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Cold Chisel

Cold Chisel

Celebrating 45 Years of Cold Chisel

For a generation of Australian music fans, Cold Chisel are the Aussie pub rock band who broke the mould and whose songs are celebrated as anthems.

Cold Chisel formed in Adelaide, South Australia in October 1973. They began their career playing suburban gigs as a hard-rock covers band before settling in Sydney three years later.

They worked hard at making a name for themselves - building a reputation as a dynamic live act and growing their fan base by performing night after night in pubs and clubs up and down the east coast.

Now, almost 45 years after Cold Chisel's first gig in Adelaide and 40 years since the release of their self-titled debut album, the NFSA celebrates this legendary rock band with a collection of interviews, images, posters, reviews, documentary excerpts and more.

'Cold Chisel' Album Review on Nightmoves
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NFSA ID
744592
Courtesy:
Mushroom Pictures
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In this excerpt from a 1978 episode of Nightmoves, presenter Lee Simon reviews Cold Chisel's self-titled debut album which was released in April 1978. Simon gives Cold Chisel a favourable review, highlighting the band's 'strong vocalist' and noting how the album maintains a great live feel. 

Until this album release, Cold Chisel were well known as one of Australia's hardest-working pub rock bands. They had already gained a large, devoted following and a reputation for delivering electrifying live performances. This Nightmoves review, along with others at the time, put to rest any questions about the band's ability to transition from the pub stage to the recording studio.

The debut album was in the charts for a solid 23 weeks in 1978, peaking at No. 38. The song Khe Sanh was released in May as the first single from the album but a commercial radio ban impeded the song's success and it only reached No. 41 on the singles charts.

Lee Simon hosted Nightmoves for eight years from 1977 on the Seven Network. The show billed itself as more adult oriented, focusing on albums rather than Top 40 singles, seeking to contrast itself from Countdown on the ABC.

As can be seen from this clip the production values were pretty minimal. The visuals used in the review consist solely of the camera filming the album's cover and internal sleeve. You can even see the studio lights flaring off the album as the camera slowly pans. Included is a couple of cutaways of promotional photos of the band.

At the time music videos were far less common and there would not have been much footage of the band performing to incorporate in the review. It means that the clip is ultimately lacking in visual interest to complement the positive review that is delivered in Simon's voice-over.

Cold Chisel: On-Stage Chaos
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In this excerpt from the NFSA's interview with Jimmy Barnes he talks about wanting the band to be chaotic and how he pushed them hard. 

Cold Chisel: The First Photo

Jimmy Barnes shares his memory of the first known photo of Cold Chisel from 1973 in an exclusive interview with the NFSA. 

The photo was taken in Adelaide outside the Women's Liberation Hall and it was later issued as a poster with the album The Barking Spiders Live: 1983 (NFSA Title No. 784029).

Featured in the poster from left to right are Les Kaczmarek (bass player before Phil Small joined the band), Steve Prestwich, Jimmy Barnes, Don Walker and Ian Moss.

Cold Chisel Last Stand: TV Week Rock Music Awards
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
38071
Courtesy:
Captured Live Productions and NextVision Pty Ltd
Year:
Year

This clip is an excerpt from the music documentary Cold Chisel Last Stand featuring Jimmy Barnes giving his personal point of view about the band's controversial appearance at the 1981 Countdown Music Awards, sponsored by TV Week magazine and held at Sydney's Regent Theatre.

There are differing accounts of events surrounding this key moment in Australia's music history; this clip offers Jimmy's perspective. In the clip, he is interviewed in what appears to be a run-down motel room, a very suitable location for his working-class hero persona. A third-person account fills in some gaps as to what happened and the inclusion of the incident itself is essential in their telling of the story.

The band's stance at the time was that, while they had achieved commercial recognition with the album East, they felt they had done so with little support from the entertainment industry. Others in the music industry might well disagree with that opinion. Cold Chisel did not see eye-to-eye with some music TV shows that they believed wouldn't allow them to perform live, and they were determined to stay true to their roots as a live band. They did not want their fans to think of them as 'selling-out'.

The band was nominated for seven of the major awards and won them all. They did not appear on stage to accept the awards but did close the ceremony by performing the track 'My Turn to Cry'. They performed the first verse and chorus and then changed the lyrics to make their protest against the entertainment industry. The band then smashed up the set and left the stage.

In under two minutes this clip gives us a concise retelling of Cold Chisel's perspective of a seminal moment in Australian music.

