ACROSS THE BORDER
Where the banned are
Selected by @Bosstralian
@Bosstralian In case you ever wondered, Chisel plays really well late at night in the American desert.
For those who want to hear more beyond this album. some of my favorite Chisel songs.
Mr. Crown Prosecutor from The Last Wave of Summer.
Khe Sanh from Cold Chisel.
Flame Trees from Twentieth Century
Bow River from Circus Animals.
Breakfast At Sweethearts - title track.
The Last wave of Summer - title track.
Northbound from Cold Chisel.
There are many more.
What session is MIsfits from? I have the single they released to promote Chisel, but I believe it was dropped from that compilation after it didn't chart. It's one of my favorite tracks from Chisel.
Yeah, all those songs you mentioned are on Besides.
I do love Small Town Motel Blues.
Small Town Motel Blues is one of the reasons LWOS as an album frustrates me (although that has been tempered a bit now that the 20 song version is considered 'the' definitive version as opposed to the original 14 song one). The 20 song version shows that some of the best material wasn't included on the original album... This Big Old Car, Somewhere In The Silence, This Time Round as examples were never released originally. Once Around The Sun was a hidden bonus track on the original release. And even then after adding songs they still didn't get it right IMHO. Small Town Motel Blues and Better Time Better Place are for mine two of the gems from the sessions, deserving much more than being relegated effectively to B Side / out take status.
Chisel circa 1998 felt very much like 5 individuals playing together... reportedly, the sessions were at times tense and the members who had been particularly successful solo were pushing their own individual production ideas, sometimes in conflict with consensus opinion. (E.g. Barnes song Never Stop Loving You has the sheen of a middle tier Jimmy solo song of the period due to Jimmy using his own production ideas on it. Don Walker states their was a vastly superior less polished more ''Chisel" sounding version the other 4 were pushing for, but Jimmy wanted his version included).
For those with some interest in hearing more about this band, or seeing what they look like and sound like, there is this that follows... 6 segments on You Tube of a doco that was recorded in 1998 and played on 'Max TV' here in 1999.
**Edit- episode / segment 6 is 'hidden' or removed or something'.
So, the bad... this is clearly off a VHS taken off Foxtell circa the late 1990's and applicable poor visually. Although the sound isn't bad.
The good (and bad).. the lead singer, Jimmy Barnes, has had his issues with substances and it shows here. He was largely on the booze back in the 70's / 80's (downing a bottle of vodka per show was standard), before sort of cleaning up, until speed and coke took over in the 90's. And his interview segments here (he chose to go short blonde dyed for this tour, so is easy to spot) are testament to that cocktail.
Oh, damn. Barnsey is tweaking his head off in that interview.
I don't know how many, if anyone, other than JF and myself have listened to this album. I thought I might chuck in some thoughts about each song, with some background where I'm aware of it.
Standing On The Outside: Don Walker, the keyboard player, is also Chisel's main songwriter. He has always had the gift of being an observer, and turning his observations into compelling songs. He has also had an empathy for society's outsiders. Don graduated as a nuclear physicist, and was working at an Australian defence base north of Adelaide, when he joined Chisel. Throwing aside his dry, straight laced specialisation for the more artistic and bohemian pursuits of musicianship, he took the experiences he encountered and the people he met as inspiration for his songs. The protagonist in this song is an outsider, just getting by on the borders of what is lawful and what is not (or, more accurately, what you can get away with on the borders and what you can't). 'Standing On The Outside Looking In'... is exactly how a whole generation of youth felt in Australia in 1980. The same social currents that fed punk in England in the late 70's were eddying in Australia circa 1980... musically this song (nor any of Chisel's music) isn't punk, put the underlying lyric and emotion here is.
Never Before: Chisel's guitarist Ian Moss writes his first song. A reasonable and entertaining enough effort, with some particularly strong live versions also available on the expanded 2011 edition of the live Swingshift album and also Live Tapes 3 at the Manly Vale. Some might prefer Ian's amazingly soulful vocals to lead singer's Jimmy Barnes and wonder why Chisel as a band would ever need the latter when they had the former. For six months before they had a contract that was how they were... but the inherent threat of danger the unpredictable Vodka swilling pure front man Jimmy Barnes brought to any live outing decided in keyboardist Don Walker's eyes that the band needed both.
