It was Sir Bob Geldof who once said that the face of rock music in the 1970s was altered by three bands: Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Saints. History will record that The Saints' howling, milestone debut single `(I'm) Stranded'/`No Time' predated everything thrown up by The Damned, Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Clash and their UK punk rock contemporaries.
`(I'm) Stranded' appeared in September 1976 on the band's own Fatal Records imprint. It was all but ignored by the local industry at the time. When Sounds magazine in the UK declared `(I'm) Stranded' to be `Single of this and every week', EMI (Britain) ordered EMI (Australia) to sign the band, and pronto! Fuelled by Ed Kuepper's relentless power chords and Chris Bailey's cheap'n'nasty vocal sneer, `(I'm) Stranded' was a glorious rush of kinetic energy. When Bailey snarled `Aw-right!!' at the end of the chorus, you knew it was a celebration: he was happy to be stranded! Writer Stuart Coupe later called `(I'm) Stranded' `powerhouse rock'n'roll' and `desperately exciting'. Alongside Radio Birdman's Burn My Eye EP, `(I'm) Stranded' kicked off the Australian late 1970s new wave movement with a shower of teenage sweat and pure adrenalin.
The Saints grew out of Brisbane garage band Kid Galahad and the Eternals which occupied Bailey, Kuepper and Ivor Hay (then on piano) between 1973 and 1974. Kenyan-born, Belfast-raised Irishman Bailey and German-born Kuepper had both emigrated to Australia with their families during the 1960s. Their vast and catholic musical tastes ran the gamut of traditional blues (Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker), 1950s rock'n'roll (Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran), UK 1960s R&B; (The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things), US 1960s garage-punk (The Standells, The Seeds, The Count Five, ? and the Mysterians), 1960s pop (Connie Francis, Del Shannon) and proto-punk pioneers (The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls).
All of those early influences eventually coalesced into The Saints' own distinctive sound as defined by Kuepper's frenetic, whirlwind guitar style and Bailey's arrogant snarl. The Saints really took off at the end of 1975 when Hay replaced Jeffrey Wegener on drums and Kym Bradshaw joined on bass. Almost immediately ostracised from the Brisbane scene, The Saints found it difficult to get gigs. As a consequence, they set up their own promotions company (Eternal Promotions), their own club (the 76 Club held in their Petrie Terrace home) and record label (Fatal).
Once `(I'm) Stranded' set the roller-coaster in motion, The Saints were in big demand. They signed to EMI in November 1976, recorded their debut album, (I'm) Stranded, in two days flat during December, supported AC/DC a few weeks later and had moved to Sydney by the new year. EMI issued (I'm) Stranded and reissued `(I'm) Stranded'/`No Time' in February 1977. The classic (I'm) Stranded was full of rough, exhilarating rock'n'roll noise, and it remains one of the greatest debut albums of the era. The album mixed turbo-charged, R&B-spiced; rockers like `(I'm) Stranded', `Erotic Neurotic', a cover of The Missing Links' `Wild About You' and `Nights in Venice' with atmospheric ballads like the Stonesy `Messin' with the Kid'. The Saints toured the east coast, and `Erotic Neurotic'/`One Way Street' (May 1977) appeared as their second single.
Even with the band's increased profile, the local industry was still unsure of how to deal with The Saints. They made an appearance on the ABC-TV's rock show Countdown playing `Erotic Neurotic', but were immediately banned after the outspoken Kuepper and Bailey made certain disparaging remarks in the press about the show's content. With the release of (I'm) Stranded in the UK on EMI/Harvest, The Saints seemed ideally placed for a prime spot amidst the burgeoning punk phenomenon. In reality, The Saints were way beyond most of the then spiky-topped UK upstarts. By the time The Saints reached London in May 1977, they were no longer hip.
The Saints supported Talking Heads and The Ramones at the London Roundhouse on their first UK gig. The band's first regional tour was successful, but after that the fashion-conscious UK audiences of the day lost interest. The Saints never considered themselves to be punks anyway, being more attuned to developing far beyond their origins in a relatively short space of time. In June, Englishman Alasdair `Algy' Ward replaced Bradshaw (who went on to play with London punk bands The Lurkers and King). The band's fourth single, the blazing `This Perfect Day'/`L.I.E.S.' (July) peaked at #34 on the UK mainstream charts and the band appeared on Top of the Pops. EMI/Harvest in the UK, also issued a 12-inch version of the single with an additional track, `Do the Robot', added inadvertently (as the disclaimer sticker on the cover stated) `due to an administrative error'. In October, The Saints issued the One-Two-Three-Four EP which matched re-recordings of two cuts from the debut album (`Demolition Girl' and `One Way Street') with ragged but inspired covers of Ike and Tina Turner's `River Deep Mountain High' and Connie Francis's `Lipstick on Your Collar'.
With the next single, `Know Your Product'/`Run Down' (February 1978), and the second album, Eternally Yours (May), Kuepper began to steer the band in a new direction: Stax/Volt horn parts melded to demolition R&B; riffage played through Marshall stacks. All up, there was great passion at work on the album. With the band having refined the approach of the debut album without diminishing the impact, Eternally Yours remains The Saints' finest hour. And, in `Know Your Product', the band created one of the greatest R&B-fuelled; rock songs of all time.
The band's third classic album, Prehistoric Sounds, again was a departure. The rip-snorting power rock of old had been replaced by a darker, more ponderous mood. There was a general feeling of discontent on tracks like `Swing for the Crime, `Church of Indifference', `Brisbane (Security City)' and `The Prisoner'. For the single, the band put a cover of Otis Redding's `Security' through the meatgrinder, backed by the bluesy `All Times Through Paradise' (November 1978). By the time the album came out in Australia during February 1979, The Saints had already called it a day. During a period of dissent throughout 1978, matters came to a head over the direction of the band. Bailey wanted to write three-chord rockers and pop songs while Kuepper was moving towards less commercial, more cerebral material. Prehistoric Sounds was Kuepper's attempt to move as far away from The Saints' past as possible.
With the band's break-up, Ed Kuepper and Ivor Hay returned to Australia. Hay immediately joined The Hitmen before returning to the UK in June 1979. Kuepper formed Laughing Clowns in April 1979. Englishman Ward joined The Damned and then heavy metal band Tank. Chris Bailey remained in the UK and set about assembling a new version of The Saints which initially included Hay on drums. After a spell with his own jazz-inspired combo, Wildlife Documentaries, back in Sydney, Hay rejoined Bailey in The Saints during 1985. Reissue specialists Raven issued two Saints compilations, Scarce Saints: Hymns of Oblivion 1977–1981 (1989) and Songs of Salvation 1976–1988 (1990). The 1995 retrospective album The Most Primitive Band in the World (Live from the Twilight Zone Brisbane 1974) captured The Saints in all their ragged, prototypical garage band glory.