c chisel 1

Hold Me Tight (D Walker) 1983 and Saturday Night (D Walker) and Flame Trees (D Walker/ S Prestwich) – Cold Chisel 1984

In May 1983 Cold Chisel departed for their second European tour, for dates in Germany through to mid-June, the band was showing signs of growing apart, Steve Prestwich had injured his back in a car accident and had been temporarily replaced by Gary Young (ex-Daddy Cool). Prestwich returned to tour in Germany but his drumming was criticized and at one stage Jimmy tried to have him replaced by Young, who was not available at the time, Prestwich and Barnes were always a combustible mix. The band’s early tour performances were lacklustre and highly variable in quality, Steve was having trouble producing the required drum patterns, Jimmy was upset because his wife and child had been put off the tour bus, he actually left the tour but then returned, much to manager Rod Willis’s relief, but Jimmy had already decided he wanted to go solo.cold chisel4The combination of a united focus, solidarity and camaraderie, is what holds bands together, and it had for ten years, but the end of Cold Chisel was in sight, Steve Prestwich was sacked upon return from Germany to be replaced by Ray Arnott (ex-Dingoes and Spectrum), but on August 22nd a press release announced that Chisel were disbanding, they commenced their Last Stand national tour and started to record their final studio album, Twentieth Century in Sydney (Paradise Studios and the Capitol Theatre) and Melbourne (Richmond Studios).c chisel4Tensions within and between band members was high, disagreements about writing credits and royalty-sharing were rife, Prestwich was back and playing on the Last Stand tour while Arnott was drumming in the recording studio, although Steve had already drummed on three of the album’s tracks, Jimmy was superfluously contributing pedestrian rhythm guitar chords to Ian Moss’s virtuoso solos at live performances and losing his voice due to a combination of overuse, drugs and alcohol.

Hold Me Tight was the first single lifted off the album and at 1.42 minutes it was a model of brevity, its lyrical structure owes a debt to Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love, comically listing groups that engage in sexual congress, ” Presidents and chauffeurs do it/ Terrorists on sofas do it/ Movie stars repeat it till it’s right…” it fairly raced along, and reflected early rockabilly influences, charting at  #14, but how this song was released before the superior Saturday Night and Flame Trees is very curious.c chisel 2Saturday Night was a Don Walker composition and it cleverly merged the ambient sounds of Sydney nightlife – motorbikes, strip club spruikers, drunks, a busker and even a brief excerpt from Dragon’s Rain. Walker was capturing the sounds of the band breaking up, a goodbye to the street and the lives they had shared, it was sparse and restrained, Phil Small’s bass line and Billy Rodgers saxophone add to the atmospherics and Ian Moss delivered melodious and nuanced vocals, briefly punctuated by Barnes explosive interludes. It charted #11 nationally just failing to join Cheap Wine and Choir Girl as top ten hits for Chisel over their decade-long journey.

The video included street scenes at night in Kings Cross including Moss and Barnes mingling with Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras revelers. Don Walker had lived in King’s Cross for over ten years when he wrote this song and he brought a familiarity, and knowingness to the lyrics and ambience of the track, that immersed the listener in the gritty, gaudy, noisy, edgy vibe of one of Australia’s most famous thoroughfares.flame treesFlame Trees was the third single lifted from the Twentieth Century album, the melody was composed by drummer Steve Prestwich initially on a bass with lyrics by keyboard player Don Walker, the inspiration for the lyrics was Walker’s childhood years in Oberon (NSW) and his memories of the spring colors of flowering trees – the blue of the Jacarandahs, Poincianas, and significantly the red of the native Illawarra Flame trees. This nostalgic ballad traces a young man’s return to his home-town, catching up with friends and remembering a past lover who had passed away, ” And I can’t stop that long forgotten feeling of her…never say her name… Everything within its place… Just makes it harder to believe that she won’t be around… Oh, who needs that sentimental bullshit anyway…”, Venetta Fields and Megan Williams rendered soulful backing vocals.

The promo video was filmed in Oberon (NSW) with all band members participating except Barnes, who had temporarily fallen out with his band mates, the Last Stand tour would be their national farewell to faithful hometown fans, band members would move on, some begrudgingly in the case of Don Walker, who felt betrayed by Barnes and barely spoke to him for the next ten years, but wounds heal and they would feel the need to go around one more time in the next decade. Flame Trees charted at #26 for Chisel’s last top 40 single success in the decade, and it has been covered by Sarah Blasko, Jessica Mauboy and the Killjoys, Twentieth Century would become the third consecutive #1 Cold Chisel album. The era of pub rock was winding down, as new fire regulations and licensing laws limited the number of patrons allowed in pubs and clubs, and police were also cracking down on drink driving.cold chisel5Pub rock was no longer a viable economic form of entertainment, it would be replaced by what would become the ubiquitous and soul-destroying ranks of poker machines in licensed premises throughout the country. It would be another fourteen years before the band took another album of original material to #1 after Twentieth Century in 1984, and that would be their comeback album, The Last Wave of Summer, in October 1998.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s