Choir Girl: Don Walker finally wrote a commercial song. Well, it had commercial success, and has an obvious melodic appeal, yet (at least to me) is still quite deceptive in meaning. Don has said it is about abortion, without elaborating too much further... a great example of something Chisel did from here onwards, where complex social or emotional issues could be dressed in more presentable clothes.
Rising Sun: Chisel was one of the first bands where I started to become aware of 'rockabilly' music, or some 12 bar version thereof. This song for a long time was one of my favourite things ever, as a 14-15 year old music lover who hadn't been exposed to much music. Later, I understood that rockabilly was cool and other folks played it. Still later, I finally saw Chisel live in 1998 and heard them play this sucker live... and finally understood that their combination of one lead guitarist only and no rythmn guitarist, with the rythmn part largely covered by the piano, was an unusual sound.
My Baby: loved it in my teens as a sing along pop song, now would love to go to a Chisel gig and not hear it. The only song written by bassist Phil Small that was released on the original albums, it is catchy and soulful as all fuck, and hence been played to death on Aussie FM radio in the last 42 years.
Tomorrow: next step on from Don Walker's obsession with society's outsiders, here we have a prisoner that has either escaped or is dreaming of escaping. (I admit I always assumed the former, it is only trying to listen through fresh ears now I think it could be the later). Some classic Mossy guitar work, and one of the songs on the album that hints at Chisel's live power.
Cheap Wine: this might be Don Walker's Hungry Heart, a catchy sing along chorus hiding a dark heart. Although verses describing death by needle and addressing an ex lover with ' I don't mind taking charity from those that I despise' is pushing it a step further. 'Everbody has a hungry heart' and 'Cheap wine and a three day' growth are both interesting tag lines for a hit single in Australia circa 1980.
Best Kept Lies: The first song written by drummer Steve Prestwich. A so so pseudo reggae piece, giving no indication for the two stone classic Australian rock songs he would write for Chisel's next album.
Ita: Ita Buttrose was a female magazine owner and associated magazine style TV show host from the late 70's / early 80's. To be honest, I myself am too young to fully understand the satire here (except for knowing Ita is older than the Chisel boys singing and playing). The gist, I guess, is a bunch of degenerate 20 something addled rockers lusting after a TV host of their mother's age. Thankfully it's at least a bit catchy.
Star Hotel: The Star Hotel was an actual place in Newcastle, Australia, that was being knocked down to build a car park. Newcastle was a place at the time with high youth unemployment and limited opportunities for the young, plus apparently the hotel concerned also attracted homosexuals and others that Australian mainstream society treated as 'the fringe' at the time. On the last night the hotel was going to be open a riot ensued, and Don Walker extended this to write this perceptive song addressing similar non consideration of all the youth outside what was still a rather conservative 'mainstream' in Australia circa 1980. Some of the live versions of this song are especially aggressive. The 'an uncontrolled youth in asia' line in the last verse, which led to the 'Youth In Asia' tour name, all of which is a clever play on 'euthanasia', is ahead of it's time as far as I'm concerned.
Four Walls: meisterwork, as @Jerseyfornia says. A sublime melding of Ray Charles and Nebraska era Bruce. The third of Don Walker's 'outsider' trilogy on this album, this incredible song was inspired by Chisel playing shows in jails around Australia in 1979 and Don talking to some of the inmates when they did. Both the earlier 'Standing On The Outside' and 'Tomorrow' generated from similar seeds.
My Turn To Cry: Written by Jimmy Barnes, this is apparently based on true events. The best example on the album of the musical ferocity with which they were still attacking pub shows at the time, and what the larger audience could expect once the success of this album bought the general public into the theatres and arenas Chisel would play. Chisel won a swag of awards in Australia's 'most popular' Countdown Awards that year... in fact, they cleaned up. But sent out a surrogate to accept every award. Countdown was a show whereby artists sometimes fully mimed, or at best the musicians mimed the backing track while the singer sang live. Chisel got permission to ignore all the awards presentations for 'theatre', in return for being able to close the show by performing fully live.
