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Time for Rock’n’Roll at Byron Writers Festival

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Byron Writers Festival will feature stars of the Australian music industry who not only can hold a tune but also can hold a pen, and have written or co-written revealing memoirs, and a novel. Read on for more about their books and what they’ll be doing at the Festival.


Jimmy Barnes Working Class Boy.
Jimmy Barnes Working Class Boy.

Jimmy Barnes – Working Class Boy

‘Visceral, brave, honest: it is like Angela’s Ashes meets Trainspotting – only more brutal. A deep, guttural howl of a book, it speaks of the pain and hurt that haunts so many men. And it may just save lives.’ – Magda Szubanski

This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It traces Jimmy’s life from early Glasgow recollections to the beginnings of Cold Chisel in 1974 when he was 17 and leaving the family home.

Arriving in Australia in the summer of 1962, when Jimmy was five, things went from bad to worse for the Swan family – Dot, Jim and their six kids. The scramble to manage in the tough northern suburbs of Adelaide in the 60s would take its toll on the Swans as dwindling money, too much alcohol, and fraying tempers gave way to violence and despair.

This is the story of a family’s collapse, but also a young boy’s dream to escape the misery of the suburbs with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join a rock’n’roll band and get out of town for good.

Jimmy Barnes. Photo Stephanie Barnes
Jimmy Barnes. Photo Stephanie Barnes

‘The time I have spent writing this book has caused me a lot of pain. Sometimes because of what I have remembered about my childhood and sometimes because of what I couldn’t remember. It is funny how your mind blocks things out when those things can hurt you. There are a lot of things I wish I didn’t remember,’ said Jimmy Barnes of writing the book.

Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, and almost destroy, the rock’n’roll legend.

‘A great book. Horrifying certainly, but also often tender and funny. I couldn’t put it down, because through all the neglect, abuse, violence, chaos and terror, it is also a story of resilience and bravery. A miracle of survival and courage. Against all odds, not only has Jimmy survived, but like that other hard liver Keith Richards, he remembers everything! This is an astoundingly vivid and brutally honest account of a cruelly chaotic and violent childhood in Glasgow and the grimmest suburbs of Australia. Remarkably, out of all this bedlam, one of the best men I know emerges – a great artist, a terrific friend, and – how does this happen – a devoted loving family man.’ – Sam Neill

Jimmy Barnes will be featuring at Byron Writers Festival in a one-on-one conversation with Mandy Nolan (Friday August 4); the session Rock’n’Roll Lives with Tex Perkins (Saturday August 5) and in conversation with Matt Condon at a special off-site feature event at Lennox Head Cultural & Community Centre (Saturday August 5, 7pm).


Tex by Tex Perkins.
Tex by Tex Perkins.

Tex Perkins – Tex

‘Tex is the realest dude out there. He is a born stone stud-symbol. I wish I was more like Tex.’ – Iggy Pop

Tex Perkins embodies rock’n’roll. He has the swagger, presence and indomitable attitude that comes from three decades fronting some of Australia’s most intense and spirited bands: The Cruel Sea, Beasts of Bourbon, Thug, Dark Horses, Don, Tex & Charlie, The Ladyboyz and more.

His autobiography tells the story of how skinny Gregory Perkins was raised a bible-thumping Catholic and beaten bloody on the streets of Brisbane for being a ‘cow-punk’, then fled to Sydney and mutated into ‘Tex’, rogue leader of the Dums Dums, Thug and Salamander Jim. All before finding a strange kind of success, celebrity, and status as a sex symboland icon status as Tex Perkins, snake-hipped, honey-voiced, often bloodied frontman of lore.

Tex Perkins. Photo Tony Mott
Tex Perkins. Photo Tony Mott

Full of punk energy, Tex’s no-holds-barred, laugh-out-loud memoir is written with brutal truth, raw power and feral humour, and lays bare an extraordinary life played out on the road, on the stage, and on the edge.

Tex Perkins will feature at Byron Writers Festival in the session Rock’n’Roll Lives with Jimmy Barnes, chaired by Mandy Nolan (Saturday August 5).


Goodwood by Holly Thosby.
Goodwood by Holly Thosby.

Holly Throsby – Goodwood

Holly Throsby has released four critically acclaimed solo albums, a collection of original children’s songs, and an album as part of the band, Seeker Lover Keeper. Goodwood is Holly’s debut novel and has been shortlisted in two categories (Literary Fiction and New Writer of the Year) for the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards.

It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Holly Throsby.
Holly Throsby.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.

Holly Throsby will be featuring at Byron Writers Festival in the session Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Writing Process with Heather Taylor Johnson and Kayla Rae Whitaker (Sunday August 6) and Music Makers with Sarah Blasko (Sunday August 6).


Mark Holden My Idol Years.
Mark Holden My Idol Years.

Mark Holden – My Idol Years

From Carnation Kid and early pop stardom to LA songsmith and actor to producer and manager to Australian Idol judge to barrister, Mark Holden’s memoir is always startlingly honest, a unique portrait of the music and TV industries, of family and ageing in the public eye.

In 2006 Mark had a premonition that 2007 was going to be his last year on Australian Idol and kept a revealing record of what happened behind the scenes. That diary provides a central thread in this hugely entertaining portrait of his rollercoaster life.

Yet My Idol Years covers it all, including growing up in Adelaide, the Countdown years, and the wild side of making music and living in Los Angeles in the 1980s. It is a funny, warm and generous book full of stories about personalities including Elton John, David Hasselhoff, Molly Meldrum, John Paul Young, and of course his fellow Idol presenters. Mark also tells the story behind the Bobo the Clown incident on Dancing with the Stars, something that caused a media sensation at the time.

But in what is arguably one the most candid memoirs in recent times, Mark isn’t afraid to reveal his own vulnerabilities, failings, and challenges, as well as the triumphs. Ultimately My Idol Years is both a celebration of the music and the entertainment worlds and a moving testament to the value of family, friends and the many lessons learned along the way.

Mark Holden will be featuring at Byron Writers Festival in a one-on-one conversation with Phil Brown (Sunday August 6) and a special off-site feature event with Bec Mac at Byron Bay Library (Saturday August 5).


Sarah Blasko. Photo Wilk
Sarah Blasko. Photo Wilk

Sarah Blasko – Bedtime Stories

Sarah Blasko is one of Australia’s most beloved songwriters. Over the course of 15 years and five studio albums she has proved herself an irrepressible artistic force.

While Sarah Blasko hasn’t written a book yet, she will be providing the live soundtrack to Bedtime Stories, a special feature event at Byron Theatre on Saturday August 5 where John Safran, Hannah Kent, Jennifer Down and Erik Jensen will retell their books as if for children. Blasko will also feature at the Festival in the Music Makers session with Holly Throsby (Sunday  August 6).


• For more on Byron Writers Festival visit byronwritersfestival.com

More Byron Writers Festival 2017 articles:

Tex Talks

Tex is a funny prick. In an industry full of people who take themselves SO seriously, Perkins is a breath of fresh air.


The life and times of Jimmy Barnes

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Book Reviews by Byron Bay Public School Students

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