With the considerable sub-editing talents of Captain Sensible, and our debt of thanks to Adrian T’Vell who bravely, back in ‘91, originally took on the mammoth Damned Fine history , Lisa Coates and Steve Janes attempts to to add more detail here and there, and clarify the career of one of the first punk band to release that first single a la Stiff Records back in 1976… this is where we tell of all of the highs The Dammed achieved, but that would just spoil this history, so please, read on, I dare you.
To my way of thinking there have been very few good punk bands. Not only for me the rockabilly/reggae sounds of The Clash or the swear style purveyed by The Sex Pistols and Sham 69. Oh no, dear readers. Punk was The Stranglers, The Adverts, Richard Hell, The Ramones, Eddie and the Hot Rods and our present subject, The Damned.
In fact, The Damned were often accused of being more a psychedelic rock group than a punk band. I suggest a plea of guilty be lodged, that the case be thrown out of court and that their critics shut their mouths. Anyway, enough of my drunken ramblings. For now, dear readers, The Damned truth…
(Captain: I always hated the word rock. It reminds me of leather clad tossers with permed hair getting into limos to snort coke in the back with some dumb model bimbo. It really pissed me off to see The Damned in the rock racks in record shops).
The roots of The Damned can be traced back to 1970 when Paul Halford formed the Black Witch Climax Blues Band and enlisted the help of two brothers, Phil and Ray Burns on organ and piano, guitarist Fred “Grunge” Mills and drummer Dave Berk. In 1971 they changed their name to Genetic Breakdown and Ray switched from organ to guitar. In May 1974 Halford changed his name to Johnny Moped and the band’s name to The Five Arrogant Superstars. By August Phil left the band to yet another name change, this time Assault and Buggery. At this time, somewhere in Sussex, Bryan James formed Bastard, a Stooges/ MC5 influenced band that were well received in their locality and strangely also in Belgium.
1976 was the year that punk’s roots began to sprout. In January, Dave, Ray and Fred left Assault and Buggery and formed the Commercial Band. In March, Tony James and Mick Jones formed London SS. The Swankers split up and joined up with John Lydon, Nick Kent and Steve New and became the Sex Pistols, and Rot formed in June with drummer Chris Millar, aka Rat Scabies, re-named after turning up to an audition with London SS with scabies, oh, and because he looked like a rodent.
Towards the end of Rot’s short lived existence Rat joined Nick Kent in The Subterraneans. The Commercial Band had since evolved into Elite but Ray declined to join The Subterraneans. After a couple of gigs in Cardiff The Subterraneans split with Nick becoming a journalist and Ray forming Oasis. Rat went on to drum in the Orchestra for the Yorkshire Theatre Co’s Production of Puss in Boots and Bryan set about forming a new band.
(Captain: These bands Genetic Breakdown, Johnny Moped, The Five Arrogant Superstars, Assault and Buggery, The Commercial Band, Elite were all the same band more or less just different names every few months so no one could pin us down.)
In January 1976, Bryan was reunited with Rat. A search for a vocalist was brought to a close after meeting at a Pistols gig on April 23rd at the Nashville Rooms. Singing grave digger and Alice Cooper fan Dave Vanian was auditioned along and given the job. Rat then invited Ray round to the flat and recruited the band on bass. All that was left was a name. It would appear that Vivienne Westwood came up with the name The Damned when trying to find a name for the Sex Pistols, but, seeing as they did not use it, Bryan did. They rehearsed every week until June when they got a Saturday residence at Lisson Grove for a month. It was, however, at The 100 Club that they played their first punk gig, supporting the Sex Pistols on July 6th.
Burns goes Sensible
In August they played two gigs at The Nashville before setting off to Monte De Maison in France for the first European Punk Rock festival on the 20th. The bill also included The Pink Fairies, whose guitarist Larry Wallis was responsible for naming Ray Captain Sensible.
In September they played the second night of the 100 Club Punk Festival with The Vibrators and The Buzzcocks, did a couple of gigs with The Vibrators as support act and signed to Stiff Records. October brought a few more gigs and, at the Red Cow in Hammersmith, a meeting with Marc Bolan was to have a great effect on their career.
On the 22nd the band took great pleasure, and a page in the history books, to be the first punk band to release a single. The single, “New Rose” (one of rock writer Richard William’s favourite singles of all time), was Sound’s single of the week and is one of the great punk releases of all time, especially for the B-side, a blitzkrieg version of The Beatles “Help”. Riding high on the success of the single they soon grabbed the support slot on the Flaming Groovies’ UK tour which started on November 11th. On the 14th the Groovies failed to appear at The Roundhouse gig and The Damned supported The Troggs instead. The final date on Groovies tour was in Oxford the next night, this time the Groovies made it, also joined by The Vibrators and The Stranglers.
