Stuck in a dead-end town, with no money and seemingly no future, he’d fallen headlong into gang life and was going nowhere in a hurry.
Without even realising it, the tearaway teen was becoming his own father, whom he’d watched, as a traumatised child, repeatedly beat his mother senseless.
Barnes knew this wasn’t the right way to be living, but he didn’t know how to stop. “I was hanging around in gangs and fighting, but I didn’t want to kill people,” the 62-year-old recalls.
“My mates didn’t give a s--t. They didn’t care if they killed people. What did they have to lose? No doors were opening for us.”
And then Barnes was offered an audition to sing in a band. That band was, of course, Cold Chisel. And it was like he’d been hauled out of a tar pit. “I think if music hadn’t come along, I’d have run away to Melbourne, where I might have ended up in more trouble,” he says. “Or I might have wound up dead.”
The rocker’s painful past is on full show in Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy. Based on the autobiography of the same name, the feature documentary (airing on Oct. 1, 8.30pm on Seven), is a stunning, raw bones account of Barnes’ younger years.
In a WHO magazine exclusive, Barnes rips off the bandaid and opens up about his painful past. Pick up the magazine for his full interview.