Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published April 15th 2022
The Saints front-man has passed away
On April 9, 2022, Chris Bailey, a stalwart of Australian music, passed away at the age of 65.
Who was Chris Bailey? Chris Bailey was the lead singer, front-man, one of the songwriters and only constant member of the seminal Australian band The Saints.
Screen capture from the video for 'Just Like Fire Would'
The Saints had only a few charting hits, but most of their stuff was in the underground music scene and made waves that rippled down the years. They formed in the early 1970s (1973, 1974 and 1975 are all cited) and released their first single in 1976. But that song, that one single, changed everything. It predated the punk movement to come, especially in the UK, and yet it informed the music that followed. It has been said that without the Saints there would have been no Sex Pistols (though it must be noted John Lydon did not mention the band or its members in his wonderful autobiography Anger Is An Energy).
However, the impact they had on Australian music, dragging it kicking and screaming out of the classic rock bloat and pop "kings" and "queens" it had fallen into, cannot be underestimated. Despite the best attempts of the Brisbane police to physically beat them into submission, The Saints survived and influenced so many of those who came afterwards.
And they left a great discography. So here are ten songs by The Saints to remember Chris Bailey by. Now, I only have one Chris Bailey solo album, and so all of these songs are by The Saints from albums I own, as I have a number of their albums and a surprisingly large number of their singles.
I saw them live just once, in the 1980s, and the show was a decent outing. My main memory is that they played a lot of songs and the show went for quite a while. I certainly went home happy.
So, here are ten songs by The Saints.
'(I'm) Stranded' (1976)
This is it. This is where it started. Proto-punk at its finest, and you can really hear where the future punk bands got some of their sound from. They took the garage aesthetic and just amped it up and created a sound and song that stands the test of time. If this was released today by some underground rock band, it would still do amazingly well. Few debut singles have had the long-term impact of this one.
'This Perfect Day' (1977)
They continued with this single. While it does lack the punch of the debut, it is still a great example of punk rock in the early stages. This is also an example of them having better musicianship than many of the British bands that followed in their wake.
'Lipstick On Your Collar' (1977)
One of the strangest cover versions I have heard, The Saints take the 1959 Connie Francis bubble-gum pop song and turn it into this and I prefer their version over the original. They knew their stuff.
'River Deep, Mountain High' (1977)
Another amazing cover version of a song, this is just a straight ahead rock cover of the old Ike & Tina Turner/Phil Spector classic. They had a way with turning anything to their own sound and doing it well.
'Know Your Product' (1978)
This was their breakthrough hit and already they had started to move away from the punk rock tropes, including horns in what is a brilliant piece of Australian rock. This is the first song of The Saints I remember hearing and, to me, it was so different from anything else on the radio. I understand it didn't chart, but I know I heard it a bit at the time.
'Grain Of Sand' (1984)
I know we're jumping forward a little here, but this song shows the next phase of The Saints' sound the acoustic guitar-dominated melodic song. They had left most of their punk roots behind, yet that song mastery was still there and still so wonderful.
'Ghost Ships' (1984)
Sticking with the theme, with extra electric guitar, The Saints fell into 1980s Australian pub rock with seamless ease. This was a song I seem to remember hearing on the radio and seeing on the music video stations at the time, and it was never one I'd skip.
'Walk Away' (1984)
An album cut from A Little Madness To Be Free, this is one of my favourite songs by The Saints. That acoustic sound mixed with the horns of earlier sounds, it is just a fantastic piece of music and one only fans probably know.
'Just Like Fire Would' (1986)
This is the peak of The Saints when it came to chart success in Australia. It is another track that mixes the horns and guitar sounds together in a piece of near-perfect rock. To people my age and thereabouts, this is the one song most associated with the band. And there is nothing wrong with that.
'The Music Goes Round My Head' (1988)
A cover of an old Easybeats track, one that I first heard on the soundtrack of Young Einstein, this is a fine cover version and an excellent way to end this list.
After 1988, most of Chris Bailey's music was solo with a few Saints album appearing, but I sort of fell away from the band at that time, when I finished high school, and so I apologise for not going further ahead in my own knowledge.
But these ten songs are a fine representation of a band that changed Australian rock music for the better.
Vale, Chris Bailey. You were always great.
Screen capture of Bailey guest hosting ABC's 'Rage' in 2013
(I need to apologise for this being late, but a relative I was very close to passed away and Chris Bailey's death came at the same time as the funeral. Apologies for my lateness.)
Thanks for the retrospective Steven.
You are a prolific writer and this eulogy is still timely.
I am wondering if there will be any acknowledgment of the cause of death?
Possibly he was unwell for a while and this was an expected event - but it is all unknown.