The group changed its name several times before settling on Cold Chisel in 1974 after writing a song with that title. Barnes' relationship with other band members was volatile, he often came to blows with Liverpool-born Prestwich and he left the band several times. During these periods Mossy would handle vocals until Barnes returned.
A farewell performance took place in Sydney that went so well the singer changed his mind and the following month Cold Chisel was picked up by the Warner Music Group.
In the early months of 1978, Cold Chisel recorded its self-titled debut album with producer Peter Walker. All tracks were written by Don Walker except "Juliet", for which Barnes wrote the melody and Walker the lyrics. Cold Chisel was released in April and featured appearances from harmonica player Dave Blight, who would become a regular on-stage guest, and saxophonists Joe Camilleri and Wilbur Wilde from Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons.
The following month, arguably Chisels greatest song, "Khe Sanh" was released as a single but was deemed too offensive for airplay on commercial radio because of the lyric "Their legs were often open/But their minds were always closed", although it was played regularly on Sydney rock station, Double J, which was not subject to such restrictions because it was part of the ABC.
Despite that setback, it still reached #48 on the Australian singles chart and number four on the Adelaide charts thanks mainly to the band's rising popularity as a touring act and some local radio support in Adelaide where the single was aired in spite of the ban. "Khe Sanh" has since become Cold Chisel's signature tune and arguably its most popular among fans. The song was later remixed, with re-recorded vocals, for inclusion on the international version of 1980's East.
The band's next release was a live EP titled You're Thirteen, You're Beautiful, and You're Mine, in November. This had been recorded at a show at Sydney's Regent Theatre in 1977 that had featured Midnight Oil as one of the support acts. One of the EP's tracks, "Merry Go Round" was later recorded on the follow-up, Breakfast at Sweethearts. Once again, the majority of the songs were penned by Walker, with Barnes collaborating with Walker on the first single "Goodbye (Astrid, Goodbye)" and Moss contributing to "Dresden". "Goodbye (Astrid, Goodbye)" became a live favourite for the band, and even went on to be performed by U2 during Australian tours in the 1980s.
By now the band stood at the verge of major national success, even without significant radio airplay or support from Countdown, Australia's most important youth music program at the time. The band had become notorious for its wild behaviour, particularly from Barnes who was rumoured to have had sex with over 1000 women and who was known to consume more than a bottle of vodka every night during performances.
In late-1979, Cold Chisel chose Mark Opitz to produce the next single, "Choirgirl", a Don Walker composition dealing with a young woman's experience with abortion. In spite of the controversial subject matter, the track became a hit and paved the way for Cold Chisel's next album. Recorded over two months in early-1980, East reached #2 on the Australian album charts and was the second-highest selling album by an Australian artist for the year.
The songs ranged from straight ahead rock tracks such as "Standing on the Outside" and "My Turn to Cry" to rockabilly-flavoured work-outs ("Rising Sun", written about Barnes' relationship with his girlfriend Jane Mahoney) and pop-laced love songs ("My Baby") to a poignant piano ballad about prison life, "Four Walls".
Following the release of East, Cold Chisel embarked on the Youth in Asia Tour, which took its name from a lyric in "Star Hotel". This tour saw the group play more than 60 shows in 90 days and would form the basis of 1981's double live album Swingshift.
Overseas, however, Cold Chisel was unable to make an impact. With a slightly different track-listing, East had been issued in the United States and the band undertook its first (and only) US tour. But while it was popular as a live act, the American arm of their label did little to support the album. . The band was even booed off stage after a lacklustre performance in Dayton, Ohio in May 1981 opening for Ted Nugent, who at the time was touring with his guitar army aka the 'D.C. Hawks'. European audiences were more accepting of the band and the group developed a small but significant fan base in Germany.
In August 1981, the band began work on the album Circus Animals, again with Mark Opitz producing. The album opened with "You Got Nothing I Want", an aggressive Barnes-penned hard rock track that attacked the American industry for its handling of the band. Like its predecessor, Circus Animals contained songs of contrasting styles, with harder-edged tracks like "Bow River" and "Hound Dog" in place beside more expansive ballads such as "Forever Now" and "When the War Is Over", both written by Prestwich.
The latter track has proved to be the most popular Cold Chisel song for other artists to record -- Uriah Heep included a version on the 1989 album Raging Silence and John Farnham has recorded it twice, once while he and Prestwich were members of Little River Band in the mid-80s and again for his 1990 solo album Age of Reason. The song was also a No. 1 hit for former Australian Idol contestant Cosima De Vito in 2004 and was also performed by Bobby Flynn during that show's 2006 season. "Forever Now" was also covered (as a country waltz) by Australian band The Reels.
Thanks primarily to continued radio airplay and Barnes' solo success, Cold Chisel's legacy remained solidly intact and by the early 90s the group had surpassed 3 million album sales, most of which had been sold since 1983. The 1991 compilation album Chisel was re-issued and re-packaged several times, once with the long-deleted 1978 EP as a bonus disc and a second time in 2001 as a double album. The Last Stand soundtrack album was also finally released in 1992 and in 1994 a complete album of previously unreleased demo and rare live recordings also surfaced.
Cold Chisel reunited in 1998 to record the album The Last Wave of Summer and supported it with a sold-out national concert tour. The album debuted at number one on the Australian album chart. In 2003, the band re-grouped once more for the "Ringside" tour and in 2005 again reunited to perform at a benefit for the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne....They got back together in 2009 for a show at the V8 Supercars, they started working on a new album in 2011
Sadly...Barnesy old sparring partner Steve Prestwich was diagnosed with a brain tumour and never awoke from the subsequent surgery...Bon and Ted Mulry and Pete Well's must of needed a shit hot drummer...ya think ?.....