Three days later The Damned set out on their own tour. On the 20th the NME carried a news story about the forthcoming Anarchy Tour to be headlined by the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, along with The Damned , The Clash, and Johnny Thunders. The Ramones pulled out and The Vibrators were added to some of the dates. December brought punk’s rapidly increasing “bad” reputation to the homes of everybody, with the infamous Sex Pistols appearance on the Today programme with Bill Grundy, the press had a field day. Even venues decided to get rid of punk bands and in London, The Roxy cancelled the “Anarchy” tour date and drew up a list of bands they wouldn’t let play. In fact, thanks to the Pistol’s publicity stunt, punk nearly died.
Anarchy in (parts of) the UK
Of the proposed 19 dates of the Anarchy tour only three were played, and The Damned managed only two. Leeds on the 6th and Manchester on the 9th. They were then thrown off the rest of the tour, the reason stated at the time was that The Damned tried to play a gig without the rest of the “Anarchy” bands, ask any of the bands fans and they’d put it down to the fact that they played better than anyone else on the bill it also didn’t help that Pistol’s manager McLaren detested Damned manager Jake Riviera – chose your own version.
(Captain: Our tour manager said we’ play if the Pistols couldn’t, meanwhile we were stewing in a dodgy B&B’s, we couldn’t afford to stay in flash hotels The Pistols record label were stumping up for. We knew nothing of this shady dealing, if we did we would have never played.)
1977 was the year of punk, much to the distaste of the media. Far from dying, punk was growing stronger and recording companies were fighting over each other to sign the latest bands. January seemed quiet, The Damned only played one gig, on the last day of the month with Eater at The Roxy (who had obviously realised that their anti-punk policy was a mistake). They had, however, been busy recording their debut album at Pathway studios with Nick Lowe, spending a total of 10 days in the studio over six weeks. The album contained ten original songs and a cover of “Fish”, originally a London SS song written by Tony James and Bryan and a cover of The Stooges “I Feel Alright”.
On February 18th the album titled “Damned Damned Damned” (Stiff Seez 5) was released. The initial 2000 copies were deliberately issued with a picture of Eddie and the Hot Rods on the back cover. The album was the first punk album to be released and it peaked at number 34 and stayed in the charts for 10 weeks.
The Damned continue to notch up gig after gig, including a night at The Roxy with Johnny Moped. In March The Damned set out on a major tour, supporting T Rex. The idea of the new meeting the old caught the press’s attention. As did their second single, “Neat Neat Neat”, released February 25th. Riding high on the single’s success, The Damned were now becoming hot property and bigger things are planned for them. April saw The Damned play one of their most famous gigs at The Roundhouse, on the 24th, supported by Motorhead and The Adverts. Soon after The Damned were the first punk band from England to play the States. They played four big nights at the legendary CBGB’s club in New York. The first night was, by all account, average. Both The Damned and the Dead Boys were not on form. Only a blonde girl nearly getting laid on stage seemed to liven up the evening. The second night was The Dead Boys’ night. The Damned were bugged by technical problems and even the Captain’s nurse outfit went unnoticed. The third night went well for everybody and ended with both bands onstage for a version of “Anarchy in the UK”.
The fourth night was going to be a hard one as The Damned were supporting Patti Smith, but they won them over and returned victorious. (Captain: Patti Smith was a dreadful, snobby “rock star” who sneered at us and the new British music). The US press didn’t seem to know what had hit them and general opinion was summed up by the New York News when a reviewer said: “For all their valiant energy their music didn’t seem at all remarkable”. The New York Times, however, seemed more interested in their dress sense and said of Dave that he “looks like an art deco Dracula”.
In May The Damned (who can now play three chords) and The Adverts (who can play only one) set out on a UK tour. It started on the 20th at Southampton University and concluded on June 29th at Dunstable. The first gig was recorded by the BBC for the In Concert series. On July 6th, exactly one year since they supported The Sex Pistols, they started four night stint at The Marquee to celebrate. Over the four days 5000 copies of “Stretcher Case Baby” were given away as a thank you to their fans. Whenever possible the band played the exact set they had played at The 100 Club. Unfortunately things did not go according to plan. The gigs started on Sunday 3rd (with the intention of finishing on the 6th) with the Rings supporting (Hello Twink). On Monday they were supported by Johnny Moped and that was that – the next two gigs were cancelled. (Captain: Another f**k up by our glorious managers, done behind out backs. Jake Riviera would rather pull the remaining two gigs than have photographers snap The Damned with the Marquee sign on the wall behind us. He wanted to use a black back-drop which would hide it. In the end he got a reputation for pulling gigs.)
After this disaster it was decided to bring on a second guitarist Robert “Lu” Edmunds to add a fuller sound to the band. The first gig with the new line up was a return to the French Punk Festival in August. In the same month The Damned were the first band to play the London’s new punk venue The Sundown in Charing Cross Road. Work soon continued on the next album but it was not working out, so they took the tapes to a studio in Islington which was owned by Nick Mason, of Pink Floyd, and set about re-mixing and re-recording the tracks with Nick Mason at the controls for most of the recordings. (Captain: Contrary to popular belief, Shel Talmy just did the freebie single “Stretcher Case”, nothing more! He was great! It’s so much better than the version on the album). They also enlisted the help of the jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill, much to the shock of the press and the less intelligent music fan. Lol had jammed with them at the Dunstable gig in June and was asked if he would like to come down.
