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Live album by Cold Chisel
Released 23 March 1981
Genre Pub rock
Label Elektra
Producer Mark Opitz
Cold Chisel chronology
Circus Animals

Swingshift is a live album released by Australian band Cold Chisel in 1981. It was their first album to reach No. 1 on the Australian chart, debuting there in its first week.[1] It peaked at number 9 in New Zealand.[2] A press release said the title referred to, "the midnight to dawn shift that the staff in asylums dread: the hours when the crazies go crazy."[3]


The performances on Swingshift were taken from concerts at Sydney's Capitol Theatre and Melbourne's Festival Hall from the "Youth in Asia" tour in the winter of 1980. Don Walker said compared to the studio versions of the songs, "Generally the feel's a lot better, and the band plays a lot better." [4] The songs are as recorded live, but studio remixing took 125 hours.[5]

Barnes said, "Most of the album was recorded at Sydney's Capitol Theatre on the last night of our Youth In Asia tour. It was a really hot night. Everything just happened, you know? Everyone fired."[6] The opening acts for this night were Mental as Anything and INXS. Guest musicians were saxophonist Billy Rodgers (a one-time member of Dragon) and David Blight on harmonica, who is introduced by Barnes saying, "David Blight nearly cut his hand off the other day but he thought he'd come up and play anyway."

"I remember the show very well," Don Walker said. "It was pretty much the highlight of that tour. By the time we did that show, we'd played the East album all over the country and this was bringing everything home. Our chance to play all the East songs live to our home crowd."[7]

Producer Mark Opitz said of the recording process, "I just turned up at gigs with recording equipment. Half the band didn’t know I was gonna do it. I didn’t want them to know too early because I didn’t wanna get them gun-shy."[8]

There are covers of "Knocking on Heaven's Door", Creedence Clear Water Revival's "Long as I Can See the Light", and Jesse Stone's "Don't Let Go" on the album. Barnes introduces the latter song by saying he prefers the version done by Jerry Lee.

The picture on the cover of the album is taken from a still of a video recording from when the band played the Manly Vale in April 1980.[9]

Cold Chisel re-released their catalogue in 2011, with Swingshift re-entering the Australian charts for one week at number 42.[2]


Adrian Zupp at allmusic gave the album a score of four and a half out of five, noting, "The band was at the peak of its powers and launching from all silos, and it shows."[10] He noted there are many highlights, including, "the band's signature number "Khe Sanh," the dark and frantic "Conversations," the beefed-up rockabilly of "Rising Sun," and the rock & roll meteor "Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)."[10] He went on to praise the performances of support players Billy Rodgers and David Blight, but questioned the inclusion of the cover of "Knocking on Heaven's Door".

Upon release, the album was also highly praised in RAM, one of the leading Australian music magazines of the time. Reviewer Greg Taylor said, "The result is four sides of high rock and roll, brilliantly played, well recorded, and definitely worth taking home - especially if you're finding Chisel gigs a bit crowded for comfort these days."[5] However, he does note, "The very fact that a live gig demands more up rockers than anything else precludes Swingshift from being a Very Best of Cold Chisel."[5]

Critic Toby Creswell said of Swingshift, "the amazing thing was the way they fitted together. Jimmy and Mossy deliver spade loads of emotion. As much as Jimmy has been criticised for screaming, if you listen to that record what he's doing vocally is really amazing."[11]

In the Sydney Morning Herald, the album was described as, "Hard music carrying politically aware lyrics, forced home with hammer-like backgrounds."[3] The Canberra Times said, "to see a group sweating and roaring and squealing and stomping brings joy to the soul. If there is a top Australian group right now, it has to be Cold Chisel."[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Don Walker, except where noted.

Disc: 1

  1. "Conversations"
  2. "Shipping Steel"
  3. "Breakfast at Sweethearts"
  4. "Rising Sun" (Jimmy Barnes)
  5. "Choirgirl"
  6. "Khe Sanh"
  7. "My Turn to Cry" (Barnes)
  8. "Four Walls"
  9. "One Long Day"

Disc: 2

  1. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan)
  2. "My Baby" (Phil Small)
  3. "Star Hotel"
  4. "Don't Let Go" (Jesse Stone)
  5. "Long as I Can See the Light" (John Fogerty)
  6. "The Party's Over"
  7. "Cheap Wine"
  8. "Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)" (Walker, Barnes)

Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Position
1981 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 1


Preceded by
Greatest Hits by Dr. Hook
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
13–26 April 1981
Succeeded by
Corroboree by Split Enz


  1. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. p. 72. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  2. ^ a b "COLD CHISEL - SWINGSHIFT (ALBUM)". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Madeleine D'Haeye (5 April 1981). "Australian rock in world class". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Greg Taylor. "Chisel Working the Swingshift in Paradise". RAM. Sydney, NSW: Soundtracts Publishing Pty Ltd (1 May 1981): pgs 13–15. 
  5. ^ a b c Greg Taylor. "Cold Chisel Swingshift". RAM. Sydney, NSW: Soundtracts Publishing Pty Ltd (1 May 1981): 25. 
  6. ^ Michael Lawrence (1998). Showtime: The Cold Chisel Story. Belmont, Victoria: Michael Lawrence. p. 108. ISBN 1-86503-118-6. 
  7. ^ Mark Opitz; Luke Wallis; Jeff Jensen (2012). Sophisto-Punk. North Sydney: Ebury Press. p. 93. ISBN 9781742757933. 
  8. ^ Doug Wallen. "Icons: Mark Opitz Pt 1". Mess + Noise. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Michael Lawrence (1998). Showtime: The Cold Chisel Story. Belmont, Victoria: Michael Lawrence. pp. 164–165. ISBN 1-86503-118-6. 
  10. ^ a b Adrian Zupp. "Swingshift". allmusic. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  11. ^ Toby Creswell (12 October 2011). "Toby Cresswell on Cold Chisel". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Garry Raffele (13 April 1981). "The Best in the Land". Canberra Times. Retrieved 24 March 2013.