Stone Cold – (D Walker) – Jimmy Barnes and The Weight (R Robertson) – Jimmy Barnes and the Badloves 1993
Jimmy Barnes solo career was peaking in the mid-nineties and his Soul Deep album had sold over 600,000 copies, but he had not even dented the US market, the advent of grunge and unplugged acoustic music was holding sway and to many he sounded unfashionable, Atlantic Records dropped him from their roster.
The follow up album Heat was recorded at Festival studios (Syd) with producer Don Gehman and resulted in a loss of chart momentum when it stopped Barnes run of six consecutive #1 albums nationally, after it only climbed to #4 and sold less than 200,000 copies, there were however several singles that also charted, Stand Up(#35) and Sweat It Out (#13) were surprisingly released before Stone Cold which became the big hit, charting #2 in May ’93 and remaining on the charts for twenty weeks.
Stone Cold was semi-autobiographical in lyrical content, even though written by Barnes ex-Chisel keyboard player Don Walker, as it captured the fraught relationship between a rock singer like Barnes who abused substances regularly, and a rock star’s wife like Jane Barnes, who lived with the uncertainty and infidelity that such a life entailed “You don’t have to turn the light on/ Ain’t had more than just a few/ And I’m stone/ I’m stone cold in love with you “
It had Cold Chisel familiarity stamped all over it, Barnes had unsuccessfully sought Walker’s help in the past but there were still unresolved issues from the Chisel split, but he did ultimately deliver the standout track on the album with Stone Cold, a bluesy, soulful classic full of great melodies with Ian Moss on lead guitar.
The Weight was recorded at Barnes Freight Train Studios (Bowral) and again produced by American Don Gehman, it is a famous country rock song written by Band (below) lead guitarist Robbie Robertson and included on their seminal Music from Big Pink album recorded in 1968.
The song has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. The lyrics are replete with Biblical allusions, enigmatic lyrical metaphors derived from Luis Bunuel films, and iconic characters, who really existed in the community of Elaine, Arkansas, from which Levon Helm (below right), the Band’s drummer came. Robbie Robertson (below left) was a Canadian who was inspired by the Mississippi delta rhythms of Helm’s natïve south which had seeped into his subconscious, he references Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the home of the Martin guitar factory, as though it was part of a pilgrimage to the very source of his musical roots …”it very much affected my songwriting, and because I knew Levon’s musicality so well, I wanted to write songs that I thought he could sing better than anybody in the world.” (Origins of a Song – 202 True Inspirations Behind the World’s Greatest Lyrics – Jake Grogan).
The original recording was a country rock/ Southern folk crossover composition with acoustic guitars, gospel-style piano and organ complementing the swampy country vocals of the Band.
The Barnes/Badloves version of the song featured Michael Spiby and John Housden on acoustic guitars, Stephen O’Porey on acoustic bass, Tony Featherstone on piano and a bass drum track that had been lifted from Barnes Flesh and Wood album.
It was a faithful cover of the original, albeit lacking the intonations and vocal cadences of Robertson and Helm, but it charted well at #5 and confirmed that its magic as a country rock standard had not faded during the intervening 25 years when it first charted for the Band.
In 1993 Barnes released his seventh studio album, Flesh and Wood, an attempt by the singer to embrace the unplugged genre, which saw him duet with other luminaries including Joe Cocker, Ross Wilson, Don Walker, Deborah Conway, Tommy Emmanuel, Archie Roach, and the Badloves. The song list included a mix of several new original songs, a Cold Chisel classic (Flame Trees), and several hits from Barnes solo career including Ride The Night Away, I’m Still On Your Side, and Stone Cold. Although well-received by Barnes fans, and rising to #2 on the charts, it only sold 140,000 copies and indicated a downward trajectory in his chart fortunes, as he attempted to convert essentially highly plugged-in songs to a stripped-back acoustic treatment.