Posted: December 27th, 2008
London, 1977. Its year zero of the revolution, hippy-love is out, teenage angst in. A new breed of bands are smashing it up, blasting out a mean racket known as punk rock. Its a violent break from the pastâ€”as the kids gets busy kicking in the door, hoping that the whole rotting Establishment comes tumbling down. The Sex Pistols are banned from the radio, and thatâ€™s exactly the point. Throwing a brick never felt so damn good.
Now rewind several years, to a remote and seedy corner of Brisbane, Australia, where singer Chris Bailey and guitarist Ed Kuepper are busy prototyping an aggressive, stripped down, raw rock sound that would later come to be called punk. As their 1974 demos (compiled on The Most Primitive Band In The World) demonstrate, the Saints rocked in the punk vanguard long before the arrival of the Sex Pistols, Dammed, Buzzcocks, Clash, and Ramones. Their musicâ€”an irresistibly ferocious Stooges meets Stones late â€˜70s roarâ€”won them a staunch local following, but no record deal. Their demos were rejected by EMI Australia, and their gigs were frequently broken-up by the Queensland police. The band realized that if they were to stand a chance, they had to get themselves out of their provincial cage to find a more receptive audience.
In 1976 they self-recorded and released their debut single, the devastatingly catchy â€œ(Iâ€™m) Stranded.â€ Banned from Australian radio, the band took matters into their own hands, mailing out copies of the single to some open-eared rock journalists in the States and the UK. Not surprisingly, the single completely blew the minds of the British music press, with one rave review even going so far as to call it â€œthe single of this and EVERY week.â€ The loud buzz surrounding the band also rattled EMIâ€™s Aussie execs, with higher ups in the London office furiously ordering them to sign at any cost the band they had so recently shunned. In a storm of apologies and ass kisses, the newly signed Saints were quickly ushered into the studio, and a follow up LP was rush-released in 1977.
Twenty-five years later, both the album and the single are still a devastating listen, loaded with the same irresistible power that allowed â€œ(Iâ€™m) Strandedâ€ to sweep up the UK charts in that eternal punk summer of â€™77. Comprised largely of unpolished demo tracks that the Saints never intended releasing, (Iâ€™m) Stranded has all the intense purity of a band hell bent on making a racket, regardless of its commercial viability. From the first anthematic chorus of â€œ(Iâ€™m) Strandedâ€ to the last blistering chords of closing track â€œNights in Venice,â€ this cheaply recorded album crackles with a contagious energy almost entirely missing from todayâ€™s super-produced punk records. This rough and raw record is so unstoppable that even its pair of ballads, â€œMessinâ€™ With the Kidâ€ and â€œStory of Love,â€ do nothing to slow it down. If anything, these two songs add nuance and balance to the hard-fast set, with Kuepperâ€™s mean blues-drenched guitar (â€œMessinâ€™ With the Kidâ€ pretty much lifts the opening riff from the Rolling Stonesâ€™ â€œSwayâ€) and Baileyâ€™s youthfully snarled lyrics of discontent making them quintessential punk laments.
Heretically mop-topped and unfashionably dressed, the Saints followed their smash single from Brisbane to London, only to find their great hopes of success dashed by punkâ€™s emerging fashion fascism. Almost as soon as punk â€˜officiallyâ€™ began, an influential cadre of London musicians, hipsters and journalists formed what amounted to a punk rock style-police state. The style-police showed zero tolerance for non-conformists, relying on the bully pulpit of the British punk press to excommunicate all those who didnâ€™t tow the line. Then as now, the movement squandered much of its vitality on style over substance, consuming itself in senseless battles over what is and what is not â€˜punk.â€™ Unwilling to follow the dress code, the Saints quickly ran afoul of the punk elite, and their superb second album, Eternally Yours, was almost automatically ignored and rejected. In a bitter twist of irony, the London punks had become just like the conformist society they were rejecting, failing to see that the Saints refusal to wear their uniform was one of the most totally punk moves of the day.
Time has helped right these sins against the Saints. Australians today worship the band, holding them in as high esteem as any other native sons who ever rocked the continent. And most serious fans of the genre would now agree that (Iâ€™m) Stranded stands as one of the single best punk albums of all time. One thing is for certainâ€”compared to the current crop of derivative punk bands, the Saints deserve to be enshrined and worshipped.
- Chris Bailey – Vocals
- Ed Kuepper – Guitar
- Kim Bradshaw – Bass
- Ivor Hay – Drums
- Kym Bradshaw – Bass
- (I’m) Stranded (Bailey/Kuepper) – 3:25
- One Way Street (Bailey/Kuepper) – 2:54
- Wild About You – 2:38
- Messin’ With the Kid (Bailey/Kuepper) – 6:05
- Erotic Neurotic (Bailey/Kuepper) – 4:11
- No Time (Bailey/Kuepper) – 2:45
- Kissin’ Cousins (Starr/Wise) – 2:04
- Story of Love – 3:14
- Demolition Girl (Kuepper) – 1:45
- Night in Venice – 5:49
- Lipstick on Your Collar [*]
- River Deep Mountain High [*] (Barry/Greenwich/Spector)
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