The Saints

Rolling Stone, Australia

November 30, 1978

By Bruce Elder

On a recent Tuesday, after a quiet meal in London’s West End and a bit of disco boppin’ at Rich Kids’ Midge Ure’s birthday party, the remnants of The Saints split up.

On the Thursday Ivor Hay, drummer with the band, flew back to Brisbane, to be followed before Christmas by guitarist Ed Kuepper. Kym Bradshaw, the original bass player, left the band nearly a year ago and is now active on the fringes on the London new wave. Lead singer Chris Bailey retains the name of the band and is currently getting together some demo tapes which he hopes will interest a record company and allow him to re-form the group.

The collapse of The Saints is a cautionary tale for all young, “brainlessly naïve” (Ed Kuepper’s words) Australian bands. By now everyone knows the story of the obscure Brisbane group whose homemade single ‘(I’m) Stranded’ became an overnight punk classic and was declared Single of the Year by London’s Sounds magazine. What is not well known is that from the moment of that first flush of success The Saints’ short career has been a series of disasters and massive errors of judgement.

Within weeks of their single’s acclaim in Britain, EMI executives in Australia were being told to find the group, sign them up and get an album out of them as quickly as possible. The first album (released February 21 last year) was recorded in two days. Little did they realise, when EMI A&R men clutching records deals came knocking on the door, that they were the company’s first punk signing after the horrendous Sex Pistols debacle. Without considering too deeply, they signed on the dotted line.

The Saints

Shortly afterwards Chris Gilbey, from the Sydney-based Together Enterprises, flew in foreseeing a rosy future and offering a management contract. The band knew no better and once again signed on the dotted line. Not long after, they moved to Sydney where they performed around the new wave pubs for a few weeks, with bands such as Radio Birdman. Following this, the group flew to Britain expecting a hero’s welcome. What they didn’t realise was that there’s more than 12,000 miles between the unselfconscious naiveté of playing Brisbane pubs and the fashion obsessed world of the London Roundhouse in the summer of ’77.

As Bailey ruefully remarks, “We were chucked in at the deep end. The Roundhouse gig with the Ramones wasn’t an unsuccessful night; it was just that because we didn’t look like punks the British press decided we must be terrible.”

Those initial bad impressions seems to be wiped away by the success of the band’s single ‘Perfect Day’ which after a leap from 84 to 34 in the charts seemed to be getting the band off the ground. Unfortunately no one had reckoned on the incompetence of EMI (UK) who, just as the single hit 34, managed to run out of stock. For nearly two weeks the single was unavailable and as a result disappeared from the charts.

Chris Bailey

The rest was predictable. Both EMI (UK) and Gilbey lost interest. EMI accused Gilbey of “weak management” and Gilbey became disenchanted with EMI’s promotion ability. Neither ‘Eternally Yours’ nor the single, ‘Know Your Product’, released early this year (May in Australia) made any headway in the charts.

Then about two month ago, with a new album, ‘Prehistoric Sounds’, and a new single, about to be released, Gilbey suddenly returned to Australia to take a position with a music publishing company. The band, stranded in London with no money, felt that their last support had been pulled from under them.

Following this EMI failed to take up their option on the band and so, through sheer lack of funds and acute disenchantment with the British music industry, The Saints were forced to split up.

As Bailey cynically observes, “No longer being signed to EMI is the best thing to happen to us in the last year. We’re at last fee from the bullshit and hype.”

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