The video for the Saints' "(I'm) Stranded" starts with drummer Ivor Hay kicking in a door. It's an apt metaphor for a band whose 1976 single, and 1977 debut album of the same name, changed the way Brisbane, Australia and the rest of the world heard guitar music.
An even stronger metaphor is vocalist Chris Bailey cooly approaching the mic stand while smoking a cigarette then casually flicking the butt away. Direct and defiant, the Saints did things on their own terms. They resisted being re-modelled into the English punk look and were generally ignored by the Australian press. They were Aussie punk.
Much like the song and the band, the video is simple and unadorned. Shot in an abandoned building in inner city Brisbane, it has the four-piece playing in front of a fireplace with the title daubed above in red paint. This would also serve the backdrop for the cover of their first album. The song and the performance burns like a flicked ciggie.
Written by guitarist Ed Kuepper and Bailey, the single was originally released on the band's own Fatal Records label, with an initial pressing of 500 copies. It was the first independently produced rock single in Australia and predated records by the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks by a good few months.
The song is about distance and alienation. When Bailey sneers "far from home" it's easy to think that he's referencing 70s Australia's cultural and geographical isolation but it was actually about Kuepper's late night train journeys back to Brisbane's outer suburbs. With Bailey's snarl and Kuepper's guitars it remains the best ever Australian punk song.
The band had been playing around Brisbane since 1973 but "(I'm) Stranded" put them on the map. UK magazine Sounds called it "single of this and every week" and the EMI head office in London contacted the Sydney branch and directed that they be signed to a three-album deal.
"Australia often defines itself specifically against what is American and English, and this manifests itself within the history of Australian punk music as an anti-glam, anti-fashion punk that was best expressed in "(I'm) Stranded"', explains Dan Stewart who plays in Australian punk bands Straightjacket Nation and Total Control.
"There is a restraint in the Saints that many American bands, with the exception of Television, were incapable of. It's a maturity in sensibility that is often taken to be pretentious or cynical compared with the cartoonish amphetamine London punks (or locally the Detroit nerds in Radio Birdman). The Saints were a well-developed band at the point this record was made, and as a result they'd worked all their flaws and faults out of the playing and delivery long before, and had no need to ham up their punk. As a result it is a diamond."
The band moved to London soon after the release of (I'm) Stranded) and in 1978 released two albums, Eternally Yours and the jazz-blues influenced Prehistoric Sounds. Relations between Keupper and Bailey had deteriorated and the band never again matched the heights of their first three classic albums.
On the 40th anniversary of the single, we reached out to other Australian musicians to get their thoughts on the song, the album and the Saints.
Michael Richards - Violent Soho
The Saints created an awareness for young people in country Brisbane that there was a culture that existed for them. The 60s passed by like a blip and kids in our hometown were like, "What the fuck is going on?" Here was our answer. Something to be truly proud of and to identify with.
Ross Knight - Cosmic Psychos
There's not a dud song on it, unlike the shit that was going around and it prepared me for my all time number one album, Eternally Yours. Fuck I must be old!
Dan Stewart - UV Race, Straightjacket Nation, Total Control
This is a record worth celebrating. I still think of it whenever I listen to Eddy Current Suppression Ring for example. The same kind of suburban bloke sensitivity. Also, Dick Diver. The elegance, the balance of seriousness and international robots. And I know it was a very important example to any bands I've done.. it's a good old time.
Gareth Liddidard - The Drones
If you think about all the truly great bands or musicians; The Stooges or Nina Simone or Stravinsky or Hendrix or Wu-Tang and all the others that seem to show up whenever the world needs them most…. they all have one thing in common. They're all completely undomesticated in their worlds and what they pump out is always rudely honest, whether they're aware of it or not. "(I'm) Stranded" is totally wild and that's what it needed to be.
Richard Stanley - The Onyas, Ooga Boogas, Drug Sweat
Radio Birdman were a band of the people. A shared, community-positive experience. Pop.
The Saints were a band above the people. Inward-looking, isolationist and abrasive. Art.
Jake Robertson - Ausmuteants, School Damage
(I'm) Stranded was a great album. It had a great Missing Links cover and it was a nice segue from garage to punk. Just as importantly the anniversaries of Eternally Yours and Prehistoric Sounds are coming up too.
Jenny Branagan - NUN, Vacuum, Psychedelic Coven
Hot Queensland suburban isolation rot, "Im Stranded" was my war cry of a cultural wasteland. "(I'm) Stranded"- whispered direct to my teen immigrant ear a sense of knowing. Whenever I hear that song- my heart hurts and a general overwhelming internal churning takes over that makes me want to vomit in that good kind of way!
Steph Hughes - Dick Diver, Blank Statements
The crispy guitars are really homely to me now, that said, I think you could play any of those songs unamplified and they'd still work for me. It's just loud, clear songwriting. It's clever, but also just the sound of excited people having a hoon and creating something great from scratch.
Ambrose Kenny-Smith - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
I first heard "I'm Stranded" watching the Black Label skateboard video Black Out when I was 9 or 10. My mum was a big Ed Kueper fan too. A year or two later when I was well into my try hard punk phase, I heard the rest of the album and lost my shit again. To this day The Saints are still one of my favourite bands and biggest influence.