photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
who knew QUEENSLAND was such a SHITHOLE back in the 1970s?
the fact that a band as LEGENDARY and SEMINAL as first-wave AUSTRALIAN PUNK ROCK band THE SAINTS came out BRISBANE, which at the time was in the throes of an ARCH CONSERVATIVE and unrepentantly CORRUPT government led by premier JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN, is something of a MINOR MIRACLE. this politician, who ruled from 1968-1987, rose through the ranks of the police force and welded it VIOLENTLY like a CUDGEL against all elements of SOCIAL DISSENSION or ACTIVISM. in essence JOH ran an AUTONOMOUS POLICE STATE that made the business of live music an UNDERGROUND affair, which in turn ironically resulted in establishing in time BRISBANE as a musical and culturally INNOVATIVE city.
the documentary STRANDED (WILDBEAR ENTERTAINMENT, 2015) is very much as preoccupied with the evolution of the music scene in BRISBANE as it is with the narrative of THE SAINTS and their first three ESSENTIAL releases, (I'M) STRANDED (SIRE, 1977), ETERNALLY YOURS (SIRE, 1978) and PREHISTORIC SOUNDS (HARVEST, 1978), before the breakup of their ICONIC initial lineup. along with local contemporaneous PUNK ROCK scene-mates such as the LIKE-MINDED PENETRATION, NOTABLE bands that emerged shortly over the next few years such as THE LEFTOVERS, THE GO-BETWEENS, RAZAR, XERO and THE RIPTIDES diverged dramatically in STYLE and SOUND, but were bound both by their passion for music and their steadfast commitment to the scene and the COMMUNITY that literally bled, suffered and vigorously fought it into existence.
there is a bit of synchronicity with the emergence of PUNK ROCK across the english-speaking world in the late 1970s, with THE RAMONES in NEW YORK CITY, THE SEX PISTOLS in LONDON and THE SAINTS in BRISBANE all emerging more or less at the same time (i am aware THE SEX PISTOLS was unambiguously after THE RAMONES). all three bands were influenced by the sheer SONIC POWER and POLITICAL FORCE and will behind those early records by SUBTERRANEAN bands like THE STOOGES, MC5 and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. what is INTRIGUING about THE SAINTS is that they are the only PUNK ROCK band of that period that had to will themselves into existence despite a VOLATILE governmental security apparatus hell-bent on maintaining a STRANGLEHOLD on the population. sorry, RONALD REAGAN and MARGARET THATCHER had absolutely nothing on SIR JOH and his BRUTAL cronies with a badge.
testimonials to that end come by way of JEAN JACQUES BURNEL and JET BLACK of THE STRANGLERS as well as JELLO BIAFRA of DEAD KENNEDYS who all had adverse experiences touring during the early in the late 1970s and early 1980s respectfully. in both cases the police acted overly aggressively without restraint or respect for basic human rights, arresting band members on trumped up charges designed to intimidate. THE STRANGLERS for their part wrote "NUCLEAR DEVICE (THE WIZARD OF AUS)" off of THE RAVEN (UNITED ARTISTS, 1979) as cheeky send-off to the JOH regime.
the example of THE SAINTS proved to be internationally INFLUENTIAL as bands, in addition those from BRITAIN and the UNITED STATES, emerged at the time from war-torn places like IRELAND (THE BOOMTOWN RATS) and NORTHERN IRELAND (STIFF LITTLE FINGERS) that saw PUNK ROCK as a vehicle to speaking their truth about the UNFORTUNATE predicament of their COMMUNITIES. if an OBSCURE band from AUSTRALIA could do such, literally why not them? its a FASCINATING and POWERFUL PHENOMENA when you consider that this SELF-IDENTIFICATION and SELF-ORGANIZATION of a cross-border INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY of music fans, artists and advocates self-generated in a pre-internet age. again, a SMALL MIRACLE of sorts.
notable participating interviewees for STRANDED include PAULINE MURRAY (PENETRATION), NICK CAVE (THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, THE BAD SEEDS), JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), STEVE DIGGLE (BUZZCOCKS), BOB GELDORF (THE BOOMTOWN RATS) and JEAN JACQUES BURNEL & JET BLACK (THE STRANGLERS). AUSTRALIAN PUNK ROCK is generally not included in the mainstream conversation or history of PUNK ROCK, so i consider this film ESSENTIAL viewing and most definitely worth checking out.