“What’s it like when you sing in your helmet and all you can hear is Jimmy Barnes songs?”
One of the distractions from the current pandemic lockdown has been Aussie rock legend Jimmy Barnes and his partner Jane Barnes doing minimalist renditions of great songs from their lounge room on the interweb. Look it up – it’s very refreshing. Jane’s a beginner guitar player but gracious Jimmy makes it into something special.
What some of you may not know is Jimmy rides bikes. How this came about was a marketing crisis for Honda in 2004 when it released its VT750C. Honda had done what it does best: it made the softest V-twin in the world so that fringe riders could dip their toes into outlaw riding. The VT750C looked a bit like a Harley-Davidson but it was impossibly easy to start, ride and maintain. How was Honda going to position it so it wouldn’t look like a complete fraud?
Jimmy Barnes was the answer. Honda searched Australia for the wildest symbol of outlaw freedom and Jimmy, lead singer of Cold Chisel, came up trumps. Jimmy was made a Honda ambassador of the model and, to make it stick, he was provided with his own VT750C and, secretly, a Honda Hornet 900 in case he actually wanted to go fast.
There were a few obstacles to this match-made-in-heaven. Firstly, Jimmy didn’t have a motorcycle licence. Honda’s rider training school, HART, soon fixed that. Secondly, Jimmy had given up drinking which was a large part of his outlaw persona. Would you buy a H-D if it was endorsed by Fred Nile?
INFO MOTO’s left-field boss, Snag, sent me to the original VT750C launch and I managed a one-on-one interview with Jimmy. It didn’t go entirely as planned. Here it is…
Spanner: How about an autograph?
Spanner: Who do you want me to make it out to?
JB: Do you have any idea how old that joke is?
Spanner: So what got you into riding?
JB: I’d committed myself to helping out at the Snowy Ride charity event last year and was fed up with being a pillion. Honda helped out with a HART course and provided a bike. I loved it – even being passed by Wayne Gardner while he was monoing a ‘Wing. I have a Hornet 900 in the garage at the moment as well as a Shadow.
Spanner: I figured you as a biker a long time ago. Why did it take so long to get a licence?
JB: I’ve been around bikes all my life but I was too wild to be safe on one.
Spanner: What changed?
JB: Well, I’ve been off the grog for around two years now and that’s made a difference. My professional life is better, I can get higher notes from my voice and I think I’m ready to ride.
Spanner: What’s it like when you sing in your helmet and all you can hear is Jimmy Barnes songs?
JB: I haven’t sung in my helmet out loud yet. Is that what happens to you if you ride a lot? Don’t forget this launch is my second longest ride ever. It’s funny you should bring it up, though, because I was singing in my head on the way down here. I was working on a new song. I’d be a bit reluctant to sing out loud in my helmet anyway – I have a very loud voice.
Spanner: Who are you listening to?
JB: I’ve got a Jet CD which I’m enjoying but I’m also writing with Diesel at the moment so that’s occupying a lot of my time.
Spanner: I’ve noticed that rock legends who die in motorcycle crashes often have an increase in the sales of their music. Is this bike thing just part of a long-term marketing strategy?
JB: Are you really a journalist?
Spanner: Gee, is that the time?