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Summary

Raw, gritty, compassionate, surprising and darkly funny - Australian legend Jimmy Barnes' unforgettable childhood memoir.

The time I have spent writing this book has caused me a lot of pain. Sometimes because of what I have remembered about my childhood and sometimes because of what I couldn't remember. It is funny how your mind blocks things out when those things can hurt you. There are a lot of things I wish I didn't remember....

A household name, an Australian rock icon, the elder statesman of OzPubRock - there isn't an accolade or cliché that doesn't apply to Jimmy Barnes. But long before Cold Chisel and Barnesy, long before the tall tales of success and excess, there was the true story of James Dixon Swan - a working class boy whose family made the journey from Scotland to Australia in search of a better life.

Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood that fuelled the excess and recklessness which would define but almost destroy the rock 'n' roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have.

Raw, gritty, compassionate, surprising and darkly funny - Jimmy Barnes' childhood memoir is at once the story of migrant dreams fulfilled and dashed. Arriving in Australia in the summer of 1962, things went from bad to worse for the Swan family - Dot, Jim and their six kids. The scramble to manage in the tough northern suburbs of Adelaide in the '60s would take its toll on the Swans as dwindling money, too much alcohol and fraying tempers gave way to violence and despair.

This is the story of a family's collapse, but it is also the story of a young boy's dream to escape the misery of the suburbs with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join a rock 'n' roll band and get out of town for good.

©2016 Jimmy Barnes (P)2017 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic reviews

"A stunning piece of work - relentless, earnest, shockingly vivid." ( The Australian)
"Jimmy Barnes' 'memoir of running away' is a tale of sheer survival, the horror of a violent upbringing snapping at his heels 'like it was yesterday'." ( The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Australia's best kept secret

I have been following Jimmy Barnes for many many years now and have read his other books and many articles about his life in Glasgow, the move to Elizabeth in Australia and his success both with Cold Chisel and as a solo artist, I have met him on many occasions and find him to be a very humble person, I had previously read this book but wanted to now listen to Jimmy tell his story, hearing him open up about his life, with all the warts included, as they say, is really emotional, I have also seen Jimmy on his 'Working Class Boy' tour and again found it to be a very emotional experience.
The book is a must read for any Chisel/Barnes fan and a truly inspirational read for anyone else.

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True Working Class Boy

Wow!
What a life that poor boy had!
But hold on that was how it was back in the day!
Absolutely loved the story told by Jimmy and have the utmost respect and love for him.
I was in Australia in 1985 and was lucky enough to be introduced to Jimmy Barnes’s music by my Aussie mates and blessed to see him live at Bombay Rock Surfers Paradise.
Haven’t stopped listening since!
Can’t wait for Working class Man to come out on Audio

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  • Matt Lockwood
  • 30-10-17

Bloody Brilliant.

I binge listened in one sitting. Couldn't stop. There are dark tales of hard post War Scotland and redneck towns in South Australia- but the laughs and yarns throughout just had me hooked. Jimmy Barnes is one of Australia's favourite rock stars. This is a brave story, read by the man himself. Well done Jimmy Barnes- I'll see you at a book signing.