Sunday, January 27, 2019

"Working Class Man" by Jimmy Barnes

Song#:  2661
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  74
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Jimmy Barnes was already a major star in his Australian homeland. From 1973 through to 1984, Barnes was the lead singer of the popular rock band Cold Chisel. The band secured a record deal in 1978 and went on to release five studio album, including two #1's along with a pair of Top 10 singles. But inner struggles and lack of international success caused the band to part ways in 1984. Barnes stepped out on his own for a solo career and his first album, Bodyswerve, was an instant #1 in Australia. That was all well and good, but Barnes still had his sights set on conquering the US. For his second album he reached out to the States for some assistance from hit rockers like Jonathan Cain (Journey), Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band), and Tony Carey. In Australia, the results came out as a double-LP titled Working Class Man. For the US, it was assembled into a single, self-titled disc. Cain would write and produce two songs for the album including this single, which went to #5 in Australia. In the States, the song got some airplay at Rock and made it to #22 on that chart. It was able to cross over to the Pop chart for a couple of months, but couldn't quite make it out of the basement. Without a bigger hit, the album faltered and could only get to #109 on the chart. Back home in Australia, the album would easily top the chart and would eventually be certified as 7x platinum there (equal to 490,000+ copies sold, the equivalent of a gold certification in the US). Barnes would go on to have a total of 11 #1 albums. Combined with his Cold Chisel #1's, Barnes would become the most successful Australian artist on the ARIA (Australian) chart. He would reach the US Pop chart two more times, but he was never able to achieve widespread success here.

ReduxReview:  This big-ass anthem was like a child of Springsteen and Seger with a little Mellencamp DNA on the side. Since all three of those artists were currently having hits, the timing of this one seemed spot on. Indeed the tune was in line with American heartland rock, but for some reason it just didn't click. Perhaps US ears didn't care for the Aussie's gruff voice and his wailing at the end. Maybe listeners just saw through the ruse of trying to sound like an American hit maker. I mean, c'mon - the second song Cain wrote for Barnes was called "American Heartbeat," for pete's sake. You can't tell me that wasn't intentional. While you don't have to be from a place to sing about it, this all just seemed a bit calculated. It was pandering to American tastes for the sake of a hit. Yet I really can't fault Barnes for it. He wanted to breakthrough in the US and this probably seemed like the best way to do it. In the end it didn't happen, but back at home this ended up being his signature song. It's really not a bad tune and Barnes does his damnedest to sell it. It just wasn't the one that was going to endear him to US listeners.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was picked up and used for the 1986 Ron Howard comedy Gung Ho. It played over the credits of the film. Howard was coming off of two major hits, Splash and Cocoon, and it seemed like this Michael Keaton-led movie would be another. Yet it was greeted with mixed reviews and lukewarm support from movie-goers. While it wasn't a total box office bust, it wasn't nearly as successful, critically or financially, as his previous two hits.  2) This song has been remade by a few Australian artists, but it was also recorded by an American country singer. For her 1986 album Highway Diner, country star Lacy J. Dalton recorded a more Southern-flavored version of the song. It would be the LP's first single and reach #16 on the Country chart.


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