Cold Chisel: 'East' was a turning point
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Jimmy Barnes describes the recording of 'East' and Don Walker's songwriting for the album as being a pivotal moment for him and a turning point for the band. This is an excerpt from an exclusive interview with the NFSA, recorded in May 2018. 

Khe Sanh by Cold Chisel
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
260154
Courtesy:
Image: Cold Chisel
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'Khe Sanh' was the first Cold Chisel single and remains a popular anthem about the Australian experience of the Vietnam War and the lingering after effects on those who served there. It is composed as a series of verses without a chorus, a structure which reflects the restless mood of the lyrics about a man who can’t stop wandering and settle down.

'Khe Sanh' only reached No. 41 on the national charts, its sales potential hindered by a commercial radio ban. The ban was ostensibly because of drug and sexual references, but composer Don Walker suspected it was more to do with a broader unwillingness to come to grips with the aftermath of a failed war.

WEA 600038

Cold Chisel Last Stand: A Hardworking Band
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
38071
Courtesy:
Captured Live Productions and NextVision Pty Ltd
Year:
Year

This excerpt from the music documentary Cold Chisel Last Stand (1984), featuring music executive Roger Langford and Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett, reveals Cold Chisel to be one of the most dedicated and hardworking bands in Australia at the time and one of the best live acts on the music scene. 

Unfortunately, for a documentary about one of Australia's foremost bands the quality of production in this segment is less than ideal. As the camera slowly zooms in on Roger Langford it clearly wobbles as if it hasn't been locked off properly on the tripod, distracting somewhat from the interview. 

There is good quality live footage of the band in concert, though the footage of the audience dancing doesn't always seem to match the music that's playing. While Peter Garrett provides a delightful anecdote and insight into Cold Chisel, the lighting gives his complexion an unnatural pink hue. It's disappointing to see less than professional camera work in a situation where the crew would have had time to set up and shoot.

Poster showing Jimmy Barnes on stage holding a bottle and microphone against a blue misty background. The poster reads 'The last ten years...the last great concert!' and 'Cold Chisel Last Stand' at the bottom.
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Cold Chisel Last Stand Film Poster
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NFSA ID
434908
Courtesy:
Warner Music
Year:
Year

The official film poster from the music documentary Cold Chisel Last Stand (1984). The documentary focused on the career of Australian pub rock group Cold Chisel, centred around the 'Last Stand' concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on 15 December 1983.

Cold Chisel had already announced they were splitting up as a band and they saw the Last Stand concert series as a way to thank their dedicated fan base.

The image of Jimmy Barnes on this poster is iconic, featuring the frontman wearing his signature Japanese headband, with arms raised while clutching a microphone and a vodka bottle as he acknowledges the audience. Even without the text overlay, the photo is instantly recognisable to Cold Chisel fans and a perfect symbol of the band's farewell concerts.

The photo is a tribute to the quick thinking and skill of the photographer who captured the moment and created an enduring image of Barnes' career with Cold Chisel. In military terms, a 'last stand' suggests the remains of a defeated army holding a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds. Here the phrase is perfectly paired with Jimmy Barnes raising his arms both in victory and surrender.

Vince Lovegrove talks about Cold Chisel
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NFSA ID
800009
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Vince Lovegrove, who briefly managed Cold Chisel in the 1970s, talks about the uniqueness of the band, what made their act unusual and how he felt sure that they would be a success. 

He was interviewed by Debbie Kruger for the the NFSA Oral History program in 2010.

Cold Chisel Last Stand: Circus Animals Tour
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
38071
Courtesy:
Captured Live Productions and NextVision Pty Ltd
Year:
Year

This is an excerpt from the music documentary Cold Chisel Last Stand featuring producer Mark Opitz discussing the Circus Animals concert tour and how Cold Chisel were a band who loved to give back to their fans. 

The band went to great expense for the Sydney shows, which included trapeze acts and circus animals under a big top. 

The clip starts with some unexpected footage of circus performers and dancers to a backdrop of Ian Moss playing his guitar before cutting to an image of the cover of the album and the circus tent where the band performed.

The montage is very effective in setting up the interview with record producer Mark Optiz, appropriately seated by a mixing desk in a recording studio. It's a 'thumbnail' of an interview but sufficient in making the point that Cold Chisel never forgot who their fans were.