As the most commercially successful (and most award winning) act on the show that night, they took full advantage. They started with 'My Turn To Cry' (in itself probably the least commercial song on the album they were being honoured for) and then proceeded to take advantage of their position to question why the show Countdown and their co sponsors TV Week only care now, instead of when the band were struggling to be heard.
@Bosstralian My Baby: loved it in my teens as a sing along pop song, now would love to go to a Chisel gig and not hear it.
The song felt like the DITD equivalent the first time I've heard it. I assumed it was played at every show, ad nauseam. But I'm loving it... 🙃
A couple of listens in, I'm enjoying it.
Its a real amalgam of musical styles.
I'm going to revisit a few more times, as JF alluded to higher up, Four Rooms is the pick of the bunch for me at this stage.
I'm really enjoying this one, a fantastic record. It's putting me in such a good mood. Great band. Love My Baby. Listening on repeat, tapping my feet. They must have rocked live...
They must have rocked live
They have quite a few live releases available. They have a sort of archive series, too, but not as large as Bruce's - five volumes of The Live Tapes out so far.
Finished a chapter, put away my writing music and got stoned with Barnsey, Mossey and the boys. You definitely picked the right album for an overall introduction to their music. Everything they do is here.
I'm familiar enough with this record that I take it for granted - the brilliant writing, the great singing and playing, the fantastic production. There are several Top 40 American hits that never were on this album.
The perfection that is Four Walls cannot be understated. There are moments when Barnes seems possessed by Ray Charles. I love the topical songs the most, so this is one of my favorites.
I've only ever had this version of the album with the additional tracks, so I'll mention that The Party's Over is also a favorite. This one can also be heard on their excellent compilation teenage Love.
My Baby and Choir Girl should have been all over American radio in 1980.
Ita, Star Hotel, fantastic. Payday In A Pub is a bonus track, I believe - I'm not familiar with most of the original Australian releases, so I tend to consider the bonus tracks part of the album proper.
I have heard some people say they are turned off by Jimmy Barnes' voice, but I never got that. I think he's one of the great soul-crooner-shouters, right up there with Bruce.
@Jerseyfornia The original album as released ends at My Turn To Cry, in the same sequence and the same songs as your release is up to that point. I assume the bonus tracks are Payday In A Pub, Hands Out Of My Pockets and The Party's Over? These are all tracks recorded during the East sessions. (The Party's Over originally appeared on a single with a live version of Knockin On Heaven's Door that was issued as a limited bonus release in 1980 with the first 10,000 copies of the original East vinyl release).
The three bonus tracks were originally released in the mid 90's on the Teenage Love album, which was a compilation of out-takes. The edition of East you have was issued sometime in the early 2000's I think, where all the original albums were reissued with the Teenage Love selections split up and included as bonus songs on whichever album they were originally recorded for.
Funny you mention My Baby as having commercial potential in the States. It was chosen as the first single over there by the US record company and apparently promo copies were sent to radio stations wrapped in a diaper! That doesn't seem like a great campaign for any musical act, much less for Cold Chisel. I believe Jimmy also was a bit annoyed at the choice of song, mainly on the basis that the first single from what for US listeners is a brand new unheard act should've been a song featuring the lead vocalist .
@Bosstralian Yes. I have all the bonus tracks from these albums on Teenage Love and singles. I have that Knockin' On Heavens Door on the Besides compilation.
Most of the Australian bands I listen to, whose early albums were always bastardized or cannibalized for the U.S. market, I've been able to track down the original Australian versions as well as the U.S. versions. LRB, AC/DC are the major ones whose discographies vary, not only by track, but sometimes by the version of a track. Cold Chisel is one that I only have the remasters of.
Just started tho listen. Didn't read anything that was posted here, know absolutely nothing about what's coming or who they are. That's the opposite of what I usually do, checking and reading.. Today I'm just jumping in...
I knew this would happen. The album's sent me into a Chisel deep dive. I just had a Cold Chisel deep dive a month or two ago.
