Cold Chisel – East

Pub rockers hit pay dirt on third studio platter

Don Walker was always the brains behind the band, the thinker, and intellectual force, without whose song writing talents Cold Chisel would no doubt have floundered after only a few short years playing the pub circuit. For their third album, he was determined that their next effort should be more democratic, asking the other members to contribute material of their own. This proved to be a wise decision in more ways than one, for not only did it remove some of the burden from him as the main song writer, but ultimately would result in their most diverse and popular LP to date.

The majority of the recording took place at Paradise Studios in Sydney during the months of March and April 1980, where the group was given 24 hour access to write and record, an unprecedented liberty in those days. This time it was Mark Opitz who was brought in to engineer, who worked with the group, rather than against them, and was instrumental in bringing out the best in each member.

“Standing on the Outside” starts things off. Gone are the gruff and barbed-wire vocals of Jim Barnes. Instead we have a more docile beast singing from inside his cage, for collectively Chisel have now morphed into a different animal altogether, one belonging more to the genus of pop-rock. But don’t be fooled. There is a dark undercurrent to this song, with references to shot gun wielding bank robbers and people pulling jobs on the small town TAB.

“Never Before” is an Ian Moss tune, and while I have no idea what it’s about, there is a lovely mid-section interlude which takes the listener on a jazzy, pulsating journey, and reveals just how far Moss had come as a guitarist. “Choir Girl” was recorded and released several months before the album proper, and remains one of the most unique songs ever to climb the Australian charts. Written about a young (underage?) girl undergoing an abortion, the shimmering piano and seraphic guitar add appropriate support and atmosphere to the grim subject matter.

“Rising Sun,” penned by Barnes, is a rockabilly number, where he blames the “little people” for the trouble he’s having with his Japanese girlfriend. Next is “My Baby,” a cute and catchy pop ditty by Phil Small which received considerable airplay and exposed the band to a whole new audience. “Tomorrow” is an edgy rocker about a criminal on the run, “clutching at straws/Facing the future, forcing the doors”, ever pondering over his inevitable fate.

Side two begins with “Cheap Wine,” an anthemic reggae-rocker that would prove to be a major radio favourite in Oz, whose main protagonist likes nothing more than to sit on the beach drinking rocket-fuel while watching the sunrise. But it wouldn’t be a Walker tune without a few lines of philosophical reflection in “I Had a friend, I heard she died/On a needle she was crucified” and “I don’t mind taking charity/From those that I despise.”

“Best Kept Lies” is drummer Steve Prestwich’s song writing debut. Sung by Ian Moss, it flows along just nicely. The next three songs are all by Walker. “Ita” is another quality pop tune about well known television presenter and journalist Ita Buttrose, and a potential single that never was. “Star Hotel” describes the recent riot which had occurred in Newcastle, New South Wales, where an estimated 4000 people protested at the closure of their local pub of the same name. And finally “Four Walls”, which illustrates the stark reality of life in prison.

“Best Kept Lies” is drummer Steve Prestwich’s song writing debut. Sung by Ian Moss, it flows along just nicely. The next three songs are all by Walker. “Ita” is another quality pop tune about well known television presenter and journalist Ita Buttrose, and a potential single that never was. “Star Hotel” describes the recent riot which had occurred in Newcastle, New South Wales, where an estimated 4000 people protested at the closure of their local pub of the same name. And finally “Four Walls”, which illustrates the stark reality of life in prison.

Barnes is given the honour of closing the album with his second contribution in “My Turn to Cry”, where the band fall back into hard-rock mode, and then that’s it, concluding what is a near flawless exposition of what the boys could achieve when pooling all their talents and resources together. From here on the only way was up. Now with three hit singles under their belt, and East climbing the charts both in Australia and New Zealand, it looked as though Chisel were finally getting the commercial recognition they deserved.

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