One-take Jimmy celebrates 30 years as a solo artist with a new album of classics and collaborations
Warning. Listen to 30:30 in your car and it will incite you to drive faster. Put any of its songs on the pub jukebox and it will incite everyone to drink harder. Its creator, Jimmy Barnes, has some advice though: “I reckon you can cruise with Bernard Fanning, but Shihad’s going to get you into trouble.”
30:30 is half made up of classic recordings Barnesy’s solo career, and half of new collaborations of old tracks, with guests including Baby Animals, Tina Arena, Steven Van Zandt, Jon Stevens, Troy Cassar-Daly and Joe Bonamassa.
There are plenty of surprises. Shihad made one of Barnsey’s more aggressive songs off-the-scale aggressive. He’d originally written the visceral ‘Love and Hate’ in the late-’90s after a fight with his wife Jane. “At the time I was pretty messed up and fighting and out of it – it was in the heyday,” he says wryly. “I was storming out of the house in a huff – in a minute-and-a-huff, actually – when a gentle friend of ours that we met through Deepak Chopra came in the gate and said, ‘Hi, Jimmy, I’ve come to read your cards.’ I said, ‘Read my lips, fuck off.’” Jimmy went into his studio and turned his guitar up to nasty to drown out the friend, smashing down on one chord, over and over.
Roll on another 15 years and Shihad turn up at Barnesy’s studio to record the song. Only, they’ve made a point of listening to it separately because they want to try an experiment: playing it together without any discussion and seeing what comes of it. Barnesy jumps on the mic and what you hear on the record is that very first take. Barnsey shakes his head now at the memory. “What a fucking great band.”
‘Lay Down Your Guns’ was also originally written mid-fume. In 1990 Barnesy had been paired with writer Rick Nowels, who had worked with Belinda Carlisle. “I’m going, ‘I don’t know who fucking Belinda Carlisle is. I don’t like her.’ I went into the studio and was an arsehole to this really nice geeky guy. He couldn’t work his new drum machine. I just turned it on and the default setting started playing, so I just wrote to that.” For 30:30, Barnsey reworked the song with the Living End, with Brian Setzer’s original guitar riff now bearing all Chris Cheney’s hallmarks.
Then there’s ‘Good Times’, which was Jimmy’s 1986 smash duet with Michael Hutchence from the Lost Boys soundtrack. Now it’s been rerecorded with Keith Urban, his friend of 25 years.
“Keith is too good looking for his own good,” Barnesy says. “People forget how good a guitar player he is. He also appears squeaky clean, but he’s gone through some serious drink and drug problems. So he had a sense of what I was like when I was off the rails, and also what Michael Hutchence was like, which ultimately killed him. He has more of a sense for that song than people realise.”
And Urban’s country drawl blends extraordinarily well with Barnesy’s, on ‘Good Times’. Who knew?
“I did. That’s why I asked him,” Barnesy retorts, with all the confidence of a man whose sometimes odd decisions have powered him to the top of the ARIA charts over and over again. In the past he’d been advised against releasing an album of soul covers (Soul Deep, straight to number one) and an acoustic album (Flesh and Wood, straight to number one). He’s now writing a horror novel, based on his life, so we guess we’ll keep an eye on the best-seller list.
“I’m a hyperactive, OCD, aggressive Scotsman,” he beams unapologetically. And that’s how it gets done.