Chris Bailey, frontman with influential Australian punk icons The Saints, has died. He was 65. No cause of death has been confirmed as yet.
The news was confirmed in a social media post from the band, which read, “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 9, 2022. Chris lived a life of poetry and music and stranded on a Saturday night.”
The mention of “stranded” in the post is a reference to The Saints’ classic “(I’m) Stranded”, the title track and lead single from the band’s debut album. One of the earliest punk rock singles, it came out in September 1976, a month before The Damned released “New Rose” in The UK. In 2001, “(I’m) Stranded” was named as one of the 30 best Australian Songs of all time by APRA, the Australasian Performing Right Association.
“(I’m) Stranded” is regarded as one of the most influential punk songs of all time. In a promotional video for the single’s UK re-release, the INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence, credited the band for creating the sound that led to the rapid rise of the Sex Pistols.
The State Library of Queensland acquired a split 7” vinyl of the single into its treasured John Oxley collection in 2016, commemorating the 40th anniversary of its release.
“The 7” vinyl single featured represents a piece of music history, influencing generations of bands around the world,” the library said.
“Released in September 1976, months ahead of the Sex Pistols’ and The Clash’s debuts, the unknown band The Saints’ single “(I’m) Stranded” /”No Time” propelled the Brisbane boyhood friends to the forefront of a new underground punk music movement.”
Chris Bailey was born in Nanyuki, Kenya, in 1957, and spent his early years in Northern Ireland before his family moved to Brisbane, Australia. Bailey formed The Saints with two schoolmates, guitarist Ed Kuepper and drummer Ivor Hay, in 1973. The band were later joined by Kym Bradshaw, followed by Alasdair ‘Algy’ Ward on bass.
The Saints’ sound was primitive but explosive, with Bailey delivering vocals that combined a trademark punk sneer with the fire of a young Van Morrison. The debut album was powered by Kuepper’s Ramones-like riffs, while the follow-up, the brilliant Eternally Yours, expanded the band’s ambitions by introducing horns without diluting their sound. And in songs like “Know Your Product” and “No, Your Product”, Bailey took corporate culture to task, attracting the ire of parent label EMI, who dropped the band after their underrated third album, Prehistoric Sounds.
Bailey continued with The Saints after Kuepper and Hay left in 1979, recording and releasing albums with a variety of members – more than 30 musicians passed through the band’s ranks over the years. The band’s most recent album, King Of The Sun, was released in 2014. Bailey also embarked on a solo career, releasing five studio albums between 1983 and 2005.
“One part of me is really proud of the youthful Saints because that first album is very obnoxious and very badly recorded, but it is very sincere,” Bailey told Penny Black Music in 2015. “I don’t know whether it is dated or of its time. I don’t have enough critical distance.”
“In all honesty, I don’t know what I think of it. In certain kinds of moods I can listen to it and it will make me smile and I will think, ‘That’s great.’ And then I will listen to other tracks and think, ‘What were you thinking of, for f_k’s sake?'”
The Saints’ Ed Kuepper expressed his sadness at Bailey’s death, saying the pair had “an extremely strong artistic partnership” and he “couldn’t have hoped for a better singer”.
In tribute, Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses tweeted lyrics from The Saints song “Know Your Product”. “Rest In Peace Chris Bailey. 21 years is a long, long time-to be in this prison when there ain’t no crime. Saints forever!,” McKagan wrote.