Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Saints Preserve Us

This week brought the sad news of the death of Chris Bailey, front man for the legendary Australian punk band The Saints. Or rock band if you prefer. There seems to be some mild controversy over just exactly how to label them.

I can tell you there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever among my peer group when we first heard the speaker-shredding caterwaul that was the magnificent I'm Stranded. It was one of the very first punk singles I bought, all the way back in 1976. I played the absolute hell out of it then and I still have the seven-inch downstairs somewhere, in the original picture sleeve.

The Saints' sound and Bailey's vocals in particular are in clear line of descent from Iggy and the Stooges circa Raw Power but that's something a lot of bands tried. Few, if any, succeeded as comprehensively and thrillingly.

Here's the original promo in all its burned out basement glory, preceded by a few choice compliments from some famous rockers.

I saw a good number of mid-late '70s punk bands play live but sadly never The Saints. Their stage performances were legendary, which makes their appearance on Top of the Pops below, miming to a pre-recorded version of their biggest UK hit, This Perfect Day, all the more devestating. Lots of bands derided or satirised the artificiality of the show's format but few managed to make their point while still looking as cool as this.

If you want more (And you should.) Simon Reynolds has you covered at his blissblog. He also has the same two clips I used because why wouldn't he?

As the years roll relentlessly on, my feelings and thoughts about punk, both the music and the movement, are subject to endless revision. There was a time when I could barely listen to any of it, even the stuff I knew, objectively, was good. 

After forty-five years, though, I feel I'm finally beginning to get some perspective. I'm starting to trust myself to be able to sift the good from the merely nostalgic. The Saints were one of the best, as were X-Ray Spex, another band I never got to see play, more's the pity.

FKA Twigs, who it amuses me to think of as the Good Fairy to Grimes' bad one, released a fine video this week for the International Woolmark Prize.  It starts out like Laurie Anderson before lurching, wonderfully, into X-Ray Spex' classic Identity

I have no way of knowing or even guessing whether the late and very much missed Poly Styrene would have appreciated what's happening in front of her tune here but I bet she'd be happy to know people who weren't even born when she recorded it are still finding it as thrilling and meaningful as we did back then.

One of these days I'll do a post or maybe even a series featuring the punk songs I most liked when they were fresh. It would be interesting, to me at least, to consider which have lasted, which have faded and which I can't really remember why I liked to begin with.

That, though, is for another day. If even then.

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