The Damned

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Starting Up

The Damned, true genius, many many reasons why they belong here, the main one being - They were the first Punk band to release a single, as well as the first Punk act to release an album.

This first single was "New Rose", and was released on the independent label Stiff Records.

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Dave Vanian (Vocals) referenced The Shangri-Las' 1964 hit, Leader of the Pack, by using the line — "Is she really going out with him?" as the intro.

They also earned the accolade of the first Punk album (Damned Damned Damned), they were also the first UK Punk band tour the USA.

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The Damned later evolved into one of the forerunners of the Gothic genre, one of their most famous songs within that genre being Eloise, below is a clip of them performing it on UK chart music show Top Of The Pops.

During their prestigious career they have incorporated numerous styles into their music and image, including: garage rock, psychedelia, cabaret, and even theatrical rock. Front man Vanian's vocal style has been described as being akin to that of a crooner.

The Damned have split up and got back together so many times, with Vanian as the sole constant member; every lineup has always included either their legendary guitarist Captain Sensible and/or drummer Rat Scabies, who are both members of the original lineup.

Creating a Legend

Dave Vanian born David Letts, Captain Sensible, originally Raymond Burns and Rat Scabies (Chris Millar), were once members of the band Masters of the Backside, which even included Chrissie Hynde who went on to be The Pretenders frontwoman. Brian James (Brian Robertson) had been a member of a couple of other small scale bands as well, neither of his bands managed to play live but did include musicians who went on to find fame in The Clash and Generation X. Scabies met James when he auditioned for him, but failed to get that drummer job, but after that they decided to start their own band, James and Scabies invited Sid Vicious and Dave Vanian to audition as The Damned's singer, but only Vanian showed up, and so he became the frontman of the band.

the '70s

Their not so glamourous first gig was at a free festival held in Croydon. Their second show being support for the Sex Pistols July 6th 1976, where they were support for the the Sex Pistols at London's 100 Club.

Their first Single was described by critic Ned Raggett as a "deathless anthem of nuclear-strength romantic angst".

That first album, Damned Damned Damned, also generated the single "Neat Neat Neat" as well as a cover of The Stooges' "1970", "I Feel Alright". Nick Lowe, already established as a cutting-edge British artist, was the producer for both the Damned's first single and that debut album.

1977 was when, they became the first British Punk band to tour the USA, and according to Brendan Mullen, (founder of the Los Angeles club The Masque), the Damned's first tour of the USA. saw them, helping to inspire the first wave of U.S. west coast Hardcore Punk.

In March of '77, The Damned opened for T.Rex on their final tour. They recruited a second guitarist, simply known as Lu.

They tried, unsuccessfully, tried to recruit Syd Barrett (of Pink Floyd fame) to be producer for their second album Music For Pleasure, but ended up with Barrett's bandmate, Nick Mason.

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According to the band, Mason seemed generally uninterested in his task. Music for Pleasure flopped critically and commercially and the band broke up, ending their relationship with Stiff Records.

The band members all worked on a series of brief side projects and solo recordings, all of which made little impact commercially. The Damned soon reformed, but without their main song writer, Brian James. In this new reform, Sensible switched to guitar and keyboards, and for a brief period had Lemmy of Hawkwind and Motörhead fame on bass with them, the band signed a deal with Chiswick Records, and went back to the studio to record another album.

Vanian's vocals had grown during this time, by this point, he'd expanded his style from the high-baritone barks of the early recordings to his famous smooth, proto-Gothic crooning style. The Damned were establishing themselves with a dark, melodic style that was sometimes fast and loud, and at other times relaxed with dominant keyboards.

The Damned release a couple of hit singles, "Love Song" and "Smash It Up" leading up to the 1979 album "Machine Gun Etiquette", and later a version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit".

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"Smash It Up" had 2 versions, the full length having a very slow and very long intro, during which fans knew to start on unbolting seats in the venue, or pulling down its fixtures and fittings, and to get ready to destroy whatever venue/house they were in at the time, after this intro, the song would kick in and general chaos would ensue. This was the ultimate mosh pit, the pinnacle of Punk anarchy.

"Machine Gun Etiquette" found the band bringing forth a strong '60s garage rock vibe, with a Farfisa organ in several songs, an unusual move for a Punk act.

While recording at Wessex Studios at the same time as The Clash were there recording London Calling, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones made an uncredited vocal appearance on the album's title track. Fans and critics were pleasantly surprised, and Machine Gun Etiquette received largely positive reviews;Ira Robbins and Jay Pattyn described it as "A great record by a band many had already counted out".

into the '80s

Ward quit in 1980, replaced by Paul Gray, one time member of legendary band Eddie and the Hot Rods. In that same year, the release The Black Album, an almost theatrical production in places.

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Into '81, and They release "Friday the 13th", a 4 track E.P. Which had the tracks - Disco Man, Billy Bad Breaks, Limit Club (written as a tribute to Malcolm Owen, one time vocalist for The Ruts, then sadly passed away) and a cover of Citadel originally by The Rolling Stones.