I'm rocking Live Tapes Vol. 5 when I should be listening to East, but it's all good. I could comment on East without even listening to it. Besides, this show is from the East tour.
The album cover is based on The Death of Marat, a 1793 painting by Jacques-Louis David of the murdered French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat.
And here I thought it was Dalton Trumbo.
@Bill Zebub I had to google him, oh boy, was I unaware of how many things you can simultaneously do in a bathtub.
I'll be back to post about this album in a few days, but first - a little from an American fan's perspective.
I was trading digital bootlegs with an Australian Bruce fan back in the very early 2000's. She turned me on to a few tracks by Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes, was impressed that I recognized John Farnham's voice on one of the Barnes tracks, and I was interested in hearing more of their music. A few weeks later, I got a parcel containing CD-R's (remember those?) of their entire discography up to The Last Wave of Summer. I dived in and stayed in.
The band absolutely deserved to be big in America, but I'm glad it didn't happen. I've been developing a theory that American record executives ruin Aussie bands. Maybe I'll post a thread about that sometime. The crux of the theory is that American labels squeeze the very thing out of Australian bands that appeal to me - their uniquely Australian perspectives and sounds.
Do I wish Chisel toured the United States now and then? Hell, yes I do. I consider myself a hardcore fan by any standard - meaning I've got everything they've ever released and listen to them frequently. I don't get to see them live, though.
@bosstralian, this was the second Chisel album I listened to. The Last Wave of Summer was the first, and maybe that's why it's my favorite, even though its not from the classic era. I think you picked the right album for any first-time listener.
I now objectively recognise that it is more a collection of songs rather than a strong, coherent whole album.
But one of those songs, as you said, is Flame Trees.
@Jerseyfornia Maybe I'll post a thread about that sometime. The crux of the theory is that American labels squeeze the very thing out of Australian bands that appeal to me - their uniquely Australian perspectives and sounds.
I'd love to hear more. Because I don't think it only relates to music. It's called the Americanization of pop culture.
@Louisa That's true. It applies to all art, but I don't pay as much attention to movies or other art as I do music. It usually involves a dumbing down, simplification and homogenization of the music.
Fun fact, Jimmy Barnes' cousin is married to Scottish football legend(ish) Jim Duffy (baldy guy on the right of the pic).
So, for the uninitiated... Cold Chisel are legendary in Australia and considered to be one of our greatest bands. Forming in 1973 here in my hometown of Adelaide, they did the hard yards touring the pubs and clubs of Australia before eventually landing a record deal and releasing their first self titled album in 1978.
Their big commercial break through came with the album under consideration here, East, in 1980. Suddenly Chisel were no longer just considered Australia's best live band of the time, they were also domestically the most commercially successful.
I've picked this album as it is arguably their most accessible for those new to their music. Plus, a bit like with The River for Bruce, it probably is the best example in a single album of the breadth of styles and musicianship Chisel were capable of. The only thing perhaps missing is what an aggressive and powerful live band they were, although you get hints of that with tracks like Tomorrow and My Turn To Cry. I personally think the album after this, Circus Animals, is their best artistically however you probably need to hear East first to fully appreciate the leap to Circus Animals.
Chisel toured the US in a modest fashion in 1981 on the back of this album. Despite Rolling Stone magazines David Fricke stating he thought they were the best live band on the planet at the time, a combination of both record company indifference and the reluctance of several band members to go back to the hard slog of playing small bars or support gig slots to build a following saw overseas success elude them. Although they did develop quite a following in Germany, of all places.
Chisel broke up in 1983 after the Last Stand tour, leaving a legacy of five great studio albums and a permanent presence on FM rock radio here. Several members would go onto solo success, most notably lead singer Jimmy Barnes. The Chisel back catalogue would continue to sell, to the point where they became like The Doors in that they sold more albums post break up than they did while together. There would eventually be a reunion tour and album in 1998, after which they went separate ways again. However, since 2011 Chisel have pseudo reunited, and have released three more pretty good albums in between members also pursuing solo projects.
Anyway, hopefully those who have never heard this band before find something worthwhile or enjoyable on this album.