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Music

Nick Cave writes a heartfelt tribute to Chris Bailey of The Saints

Nick Cave has released a tribute to his late friend, Chris Bailey, the frontman of Australian punk heroes, The Saints, who passed away at the weekend. 

The lengthy paean came via Cave’s most recent instalment of his Red Hand Files Q&A platform, and during the session, a fan asked the Bad Seeds frontman about the effect that Bailey had on him as a budding musician growing up down under. 

Opening his lucid response, Cave reflects on a photograph from 1977 that shows Bailey half collapsed on stage mid-performance with The Saints in Melbourne, and the young Cave is watching him, captivated. The photo was taken at the Tiger Room by Rennie Ellis.  

“In the photo Chris is already committed to his life as perhaps the greatest and most anarchic rock ‘n’ roll singer Australia would ever produce,” Cave explains. “Conversely, I am in that stonewashed and uncertain state between failing art school and, well, I am not quite sure what. You can almost see the thought bubble forming above my head as an alternate plan presents itself”.

He continued: “In the late seventies, the Saints came down from Brisbane and tore their way through Sydney and Melbourne with their famously anarchic shows. 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 ‘Red Right Hand’ songwriter added: “So, it is with immense sadness that we learn of Chris Bailey’s death. Too many great singers have died recently and, once again, I don’t have the words that will in any way adequately measure the extent of our collective loss. I can only simply repeat, for the record, that, in my opinion, the Saints were Australia’s greatest band, and that Chris Bailey was my favourite singer.”

Cave and Bailey even collaborated on numerous occasions. The most notable instance came in 2003 as The Saints frontman performed the chorus on ‘Bring It On’ from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Nocturama. Bailey also toured with the band in the US and featured in a performance on LettermanCave also booked The Saints to perform at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Sydney in 2009. 

“Chris and I got to know each other well and went on to do a bunch of things together over the years, but it is this photo that I will treasure,” Cave notes towards the end of his tribute. 

He concludes: “A moment of realisation and divergence, as a drunk singer sits slumped on a stage floor, his very presence in that moment approximating some kind of moral purity or essential truth, and a young man watching transfixed, feeling his own best laid plans fall away as the thought bubble above his head fills with its sudden and outrageous revelation, ‘This is what I want to do and this is who I want to be.’”

A marvellous tribute to one of the greats of modern rock music, I don’t think anybody will be forgetting Chris Bailey and his work anytime soon.

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