Chris Bailey, the founding frontman of the trailblazing Australian punk outfit the Saints, died Saturday, April 9. He was 65.
The Saints confirmed Bailey’s death on Facebook, though a cause of death wasn’t given. “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 9th 2022,” the band said. “Chris lived a life of poetry and music and stranded on a Saturday night.”
“In the late seventies, the Saints came down from Brisbane and tore their way through Sydney and Melbourne with their famously anarchic shows,” Nick Cave wrote. “It is impossible to exaggerate the resulting radical galvanising effect on the Melbourne scene – these legendary performances changed the lives of so many people, myself included.”
The Saints’ co-founding guitarist, Ed Kuepper, added on Twitter, “Chris and I met when we were about 14 during detention at Oxley High School and became close friends which later developed into what I always thought was an extremely strong artistic partnership. I couldn’t have hoped for a better singer. My deepest condolences to his wife Elisabet, his sisters Margaret, Carol and Maureen and the rest of his family and loved ones.”
very sad to confirm the news about Chris Bailey dying on the weekend. Chris and I met when we were about 14 during detention at Oxley High School and became close friends which later developed into what I always thought was an extremely strong artistic partnership, 1/2 pic.twitter.com/hQVKKHYgzT
— Ed Kuepper (@EdKuepper) April 10, 2022
As The Guardian reports, Bailey — who was born in Kenya but raised briefly in Northern Ireland before his family moved to Brisbane — Kuepper, and drummer Ivor Hay first started playing music together when they were in high school. They originally named their band Kid Galahad and the Eternals before switching over to the Saints in 1974.
Drawing on early rock and roll and proto-punk outfits like the Stooges and MC5, the Saints developed a rowdy, snarling, up-tempo sound that they finally put to wax in 1976. Their self-released debut single, “(I’m) Stranded” became a surprise hit in the U.K., and the group was swiftly signed to EMI, which released their debut album — also titled (I’m) Stranded — the following year.
After relocating to the U.K., the Saints released two more albums — Eternally Yours and Prehistoric Sounds — in 1978. The former found moderate success thanks to the single “This Perfect Day,” but Prehistoric Sounds failed to make much of a dent. Internal tensions were high at this point, leading Kuepper to leave the Saints.
Bailey, however, soldiered on with the group, which ultimately released 14 studio albums, the last, King of the Sun, arriving in 2012. Bailey also issued numerous solo albums during the Eighties and Nineties, while issuing an acoustic collection of old Saints and solo songs in 2005 as Bone Box.
Though the Saints wound up at the forefront of punk and left an indelible impression, Bailey explained in a 2013 interview that he was never trying to follow trends or formulas. “One thing that’s always appealed to me about the Saints, and as a solo artist — I have nothing against commerciality. I love fine wines and whatnot, but when it comes to making music — I found at a very early age that there were a lot of people who would be very happy to make formula music,” he said.
“Everything was very choreographed and they’ve treated it as a career, whereas I’ve always been a little mad and I just… I hate to use the word ‘passion,’ but I seem to have a passion for this stuff,” he added. “It’s a cliché, I know, but I like rock music to be real. My timing with fads and trends has always been lousy. It also occurred to me as a young man that trends come and go rather quickly and I think if you’re lucky enough to find the core of what you do, well then it’s a lot of fun refining that.”