"Rock music in the '70s was changed by three bands: The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Saints." -Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats
When and where did Punk Rock get its start? Depending on who you ask, the answer may vary from the UK around 1976-77 with bands like The Sex Pistols and The Damned, to New York City circa 1975 with bands like The Ramones, The Heartbreakers and Richard Hell & The Voidoids, to Detroit in 1969 with The Stooges and The MC5. Strong cases can be made for all three, but I'd like to offer a fourth possibility: Australia in 1974, when Chris Bailey, Ed Kuepper and Ivor Hay came together to form The Saints.
Coming out of the same Australian scene that was contemporaneously spawning Radio Birdman and would eventually give rise to The Fun Things, The Saints were all energy and chainsaw guitars when the trio first hit the Australian circuit. While not quite as minimalistic as The Ramones (who were also just getting started a world away in NYC), The Saints' sound was every bit as primitive and loud.
By 1976, Kym Bradshaw was added on bass, and The Saints' first single, "(I'm) Stranded,", was causing major waves both in their homeland and abroad (The UK-based Sounds magazine famously hailed "(I'm) Stranded" as "the single of this and every week!"). An album with the same title followed shortly thereafter, and remains one of the finest slabs of Punk Rock vinyl you'll find anywhere - check out my post from last February, 15 Albums That Changed My Life, to take a listen.
With the coming of their second album, Eternally Yours, in 1978, The Saints expanded their sound beyond the slash-n-burn guitar attack of that first album. Most notably, a horn section (!) created a fuller, more commercially agreeable sound. Still, the snarl was evident in Bailey's voice and the band's fury was not diminished.
A third album, Prehistoric Sounds, followed a year later, and moved the band even further from their initial sound. Dabblings of jazz and R&B left fans scratching their heads a bit, and internal dissension between Bailey & Kuepper regarding musical direction was evident. It would be the final album by the original lineup.
Kuepper left to form The Laughing Clowns, who continued to follow the jazz/punk direction. Bailey kept The Saints alive with a revolving door of musicians, and evolved the band to a more commercial sound. 1987's All Fools Day saw The Saints reach their high-point here in the US with considerable airplay on both college radio and MTV for the singles "(You Can't Tamper With) The Temple of the Lord" and "Big Hits (On the Underground)." The Saints have continued to release albums as recently as 2006.
This week's NW4NW pays tribute to the early Australian Punk Rock version of the band, the classic original lineup of Bailey, Kuepper, Hay and Bradshaw, with a clip for the scathing single from Eternally Yours, the wonderful "Know Your Product":