It was Bob Geldof who said during a 1980 Australian Boomtown Rats tour that the face of rock music in the 1970s was altered by just three groups-TheSex Pistols, The Ramones and The Saints.

Of these three punk bands, The Sex Pistols were the most notorious, but after just over a year in the public eye, quickly burnt themselves out, leaving behind just one proper album in 'Never Mind the Bollocks' and a small score of classic tunes. The Ramones meanwhile went to the opposite extreme, recording fifteen albums in their twenty two year history, but doing little to evolve either musically or stylistically before they finally too came to a halt in 1996. The Saints are the most under acknowledged and the least well known out of the three groups, but are also the band with perhaps the most definitive legacy.

The Saints were formed in Brisbane in 1973 while its core members were still at High School , and the group's initial line-up consisted of vocalist Chris Bailey : guitarist Ed Kuepper and drummer Ivor Hay. Bass players came and went, and Hay even abandoned the drums to take up duties here for a while, before the band at last recruited regular bassist Kym Bradshaw into its ranks in mid 1976.

In September of that year the group self-released on its own Fatal Records label its first single 'I'm Stranded', which was was limited to just 500 copies and was infamously the first Australian punk record. Undeniably crude-edged , it combined together sneered, slurred vocals from Bailey with surging, energetic guitar work from Kuepper and frantic rhythmic backing from Hay and Bradshaw to make a record of raw, but powerful quality. The single received scant attention or press in its native Australia, but some copies were sent to Britain and one to the now defunct weekly rock journal 'Sounds', which ecstatically made it "Single of this week and every m-week.".

As a result of the publicity that this generated ,The Saints were able to sign a deal with EMI, who had also just signed and after media and public outcry were soon to drop The Sex Pistols, shortly after releasing that group's first single 'Anarchy in the UK'. The Saints recorded their debut album, also called 'I'm Stranded', over two days in December 1976. 'I'm Stranded', the album , takes off from where the single left off, having the same rough-and-ready, enetic and uncompromising feel, and combines garage-punk cover versions of The Missing Links' Wild about You' and Elvis Presley's 'Kissin' Cousins' with self-penned earthy rockers and Stones-influenced ballads.

The Saints were never popular in their own country, and, after touring Australia as a support act to AC/DC to much critical scorn, the band relocated to London in May 1977, hopig to meet a more popular reception. It was never to come. After years of promoting prog rock acts such as Genesis, Yes and Peter Frampton, the British rock press, desperate to jump on the new punk bandwagon, had in the six months, since 'I'm Stranded' been released, become increasingly nationalistic. While home grown acts such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks were all eulogised, ground breaking overseas acts such as Patti Smith, The Talking Heads and Television all initially met with derision. The Saints, who were now eginning to move away from their hardcore punk roots, were quickly lumped into the lattercategory, and the band's first gig at the London Roundhouse supporting The Ramones was critically panned.

There was, however, fleeting compensation. The band released its first-recorded UK single 'This Perfect Day', another powerful rocker, in July, and after an appearance on the institutional BBC TV programme 'Top of the Pops', it sold 75,000 copies and shot to number 34 on the charts. In another stroke of bad luck, EMI, however, ran out of stock, and just as quickly as it entered the chart, it also plummeted out of view.

A second record, a four track EP 'One-Two-Three-Four', which featured reworked versions of 'Demolition Girl' and 'One Way Street', two of the songs from 'I'm Stranded', plus rum ustious covers of Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High' and Connie Francis's 'Lipstick on Your Collar', was released a few weeks later. It, however, got nowhere. Bradshaw left the band shortly afterwards and was replaced by English bassist Algy Ward, and with EMI starting to lose interest in the group, work began in September 1977 on the band's second album 'Eternally Yours'.

'Eternally Yours' , which was released in May 1978, has since come to be seen in many quarters as the band's masterpiece, but at the time it was largely ignored. It has many of the same fine qualities of the first album .n The energy and the exuberance, and Bailey's unusual vocal stylings, part sullen, part slurred, are all still very much in evidence and a force. The musicianship, however, is tighter and stronger, and the sound cleaner and less raw. While still in places a punk album, 'Eternally Yours' also found The Saints, and Kuepper in particular, beginning to experiment with brass on some tracks, and the only new single off the album 'Know Your Product', which again unfortunately didn't chart, in particular marries together the
frenzy of punk with a broader Stax soul sound.