Cover of an Australia Post postage stamps booklet featuring the band Cold Chisel. The booklet has the title Australian Legends of Music and features the Cold Chisel 'East' album cover.
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Cold Chisel Australia Post postage stamps booklet
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NFSA ID
1108053
Year:
Year

The Australian Legends Award is presented annually by Australia Post to honour a living individual or group of individuals who have excelled in their field and made a significant contribution to the social and cultural life of Australia.

In 2013 it was the Australian music industry's turn to receive the honour, with Australia Post issuing a series of stamps titled Australian Legends of Music. Pictured here is the cover of a postage stamps booklet featuring Cold Chisel, who were one of the recipients, along with other music industry heavyweights including INXS, AC/DC, Paul Kelly, Kylie Minogue, The Seekers, Men At Work, John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum.

The Cold Chisel stamp booklet uses the cover of the band's third studio album, East. Jimmy Barnes said of all the accolades given to Chisel over their career, this philatelic acknowledgement was the most unusual. 'I'm going to look really small on a stamp - I'm much taller', he joked.

The picture of Jimmy Barnes slumped in a bathtub and surrounded by papers and bric-a-brac is a direct reference to The Death of Marat (1793), a painting by Jacques-Louis David, and a famous image from the time of the French Revolution. It's unclear why the cover of East was chosen for the stamp unless it was for its bold graphic qualities.

The design of the booklet, though made in 2013, recollects the 1980s with its heavy font, use of diagonals and busy background pattern. This choice may have been intentional, given that East was released in June 1980.

Cold Chisel Last Stand Publicity Material
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NFSA ID
776234
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Publicity materials relating to the Cold Chisel Last Stand (1983) music documentary. Included in this set are a cinema poster, media release and newspaper reviews from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian from July 1984.

The fact that top-tier news organisations were covering the event so widely reflects on the status of Cold Chisel as arguably Australia's best live band at the time.

The role of publicity material is to excite the media and to provide succinct and detailed information that is useful for marketing purposes. This package is a perfect example of how to get it right.

The iconic photo of Jimmy Barnes with his arms held high immediately captures the imagination and is an effective image to accompany the film's name. What follows are quotes from numerous major Australian newspapers lauding the film, giving it the stamp of approval.

The extended articles from The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers provide in-depth reviews. This package could be used as a template for other promotions.

Poster with 'Cold Chisel' in red block letters at bottom left and the magazine name 'Smash Hits Replay' top right. Cold Chisel band members are pictured against a dark background. L to R: Phil Small, Don Walker, Jimmy Barnes, Steve Prestwich and Ian Moss.
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Cold Chisel Smash Hits poster
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NFSA ID
779094
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This lift-out poster from a Smash Hits magazine features the band members of Cold Chisel. Smash Hits was one of the most popular music magazines of the 1980s and was aimed mainly at older teens.

The poster is dated 1988 - five years after the band had officially broken up - which is a testament to how popular they were and how that popularity had not waned since the split.

The five band members stand in formation with Jimmy Barnes prominent and defiant in the centre looking beyond the camera. Dressed in leathers and denim it is a typical example of how male pub rock bands liked to portray themselves - as authentic, working class and tough. It's a good representation of the band and its music.

Promotional poster for Cold Chisel's 'Breakfast at Sweethearts' album showing the band and album name gold lettering on a black background. Below is a photo of the album cover showing the band members sitting in a bar.
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Cold Chisel Breakfast At Sweethearts Promotional Poster
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NFSA ID
462109
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Promotional poster for Cold Chisel's 1979 album, Breakfast at Sweethearts.

The cover image for the album features the five band members sitting in Sydney's historic Marble Bar at The Hilton Hotel, which still has its original Victorian-era style bar, interiors and artworks from the time it was built in 1893. 

The members of Cold Chisel lounge and slouch amidst the ornate opulence of 19th century Victorian architecture. It's an arresting and memorable image for the album cover, not least because it is so beautifully staged and shot.

Mark Opitz: 'Cold Chisel were like Vegemite'
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NFSA ID
1096133
Courtesy:
Mark Opitz
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In this excerpt from Mark Opitz's interview for the NFSA Oral History program, he explains one of the reasons why Cold Chisel were not able to break through in the US market.

Members of the Australian Rock band Cold Chisel, from left to right - Jimmy Barnes, Don Walker, Phil Small, Ian Moss and Steve Prestwich, standing looking down at an angle at the camera. There's also an inset image of a postage stamp featuring the band.
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Cold Chisel Australia Post postcard
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NFSA ID
1108140
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The Australia Post postcard of Cold Chisel from the Australian Legends of Music set issued in January 2013.

