Chris Bailey, frontman of the Saints, whose ‘70s single (“I’m) Stranded” was the one of the sparks that lit the punk scene, died Saturday (April 9) at the age of 65.
“It is with great pain in our hearts that we have to inform you about the passing of Chris Bailey, singer and songwriter of The Saints, on April the 9th 2022,” reads a message posted by the band.
“Chris lived a life of poetry and music and stranded on a Saturday night,” reads the post, referencing Bailey’s famous song.
Born in Kenya in 1957, and raised in Brisbane, Australia, Bailey formed the pioneering punk outfit in 1973 with guitarist and songwriter Ed Kuepper and drummer Ivor Hay.
With energy to burn, and the songwriting talents to tell their stories, the Saints soaked up the frustration of living in the culturally-stifling Queensland of premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and let it all spill out on (“I’m) Stranded.”
The song was cut in 1976, and released on EMI the following year in the U.K., at the infancy of punk.
Considered one of the first and most influential songs of the punk era, the Saints have been described by Bob Geldof as one of the three bands which changed the 1970s, the others being the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.
Bailey was never easy with the “punk” tag.
“It’s not so much that we were at the vanguard so much as we were on the periphery,” Bailey told Billboard in a 2007 interview. “I don’t think any of us were that enamored with the punk tag. However, I can accept that “punk rock” has come to mean something over the years and if one has to be lumped into a category. I guess that punky rock is better than being perceived as a born-again Christian zealot or a supporter of ‘new Labour’? So in that context I guess it’s O.K. As to new bands, it is pretty much same as it ever was – some bands are great, some are crap – one shouldn’t forget that this is showbiz.”
In May 2001, the Australasian Performing Right Assn. celebrated its 75th anniversary and named “(I’m) Stranded” in its Top 30 Australian songs of all time. In 2007, the song was added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry, and, in 2010, their debut album of the same name was listed at No. 20 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.
The Saints’ sound would mature, adding horns to the arrangements, but never losing the energy of those early recordings. Bailey enjoyed a long solo career, his 1986 song “Just Like Fire Would” covered by Bruce Springsteen on the Boss’ 2014 album High Hopes.
Bailey periodically reunited with his bandmates under the Saints banner for live shows in Australia and the U.K., and for several stints in the recording studio, the results of which have yet to see the light of day.
The Saints were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001. The other act inducted on the night was INXS.
A mural dedicated to the Saints was unveiled in 2017 in central Brisbane, just around the corner from 4 Petrie Terrace, the spot that served as the Saints’ squat and the cauldron for those fiery early numbers, which included the politically-charged “Brisbane (Security City)”.
Kuepper led tributes to the late singer and punk trailblazer.
“Very sad to confirm the news about Chris Bailey dying on the weekend,” he wrote. “Chris and I met when we were about 14 during detention at Oxley High School and became close friends which later developed into what I always thought was an extremely strong artistic partnership. I couldn’t have hoped for a better singer.”
very sad to confirm the news about Chris Bailey dying on the weekend. Chris and I met when we were about 14 during detention at Oxley High School and became close friends which later developed into what I always thought was an extremely strong artistic partnership, 1/2 pic.twitter.com/hQVKKHYgzT— Ed Kuepper (@EdKuepper) April 10, 2022
Aussie rock legend Jimmy Barnes wrote, “One of the greatest songwriters this country produced has passed away. His band The Saints were punks before punk. He was a master of words and helped tell our story.”
Bailey contributed vocals to the song “Bring It On,” which appeared on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 2003 album Nocturama. Bad Seed and Dirty Three violist Warren Ellis remembered Bailey as “one of the best singers” and the Saints “one of the best bands.”
Chris Bailey One of the best singers Thé Saints one of the best bands. Vale and thank you Chris. pic.twitter.com/dLxvROvrvc— Warren Ellis (@warrenellis13) April 10, 2022
Sad news that Chris Bailey, front man of seminal Brisbane band The Saints, has passed away. The Saints were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2001. Our thoughts are with Chris’ family, friends and fans. pic.twitter.com/wP2i3IiGAJ— ARIA (@ARIA_Official) April 10, 2022