Jon Langford Remembers Chris Bailey

Mekons founder fondly recalls the great Aussie leader of The Saints

Chris Bailey, Saint (Image: Pinterest)

Such awful news about Chris Bailey of the Saints, who died April 9.

I was lucky enough to MC an outdoor stage at the Down on the Farm Festival in Halden, Norway, deep in the woods with a campfire at the Gribsroed Farm. The Only Ones played, I think it was their first ever acoustic show, Sid Griffin’s Coal Porters, Me and Chris with a didgeridoo player.

Bailey got up on stage with two plastic carrier bags full of bottles and clanked around for a good 20 minutes before playing a note. He was hammered but he was brilliant.

For some reason I was reminded of Albert Finney in the Dresser (1983), where Finney plays an aging thespian whose assistant struggles to keep him focused. “The last band wanted you to come to the front,” Bailey told the Norwegians. “Well I want you to fuck off! Go and eat some whale meat or whatever it is you do here!”

Cover art for “(I’m) Stranded” single (Image: Discogs)

Cheers and applause from locals!

At one point during a twisted version of “Ring Of Fire,” the didge lad got a bit too close … “I fell into a burning ring of… fuck off with the didgeridoo!” I have a tape of that somewhere.

The closing band got really agitated and demanded I pull Chris off the stage. I had to explain to them that he was my total fucking hero and he could do whatever he wanted for as long as he liked.

Afterwards, he was very charming. Still firmly in his cups, he invited me back to his room at the Halden Grand Hotel where we were staying, to explore and dispose of the contents of the plastic carrier bags. He told me his room number and I realized he was in the room next to me. I pretended I couldn’t remember my room number and when I finally got back from the festival site in the wee hours I listened at his door for a moment and was relieved to hear him snoring away quite happily.

I don’t mind listening to Stranded over and over again, but Chris Bailey made great music throughout his long career. An amazing character.

The next day he was all apologetic but there was no need. Classy fella. RIP Chris Bailey.


VIDEO: The Saints perform “(I’m) Stranded”

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Jon Langford

The best two-sentence bio of Jon Langford is that there’s no way to write a two-sentence bio of Jon Langford. The founder of The Mekons and the Waco Brothers and a plus songwriter with range, Langford is also an accomplished visual artist , a mentor to dozens of bands, a regular on This American Life, and a political activist.

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