Tensions were beginning to openly develop in The Saints.A tour in January, which found the band on the road with a brass section, was not successful, and with the failure of 'Know Your Product' the following month, EMI started to put pressure on the band to write more songs in the mould of 'This Perfect Day'. While Bailey wanted to go back to writing three-chord rockers, Kuepper, the band's other principal songwriter and protaganist, however, wanted to continue his musical experimentation . Bailey briefly left the band as a result, but Kuepper persuaded him to return to make a third and final album 'Prehistoric Sounds', which the band began recording again in May 1978.

Bluesy and melancholic, and reflective of the band's growing discontent with the record business and each other, 'Prehistoric Sounds' is at forty five minutes plus easily the longest of The Saints albums, and could not come much further removed from the jagged punk energies of 'I'm Stranded'. A brooding, atmospheric album of largely ballads, immaculate brass arrangements back most tracks, and it is the most intense and demanding, but also the most sophisticated of all The Saints' albums. Now often again heralded as a masterpiece,it was at the time largely ignored. Few critics bothered to review it, and in America it was never released. A single from the album, a cover of Otis Redding's 'Security', which was released in November 1978, also stiffed.

Even however before 'Prehistoric Sounds'was finally released in February 1979, with band morale at a low and Kuepper and Bailey continuing to disagree about musical direction,The Saints broke up. Hay returned home to form Jonny Kannis and the Hitmen with former Radio Birdman members Chris Masuak and Warwick Gilbert. Ward went on to briefly join the Damned, while Bailey remained in London, and since has recorded both under his own name, and in various other incarnations of The Saints. Kuepper also went back to Australia, and as well as fronting both Laughing Clowns and The Aints, the latter name which he chose in umbrage against Bailey's continued use of The Saints moniker, he has maintained a highly successful career as a solo artist, and has over twenty five albums to his credit.

Alongside all other punk bands, both good and bad, from that era, The Saints have been subject to endless original album reissues and "Greatest Hits" retrospectives. Even, as recently as November, both 'I'm Stranded' and "Eternally Yours' were re-released on the Captain Oi label.

An anthology has, however, been long overdue, but now at last though there is one in the digitally remastered shape of 'Wild about You 1976-1978 : Complete Studio Recordings', a rather splendid 145 minute double CD, which was released by the prestigious Australian reissue label Raven in October. Running to 47 tracks, it contains all three of the albums that the band made in their original incarnation, plus the A and B sides of their non-album singles and EPs, and also, as a real bonus for collectors, 4 previously unreleased studio recordings. A 20 page booklet with colour photographs and extensive liner notes is also enclosed. Now that this definitive and important collection has been released, The Saints, over twenty years on from when the Kuepper/Bailey-led line-up finally imploded, have finally found themselves treated with the status and respect they deserved, but were never able to achieve in their lifetime. At last it seems that their place in the history books has been rightfully restored.

' Wild about You 1976-1978 : Complete Studio Recordings' features the following tracks

CD1

1. (I'm) Stranded
2. One way Street
3. Wild about You
4. Messin ' with the Kid
5. Erotic Neurotic
6. No Time
7. Kissin' Cousins
8. Story of Love
9. Demolition Girl
10. Nights in Venice
11. Untitled
12. This Perfect Day (Single Version)
13. L-I-E-S
14. Do the Robot
15. Lipstick on Your Collar
16. One Way Street
17. River Deep, Mountain High
18. Demolition Girl
19. Know Your Product
20. Lost and Found
21. Memories are Made of This
22. Private Affair
23. A Minor Aversion
24. No, Your Product

CD2

1. This Perfect Day (Album Version)
2. Run Down
3. Orstralia
4. New Centre of the Universe
5. Untitled
6. (I'm) Misunderstood
7. International Robots
8. Champagne Misery
9. The Ballad
10. Swing for the Crime
11. All Times through Paradise
12. Every Day's a Holiday, Every Night's a Party
13. Brisbane (Security City)
14. Church of Indifference
15. Crazy Googenheimer Blues
16. Everything's Fine
17. Prisoner
18. Secutiry
19. This Time
20. Take This Heart of Mine
21. The Chameleon
22. Save Me
23. Looking for the Sky









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