On to '82, and The Damned out out one album on the Bronze Records, Strawberries, with yet another new member, keyboardist Roman Jugg.

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At that time, Sensible was dividing his time between The Damned and his solo career, in 1982, he had a UK number one chart hit with Happy Talk.

a strangely "tongue in cheeck" cover of one of the songs from the musical South Pacific.

Consequently, the group's next album was recorded without Sensible, it was a soundtrack to an imaginary '60s movie named "Give Daddy the Knife, Cindy". This limited-edition pressing of this album of '60s cover songs found the band billing themselves as "Naz Nomad and the Nightmares".

A highly memorable moment turned up In '84 when The Damned made a live performance on the BBC TV show "The Young Ones", they performed "Nasty", this performance featured another new member, bassist Bryn Merrick with Jugg and Sensible both on guitar. Sensible played his last show with the band at Brockwell Park (if you can find it, there's a bootleg called Captain's Last Stand, well worth hearing), after this he concentrated on his solo career full-time, Roman Jugg took over his roll as guitarist.

As the 80s progressed, and with Sensible now gone, Vanian's vampire like persona began to creep its way across the whole band, Vanian had sported this white face and formal looking dress image from the band's early days.

A taste of the big time

The Damned sign with major record label MCA, and then the album Phantasmagoria was released in July '85, with the single "Grimly Fiendish" being released shortly before, this single managed to reach number 21 in the UK charts. Another hit from the same album came in the shape of a dark and almost morbid sounding "The Shadow Of Love".

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January '86, and the single they're probably best known for, "Eloise" was released;

This was a cover of a 1968 hit by Barry Ryan. Eloise managed to be the bands highest chart success by reaching number 3 in the UK charts. Although, this track was never featured on an album.

November 1986, Phantasmagoria was released and was sadly a commercial failure, (even though it was an underground success story) but MCA did opt to include one of its tracks "In Dulce Decorum" on the soundtrack release of Miami Vice II, "Alone Again Or", from that album was also released as a single.

As '87 drew to an end, The Damned begin work on a new album for MCA, but the what came of these recordings have stayed unreleased, the record contract being dissolved.

Two of these new songs "Gunning For Love" and "The Loveless And The Damned" were later put back together by the Dave Vanian and the Phantom Chords (his side project).

James and Sensible got back together with The Damned for a few live appearances, these included a concert at the London Town and Country Club during June 1988, the following year, this concert was released under the title "Final Damnation - The Damned Reunion Concert" (look out for the green vinyl edition, a great collectors item). A little while later there was a farewell concert at London's Brixton Academy supported by The Milk Monitors, Horse, and Claytown Troupe, and the band then disbanded yet again.

On to the '90s

Although they were officially all finished, the group put two singles in 1991. One being, Fun Factory, first recorded in '82 by an Captain Sensible + Dave Vanian + Rat Scabies + Bryn Merrick line-up; they were going to be releasing this as a single, but their record company went into bankruptcy, so that prevented that from happening. That year also saw a second single, "Prokofiev", recorded by Rat, Dave Vanian and Brian James, this single was sold during a '91 reunion tour of the USA.

In '93 they had another reform, with another new line-up, this line up was Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian, with guitars provided by Kris Dollimore (of The Godfathers fame) and Alan Lee Shaw, the bass was provided by one time New Model Army bassist Moose Harris.

There were some other things that bought The Damned into the limelight again, two well known rock acts covered a Damned song, Guns N' Roses put out "New Rose" on "The Spaghetti Incident" in '93, plus The Offspring covered "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack '95. Both of these were major releases and created great exposure for The Damned, a new generation were introduced to this seminal act.

This new reformed line up of The Damned toured regularly for about two years and even releasing a new album, "Not of This Earth" towards the end of '95.

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This album was promoted by a series of long tours in the run up to its release, by the time the album came out, The Damned had yet again split up, this break up was partly due to some legal battles, Vanian and Sensible had accused Scabies of releasing "Not of This Earth" without the correct permission.

Sensible teamed up with Vanian in '96, creating yet another line up of The Damned. Initially, including bassist Paul Gray, who was later replaced by Patricia Morrison, who at that point in her career could claim, "The Bags, "The Gun Club" and even "The Sisters of Mercy".

into the '00s

There really is no stopping this band, whatever the line up seems to be. In 2001, the band release another album "Grave Disorder", on the label "Nitro Records" and promoted this with more touring.

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Dave Vanian eventually married Patricia Morrison and the couple had a daughter, Emily, born February 9 2004.

Yet another new member, Andy (Pinch) Pinching, drummer and founding member of English Dogs, teamed up with The Damned to cover the drumming roll.

There was a DVD and CD release of the bands 2002 gig at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire. This show found former band member Brian James' Gang as the support act. The Damned's Tiki Nightmare was the title of this release.

"Little Miss Disaster" was released In 2006, as well as a live DVD MGE25 documenting a 2004 concert in Manchester celebrating the 25th anniversary of Machine Gun Etiquette.

