them. It was kind of nor­mal. That was sort of my in­tro­duc­tion to sex. It was a hor­ri­ble thing. But I knew peo­ple who were in­volved in it, so that made it worse.


There was also an in­ci­dent when your mate was in the bed­room with his brother…

I re­mem­ber I used to stay out of the house, be­cause it felt safer to be out of my home than it was to be there. When I stayed at my mate’s place it was all fine, un­til his brother got out of jail… I re­mem­ber this guy try­ing to f*ck me. I freaked out and climbed out of the win­dow. And he just sort of rolled over and tried to shag his brother. His young brother. We were kids. He got out of jail for some vi­o­lent crime. I knew the whole fam­ily, they were all mates of the fam­ily and my par­ents. It was a weird thing.

Do you think peo­ple are ready to read about all of this?

I thought my child­hood was re­ally nor­mal. But when I started writ­ing about it, I re­alised it was re­ally f*ck­ing ab­nor­mal. But the sad­dest part was, by the end of it, by the time I fin­ished writ­ing the book, I started to re­alise that it’s prob­a­bly more nor­mal than we think. That’s why, for me, one of the most im­por­tant parts about the book is to share the ex­pe­ri­ence, be­cause there are peo­ple out there right now go­ing through the same thing, and prob­a­bly more than when I was young.

Over downs [Camp­bellthe about years,was how raisedI’ve we’re had by re­lat­edups his and ma­ter­nal grand­mother, Joan, and didn’t know Jimmy was his fa­ther un­til he was around 10 years old]. I’ve pulled back and I have come in. I’ve done ther­apy… but the book made it so clear to me, [in that] I ac­tu­ally un­der­stood the ex­act train of how you got to where I was con­ceived, where I was born and what you did post that. I had more clarity read­ing those chap­ters than I have in my whole life. It’s al­most like a present.

I can’t speak for them, but your mum prob­a­bly came from the same things as me – if not worse. I was very fond of your mum; I thought she was a re­ally lovely girl. We were like kin­dred spir­its. We weren’t madly at­tracted to each other; we weren’t go­ing out. We would just hang on to each other in the night. When I first heard that your mum was preg­nant with you, it was prob­a­bly the most ter­ri­fied I’d ever been in my life. Not just be­cause of the reper­cus­sions of it, but be­ing re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing some­one into this world: “Why the f*ck would I want to bring some­one into this world? I can’t

even stand look­ing at my­self in the mir­ror.” So, it was a huge thing.

Ab­so­lutely. But you say that if you could go back and spend every minute with me, you would. And that made the book for me. It re­ally did. That gave me, as a hu­man, as your son, such clo­sure.

But can you imag­ine that now with your own son? Not hav­ing that time with him? It’s such a loss for every­one. And you can’t re­place that time. You can’t make it up. So the re­la­tion­ship is dif­fer­ent. It’s to­tally dif­fer­ent, but

it starts from sim­ply try­ing to be there and try­ing to be un­der­stand­ing of that. I couldn’t come and sort of gush and force my­self on you, be­cause it’s al­ways been very mea­sured.

I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant that this book is just about the first 17 years of your life. God, I felt so sorry for you as a kid. [Puts hands over face and cries.] I’m so sorry that hap­pened. It’s hard to see your par­ent go through it.

We re­mem­ber­didn’t know be­ing any hud­dled dif­fer­ent. with I my can fam­ily, with my brothers and sis­ters. That was all we had. We were hud­dled and fright­ened and scared. And my mum did her best and I don’t look back in judge­ment of any of them.

You re­ally don’t. There were times when I thought you were giv­ing

some of them an easy ride. I was al­most yelling at the book at times: “No, that is not OK!” But you don’t judge them and it’s a beau­ti­ful thing.

You have got to re­mem­ber where they came from, too. When I think about my life, I know stuff that’s not in [the book] that you guys don’t, and my life was al­most a dream com­pared to theirs.

You were talk­ing about how at ease Nanna was at the end of her life. She’d had a rough trot.

I went had into mixed hos­pi­tal emo­tions this when time. sheI was first think­ing, “I’m just start­ing to get my life to­gether and she’s leav­ing me again.” I felt this sort of aban­don­ment thing hap­pen­ing with me. But when I went to see her and I held her hand, it was the op­po­site. It was like the clos­est she’s been. She was there and she was at peace. She wasn’t an­gry and she wasn’t go­ing any­where. That was the dif­fer­ence. It was re­ally pretty mov­ing [cries].

That’s enough. I mean, hope­fully your other in­ter­views will be eas­ier than this one. I’m cry­ing and you’re cry­ing. I think that’s enough.

It’s hard go­ing out and talk­ing about the book. To get up and talk about it in pub­lic, my throat goes. It’s very dif­fi­cult. But it’s ther­a­peu­tic. It’s cathar­tic.

We’re bear­ing wit­ness to your life in a way that hasn’t re­ally hap­pened be­fore.

It’s like, should I be do­ing this? It’s very dif­fi­cult.

But it’s im­por­tant.

It’s im­por­tant for my chil­dren. I think the more stuff I deal with now, the bet­ter. It’s that thing about be­ing in­ter­gen­er­a­tional. Every step I take for­ward, my chil­dren take a step for­ward. And every step they take, their chil­dren take.

Read­ing the book, I’ve never felt bet­ter about quit­ting booze. I should have quit sooner! It’s bru­tal, but those lessons have been passed down.

They’ve been back­handed down. Those lessons have been back­handed down from fa­ther to son [laughs]. Jimmy’s live show tours theatres na­tion­ally in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber; jim­my­barnes.com.

Next week in the Sun­day Her­ald Sun: “Dad sud­denly went quiet… and then bang!”; Ex­clu­sive ex­tracts from Jimmy Barnes’s Work­ing Class Boy.



DAVID WEARS Bally blazer, 1800 781 851, Acne Stu­dios knit, ac­nes­tu­dios.com; his own jew­ellery JIMMY WEARS his own cloth­ing and jew­ellery

FAM­ILY TIES (from top) Jimmy’s dad, James; a young Jimmy (se­cond from left) with his sib­lings John, Dorothy and Linda; the singer in pri­mary school; Jimmy (left) with his mum and younger brother Alan; (be­low op­po­site page) Jimmy at 16.

Work­ing Class Boy by Jimmy Barnes (Harpercollins, $45) is avail­able from Septem­ber 19. Jimmy will be meet­ing read­ers at book­shop events dur­ing Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber.

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