JIMMY BARNES 1984 – 2019


Change of Heart (J Barnes/ J Neill/ M Hegarty/ G Davies) 1995 and Lover, Lover (J Barnes/ J Barnes) –Jimmy Barnes 1996

By 1993 Jimmy Barnes was facing financial ruin, economic recession had hit, interest rates were in excess of 20%, his personal borrowings had spiraled out of control, touring had dried up, and his records were no longer selling in excess of half a million copies. A reckless, hedonistic lifestyle, fueled by drink, drugs, and a seemingly endless stream of income, came to a shuddering halt, as vanity projects, trinkets, and extravagant lifestyle choices, triggered a humiliating collapse of his personal finances. Unpaid taxes and outstanding loans, ultimately devoured his family home, and the spectre of bankruptcy engulfed his family.


The humble family cottage that Jimmy and his wife Jane had purchased at Bowral in the Southern Highlands near Mt. Gibraltar in 1983, had ten years later, become a ten acre chunk of Mt. Gib, overlooking the towns of Mittagong and Bowral, with a sprawling mansion known as the White House (above), which would later become their financial black hole. To the existing 5- bedroom house, a new wing was added with a formal lounge/theatre room, a designer kitchen was extended to include a massive baker’s oven that was only used once, a Japanese teppanyaki bar was added, a ten-burner antique Kookaburra stove was also installed, as well as a complete indoor barbecue, there was to be entertaining on a grand scale, the designer “kitchen” below.


Downstairs a full recording studio, dubbed Freight Train Heart, was built, along with a billiard room, inglenook fireplace, 1950’s jukebox, and an art deco corrugated glass bar were also must-haves. Outside in the gardens three fibre glass cows stood alongside two 400 -year-old Baroque angels, a guesthouse was built above the five-car garage which housed a Ferrari 246 Dino, circa 1975 (below), a 1960 Mercedes Sports car, and a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.


To the outdoor swimming pool an indoor pool was added, along with a gym and steam room, when the family travelled they flew first class, stayed at five star hotels and were attended by nannies, maids and butlers. A new home on ten acres next to the White House was acquired for Jimmy’s mother and stepfather to live, but after several months they returned to Elizabeth (SA), and in his memoir Working Class Man (2017) Jimmy recalled the bitterness and ingratitude of his mother, and her new name for Jane – “the bloody dragon woman”.

In 1994 Barnes was forced to sell his family home at Bowral for a substantial loss, it had become an over-capitalised vanity project, he and his wife also wound up their company, Dirty Sheet Music Pty Ltd, with reported debts of $4.7m, the creditors included record companies, the Aust. Taxation Office and various banks. By the end of the year the family had relocated to rented accommodation in Aix-En- Provence, in the south of France, where they would spend the next two years, licking their wounds, occasionally tangling with nosey Australian TV camera crews (see video above), and relying on the financial support of Jane’s Thai father Khun Suvit, and Mushroom’s Michael Gudinski.  


The only record Jimmy cut in France was Psyclone, at the Chateau Miraval Studios where Pink Floyd, The Cure, Chris Rea, The Go-Betweens, Yes and UB 40 had previously recorded. In his memoirs Barnes recalls this time in his life – “I was at the height of my alcoholism and addiction… I was literally staring into the abyss.” This was Barnes eighth studio album and despite peaking at #2 nationally it only sold 70,000 copies, the lead single, Change of Heart was about a dysfunctional couple, and the video focused on the child at the centre of the emotional conflict, it was a case of art imitating life for Jimmy and Jane, and the song climbed to #17.

Upon Barnes return to Australia in 1996, he released a greatest hits album, Barnes Hits Anthology which predictably climbed to #1 and restored his fortunes somewhat when it sold 420,000 copies. The lead single was a joint Jimmy and Jane Barnes composition Lover Lover, and Jane revealed a talent for writing radio-friendly catchy, hook-laden pop music, it was a  love song about meeting half way to reconcile differences and it reflected the fragility of the marriage bonds between the two, it became a surprise hit when it peaked at #6 nationally “Lover, lover come to me/ Lover love my fantasy/ Lover lover come to me/ Come to me and be with me tonight”, and would be the last top ten solo hit single for Barnes in Australia.

In 1996 Barnes released his 9th studio album, Love and Fear, he had written all fourteen songs and described them thus in his memoirs “… jumping from angry battle cries one minute, to mournful pleading for forgiveness the next … crying one minute and lashing out the next”, Mark Opitz produced the album and it underperformed, peaking at # 25, exiting the charts after four weeks,  and selling less than 35,000 copies, attendances at Barnes live performances had also ebbed away, and he was playing in second-rate venues to rusted-on fans.


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