The 21st of October 2006, the ever flexible BBC Radio 2 broadcast an hour-long documentary about The Damned, titled "Is She Really Going Out With Him?". This documentary centered around the recording of the Damned's first single "New Rose" and the group's influence on the emerging '76 London Punk scene. There were interviews with James, Sensible, Scabies, Glen Matlock, Don Letts and Chrissie Hynde, the programme gave some new insights into the bands and personalities around the scene.

October 28 '08, The Damned put out a download only album, "So, Who's Paranoid?" marked their tenth studio album to date, this led to a conventional release on the English Channel label, November 10 in the UK, and December 9 in the USA.

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During the promotions for this album,, the band made back-to-back appearances on the CBS network TV spots on Halloween eve and Halloween on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. A 23-date UK tour, supported by Devilish Presley and Slicks Kitchen, an East coast tour and a live set and short interview on the Cherry Blossum Clinic on WFMU on 16 May 2009. There was even another UK tour supported by 1980s band The Alarm and Henry Cluney, formerly of Stiff Little Fingers.

November '09, the band played as special guests to heavy metal icons Motörhead on the UK leg of their world tour. On The Damned's official website, Captain Sensible is quoted as saying: "Ha ha..... we're working with Lemmy again are we? Excellent! He's the real deal, the absolute antithesis to all that the likes of Simon Cowell stand for. And for that we should all be grateful. This tour will be a celebration of all things Rock n Roll..... pity the poor roadies is all I can say!" How much would anyone in their right mind like to have partied with the bands on that tour??

and now the '10s

2010 The Damned performed at the Rhythm Festival in Bedfordshire, and Captain Sensible also played with the Yardbirds.

2011 found them at many festivals including Fun Fun Fun Fest, Whitby Gothic Weekend, Sweden Rock Festival, The Bulldog Bash and Rebellion Festival. They were the Disneyland performance on Halloween. They supplied the music for the main theme of the video game "Shadows of the Damned", other than the name, there was no other reference to the band.

In 2012, they played live in South America for their first time, with dates in São Paulo (Brazil) and Buenos Aires (Argentina).

In November 2012 The Damned received some of the recognition they deserved, they were awarded the Classic Rock outstanding contribution award for services to Rock music.

On 7 November 2014 Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian appeared on Ken Reid's TV Guidance Counselor Podcast.

In 2015, The Damned were featured in a documentary by director Wes Orshoski called The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead. The documentary charts the history of the band against a backdrop of interviews and tour footage from 2011 to 2014, and was edited together rough to make the film feel more like The Damned's first album. After the release of the film, on 12 September 2015, former bassist Bryn Merrick died of throat cancer. Merrick had played on Phantasmagoria and Anything. At the time of his death he had been playing in a Ramones tribute band, the Shamones.

In May 2016 the band played a 40th Anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall.

On 3 August 2016 a new album was announced via the band's PledgeMusic page.

On 11 September 2017 the band announced that Stu West was leaving the band and former bassist Paul Gray would be returning for the new album, which was produced by Tony Visconti in New York City in November 2017. Provisionally entitled Evil Spirits, the album is set to be released on 13 April 2018. A single, Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow was released digitally on 19 January 2018.

Let us all hope there is much more to come from this seminal band and let us also hope there will always be other fresh acts causing the same influence and creating the same impact!!

Albums List

1) Damned Damned Damned (1977)

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2) Music for Pleasure (1977)

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3) Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

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4) The Black Album (1980)

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5) Strawberries (1982)

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6) Phantasmagoria (1985)

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7) Anything (1986)

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8) Not of This Earth (1995)

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9) Grave Disorder (2001)

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10) So, Who's Paranoid? (2008)

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11) Evil Spirits (2018)

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Members Name Check

  • Dave Vanian − vocals (1976–present)
  • Captain Sensible − bass (1976–1978); guitar (1978–1984, 1989, 1991, 1996–present)
  • Monty Oxymoron − keyboards (1996–present)
  • Pinch − drums (1999–present)
  • Stu West − bass (2004–present)
  • Brian James − guitar (1976–1978, 1988–1989, 1991)
  • Rat Scabies − drums (1976–1977, 1978–1996)
  • Lu Edmonds − guitar (1977–1978)
  • Dave Berk − drums (1977)
  • Henry Badowski − bass (1978)
  • Jon Moss − drums (1978)[38]
  • Lemmy - (Motörhead) bass (1978)
  • Algy Ward − bass (1978–1980)
  • Gary Holton − vocals (1978)
  • Paul Gray − bass (1980–1983, 1989, 1996)
  • Roman Jugg − keyboards (1981–1989) guitar (1984–1989)
  • Bryn Merrick − bass (1983–1989)
  • Paul Shepley − keyboards (1985–1989)
  • Kris Dollimore − guitar (1993–1996)
  • Alan Lee Shaw − guitar (1993–1996)
  • Jason "Moose" Harris − bass (1993–1996)
  • Garrie Dreadful − drums (1996–1999)
  • Patricia Morrison − bass (1997–2005)
  • Spike Smith − drums (1999)

External Links