June 12, 1976, is a seminal moment not just in Australian music, but for the sound of the world in decades to come.
Forty years ago today, Kenyan-born Chris Bailey, German-born Ed Kuepper, and Ivor Hay, three teenage schoolmates living in Brisbane, headed into a Window Studios in Brisbane’s West End to record their debut single.
The name of the song was “(I’m) Stranded”. The B side was “No Time” and Mark Moffatt was the producer. The name of the band was The Saints and, inspired in part by Iggy Pop and the Stooges, they already had a reputation around Brisbane for fast, hard live gigs that led to arrests and shut downs by the police.
Stranded was partly a cry against everything that was wrong with Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland at the time, but it was also the launch of a new movement in popular music.
The band pressed 500 copies of the single, and having been shunned by the local scene, turned the Petrie Terrace house Bailey and Hay lived in into their own venue, 76 Club, and formed their own record label, Fatal.
But the single, released in September of ’76, was ignored locally. The Saints, who predated the likes of the The Clash, Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols, were discovered in London. The key moment was a review in the influential Sounds magazine that said the song pounds The Ramones into the dirt and declared it the “single of this and every week”.
Record label EMI heard it, got onto the Australian outpost and a three-LP deal followed.
Later on legendary BBC1 DJ John Peel played Stranded on his show. By then The Saints were supporting AC/DC on tour, having just spent to days recording their debut album, also called (I’m) Stranded. It’s considered one of the best albums of the time, on a par with Iggy Pop’s Raw Power and The Ramones debut.
Here’s how Chris Bailey recalled the era, 20 years on:
The Brits at the time being in the orgiastic throes of the then “new teen phenomenon” that was “punk rock” responded immediately with saliva dripping jowls.
We gave (did a deal for??) the single to an English label called “Power Exchange”. By all accounts it was recieved warmly and got fairly hysterical reviews.
As to whether it sold – your guess is as good as mine. However the hype was fairly thick.
To put Stranded in perspective, it’s considered one of the top four moments in Australian music history and the song is listed among the 30 greatest Australian tracks of all time.
But luck was not on the band’s side. They were banned from Countdown for bagging the show and by the time they headed to London – their debut gig was supporting the Ramones and Talking Heads – the fashion-conscious punk scene was moving on The Saints’ attitude was more a precursor to Seattle’s grunge scene 20 years later, than the punk look the record label wanted.
Nonetheless, Boomtown Rats founder Sir Bob Geldof says “Rock music in the Seventies was changed by three bands—the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Saints”.
The irony is that punk started with a band that never considered itself punk.
Here’s what all the fuss is about. Happy anniversary (I’m Stranded).
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