The Australian Legends Award is presented annually by Australia Post to honour a living individual or group of individuals who have excelled in their field and made a significant contribution to the social and cultural life of Australia.

Alongside Cold Chisel, other music industry figures honoured that year included INXS, AC/DC, Paul Kelly, Kylie Minogue, The Seekers, Men At Work, John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum.

Shot from below and wearing leathers and denim, the five members of Cold Chisel pose outside the B Division block of a gaol. The stark black-and-white image reinforces their roots as working-class lads and the setting is appropriate since they were performing shows in prisons at the time.

The setting also adds an element of danger and novelty to an otherwise standard promotional image. Here, the intended impact is diminished by the inclusion of the colourful Cold Chisel stamp in the lower-right corner of the postcard.

Good Times. Cold Chisel: Break Up
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
809430
Courtesy:
XYZ Networks
Year:
Year

This excerpt from the music documentary Good Times. Cold Chisel shows Jimmy Barnes talking about the band starting to fragment and seeing the writing on the wall that it was time to go their separate ways. 

It is apparent how important it was for Cold Chisel to end their career on their own terms. Despite being at the height of their success and popularity, they felt they were not giving the fans their best and didn't want to continue on that path.

The clip starts with Jimmy Barnes interviewed on a balcony against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour on a glorious sunny day. Wearing a simple black T-shirt he describes how the band members sensed the band was coming to an end. The setting for his comments illustrates how far he had come as a career musician; previous interviews were often in drab hotel rooms.

Overall this clip seems somewhat disjointed, particularly since the producers have unsuccessfully spliced together footage of two different live recordings of Ian Moss singing 'Bow River', with his voice being out of sync on one of them.

Yellow, black and red billboard poster from The Daily Telegraph. Headlines read 'Comeback tour Cold Chisel reforms'. Poster is dated 13 August 1997.
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Cold Chisel Reunion Billboard Poster, 1997
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NFSA ID
784043
Year:
Year

The Daily Telegraph billboard poster dated 13 August 1997 announces a Cold Chisel reunion.

Newspaper billboard posters are intended to grab your immediate attention and this one is highly effective in its use of big, black and bold block lettering. It seems intentional that the words 'Cold Chisel Reforms' were printed in such a way that they appear to advance towards the viewer.

A full-page billboard dedicated to this news is indicative of how well loved the band was across Australia, even 14 years after their break-up.

Five band members of Cold Chisel sitting in a row at some tables in front of a service station at night time. Written at the top of the image is 'Cold Chisel' in large red block letters and 'The Last Wave of Summer' in small white block letters.
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Cold Chisel Album Cover: The Last Wave of Summer
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NFSA ID
1494788
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Year

Album cover for Cold Chisel's 1998 reunion album The Last Wave of Summer. The cover art was shot by Sydney photographer Adrienne Overall outside a service station in Wyong on the central coast of New South Wales. 

The image references the famous painting Nighthawks (1942) by American artist Edward Hopper. In a similar mood to the painting, the five members of the band seem exhausted and trapped by their nondescript surroundings. Is it daybreak or sunset? Only the harsh artificial light illuminates them. Presumably they are on tour and this location is a place for them to refuel, literally and figuratively.

Despite the album's title there are no 'waves' and no evidence of summer in the photo. But the service station location is a good updating of the 1940s American diner in Hopper's painting and is the kind of location familiar to Chisel's working-class audience. It is also a memorable and eye-catching image for an album cover because of its surreal edge and not least because it is so beautifully shot.

Good Times. Cold Chisel: Reunited
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
809430
Courtesy:
XYZ Networks
Year:
Year

Jimmy Barnes and Don Walker discuss the Cold Chisel reunion in this excerpt from the Max TV music documentary Good Times. Cold Chisel. They explain how they knew that they were ready to come back together as a band. 

Australia had waited more than 15 years for a Cold Chisel comeback and the band talk about how they had matured as musicians, performers and songwriters and could put together an album and live tour that fans would love.

The inclusion of archival black-and-white images in this clip is effective in reminding us of the longevity of Cold Chisel. The montage of the band returning to the recording studio would be especially tantalising to Chisel fans.

The interview footage in this clip makes for an intriguing contrast between an enthusiastic Jimmy Barnes and a more measured Don Walker, filmed separately later and apparently in New York. But even in this short clip the polish and high production values are enticing and invite us to watch the full documentary.