Saturday, July 21, 2012


"(I'm) Stranded," a 1976 song by Australian punk band The Saints, is arguably the greatest rock song ever recorded. It also raises a lot of questions, and more oddball facts and myths than you can shake a snake at. Check this out!

First of all, when you see pictures of the The Saints from that time, on say the cover to this record, "The Saints" and "(I'm) Stranded" is painted on the wall behind them in a red scrawl (meant to evoke, no doubt, blood). Not spray paint, but definitely graffiti-style. But who ever used a parentheses in graffiti? The answer is NO ONE.

The band name itself, The Saints, is an odd choice, and one must presume, ironic. The 1976 New Orleans Saints were a lackluster affair, with one strange exception. The team happened to be graced by a defensive bench warmer named Robert Pollard, who then went on to become the greatest American pop/rock songwriter of his, or anyone's, generation. But that's another story.

Perhaps The Saints, growing up "Down Under," were fans of the 1960s TV show The Saint, as they were unable to import the classic American fare, lost in translation as is was, like All in the Family and Sanford and Son. The Saint, nearly forgotten now, was the training ground for actor Roger Moore to later become James Bond. And The Saints, a band that over the years has had more members than the UN, no doubt was graced at one point or another by a musician named Simon Templar.

But back to "(I'm) Stranded," the song. It's one of those songs, when you think about it, you say, ehhhhhh, pretty good song, but so-so. But then when you actually listen to it again you're astounded by its energy, its catchiness, and its perfection. There are songs that rate very high in one's memory, when heard again, pale and buckle under the weight of expectations. "(I'm) Stranded" is the opposite. It's a song that always surprises you, and has stayed fresh and vital for nearly four decades.

But what does it mean? "Like a snake calling on the phone," it starts out, and then goes on to make even LESS sense. My theory is that the lyrics are deliberate nonsense, just meant to fill space between the crucial word: "stranded." Even the brief chorus ("on my own/so far from home") is just filler, as is the "(I'm)" of the title. The crucial word here is STRANDED. This is, essentially, a one word lyric.

And so, what does "stranded" mean? It means everything, or if not quite everything, it means A LOT, and that is the beauty of this song. First of all, though Australia is a happening place, with its own vibrant culture, music scene, blah blah blah, it is STILL far from London, New York, Hollywood. It is, essentially, a desert island, though a big one-- as big as a continent, in fact it IS a continent, last time I checked. Yet for a band with the talent and lofty aspirations of The Saints, it must have seemed to some degree like a desert island on which they were "stranded."

Another meaning of the term "stranded" is when you find yourself, immediately post-defecation, with no toilet paper, preferably (as in preferably NOT) a public toilet stall. This happens to me at work all too frequently. High and dry. Though, unfortunately, NOT dry. These moments are only made bearable by launching into an A CAPPELLA version of "(I'm) Stranded."

Finally, the most likely meaning of "stranded," and the one most often evoked by this song, can be summed up with one word: BLUE BALLS. And while there have been countless, over the years, odes to that somewhat uncomfortable state, including many songs actually NAMED "Blue Balls" (and indeed, bands named Blue Balls), this song is the ultimate blue balls song (and, as the greatest rock song ever recorded, why not?). What is the cure for blue balls? Write a song like "(I'm) Stranded."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Neat! Neat! Neat!