The Saints: The band that Bob Geldof claimed changed music forever

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In the summer of 1977, punk fans everywhere gathered around their TV set, excited to get through an array of pop to see Sex Pistols perform their first single that hadn’t been banned by the BBC, ‘Pretty Vacant’. The punk movement still escapes many people, as fans’ reasons for getting into it vary; however, one thing that united everyone was a disdain towards all other contemporary music at the time. As such, sitting through that Top of the Pops performance was a struggle for many until another band from the other side of the world made a quick appearance. 

But first, let’s rewind. The 76 Club, Brisbane. It is not actually a club at all, but a shared house that bandmates Chris Bailey and Ivor Hay converted into a venue since their band struggled to get bookings. Punk wasn’t really an established thing when The Saints originally got together; they leaned into the buzzsaw guitar that was big at the time, but other than whispers of the likes of Sex Pistols and the Ramones permeating the Australian climate, the locals weren’t fans. 

Some people in Australia did go to their shows, though, and the band played fast punk songs that bordered on thrash. Rather than being a creative decision, they confess now that the speed resulted from them being nervous and wanting to get the set over with. The upbeat chaos led to mosh pits and riots, which meant that the house often got trashed, police were called, and arrests were frequent. It all sounds pretty punk, really, at least on the surface. So, what happened when they released a song?

The band self-released their debut single ‘(I’m) Stranded’ and sent CDs to every music magazine on the planet, whether in their home country, the US or the UK. Many bands had this approach to getting noticed, so most self-titled records ended up flying under the radar; however, The Saints got lucky, as UK music paper Sounds made ‘(I’m) Stranded’ their single of the week. Before they knew it, the band had signed to EMI and were at the forefront of the punk movement that was sweeping the world.

The Saints became the first band to release a punk album outside the US, beating the Sex Pistols debut LP to the post. Eyes were on them, and people were enjoying the messy music they were making. Their song ‘The Perfect Day’ had particular success, climbing to number 34 on the charts and landing the band a spot on Top of the Pops alongside the Sex Pistols. 

When you compare the two bands, especially their performances that night, the Sex Pistols look more like a pop band than a punk outfit. However, The Saints did several things that didn’t sit well with the UK crowd. Firstly, because they weren’t local, many punk traditionalists didn’t believe they stood by the movement. Equally, their choice to cover older songs was ahead of its time and wasn’t well received by punk crowds.

The band did well, though. Granted, they aren’t recognised as much as Sex Pistols and The Ramones, but people around at the time remember the name, and the band pioneered the punk movement in extraordinary ways. In case you need any further proof of their legitimacy, the quote from Bob Geldof should help, as he said: “Rock music in the seventies was changed by three bands: The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Saints.”

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