Rat Leaves a Sinking Ship
In October Rat left after various “internal” rows. (Captain: It was during the European tour and he was actually thrown out) and was replaced by Dave Berk from Johnny Moped’s band for the European tour. On return to the UK Dave was replaced by ex-London SS drummer Jon Moss. By November the new album “Music for Pleasure” (Stiff Sez 5) was ready, the idea was to add variety to the Damned sound. The critics loved it with Melody Maker describing it as “damned feeble”, and on the whole, it received a cool reception, which is a shame because although different from their debut, it was and still is, a classic “rock” album. Criticise Lol Coxhill’s contribution to the track “You Know” if you want to remember that the saxophone is a more than valid rock instrument. Think of Nik Turner with Inner City Unit or even Steven Mackay on The Stooges “Funhouse” album or Rudi Thompson rocking out on “Oh Bondage Up Yours” by X-Ray Spexs.
(Captain: There’s good saxophone, Lol, DuDu Pikwana, Elton Dean, and bad rock sax: Baker St, Spandau Ballet etc). If only I was a journalist in 1977 I could have defended their excellent work. The album was simply loaded with tracks, the aforementioned “You Know”, the two singles “Problem Child” and “Cry Wolf”, the wonderful “Stretcher Case” and, of course, “Idiot Box”. But the album was not selling well and things were becoming tense with their label Stiff, the promotion wasn’t going too well either. The band were due to appear on the TV programme Impact, due for transmission on December 21st. It was recorded but still remains on the shelf. For the record The Damned performed “Neat Neat Neat”, “Problem Child” and “Fan Club”.
So a great year ended for punk, and, The Damned, despite various problems, were ready for 1978. But 1978 was not ready for The Damned. On December 20th, Stiff Records dropped them, two months after their second album failed to chart, in favour of their more commercial acts such as Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, with label boss Dave Robinson stating “He wasn’t the right manager for the band any longer”.
Rat had by this time formed with his own band The White Cates with ex-London SS vocalist Kevin Colney and ex-Clash guitarist Eddie Cox. As Drunk and Disorderly they had supported The Clash at The Rainbow over the Christmas period with help from Richard Sohl from Patti Smith’s group. Rat had also been in Runners with guitarist Denise Mercedes, associate of Bob Dylan. Back in The Damned all was not well, and in February they called it a day and went their separate ways. Lu and Jon formed The Edge and also toured with Jane Aire and the Belvederes. Lu eventually joined Athletico Spizz and Jon Moss went on to fame with that well known black metal thrash band Culture Club.
Do The IG
Bryan formed the quite excellent Tanz Der Youth in May with Alan Powell from Vinegar Joe and Hawkwind and Andy Colquhoun of The Deviants and The Pink Fairies. After The Edge, Bryan went solo for a while before joining Iggy Pop’s touring band in early 1979. Then came the awful Hellions before fame and fortune with Lords of the New Church.
Dave joined The Doctors of Madness for a 15 date tour while Captain went off to work once again with Johnny Moped before joining The Softies who recorded the classic “Jet Boy, Jet Girl”. By June, the Captain joined Dave Berk, ex-Chelsea man Henry Badowski and ex-Saints bassist Kim Bradshaw in the group Kind, not to be confused with the Doc Martin-ed pop group of the 80’s.
(Captain: We did a four song Peel session and a week in Paris. Peel said he will release it if there is a demand. It includes a blistering version of “Antipop”. Also “Jet Boy Jet Girl”! C’mon, harass him!)
The Damned did reform during this time for a farewell gig on April 8th at The Rainbow. The gig was a bad idea. The Captain walked off early and Rat (apparently uninvited) turned up and spat at Jon, but a great drum solo followed, and the entire stage was smashed up after the final song “I Feel Alright” – and that was the end of The Damned.
By August, rumours began to spread that The Damned were to reform and the rumours were soon proved right when in September a gig was arranged at the Electric Ballroom. The band billed were Les Punks – a one off gig maybe but this gig should have been recorded (anyone got a tape of it?). For anyone that doesn’t know, Les Punks were Rat on drums, Dave on vocals, the Captain on guitar and Lemmy on bass. The gig revitalised The Damned and they reformed, armed with a contract from Chiswick Records. One difference, however – they called themselves The Doomed. Henry Badowski was brought in on bass initially but ex-Saits bassist Algy Ward got the full time job, with Captain reverting back to the guitar.
In November they went into the studio. Dave, Captain, Rat and Henry Badowski recorded six tracks as The Doomed and a couple of others with Lemmy (more of that in a minute). Two of the tracks, “Love Song” and “Burglar” were issued as a limited edition of 250 copies and given away at the Christmas gig at the Electric Ballroom. The single known as “The Dodgey Demo” (as that was the label it was on) is now a highly-prized item among fans.
The Chiswick sessions for the next album were noisily interrupted when Lemmy, along with Philthy Phil Taylor and Fast Eddie Clarke turned u for a jam. One track, Ballroom Blitz, surfaced as the B-side of “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today”, and it was thought that the world would never hear Motordamn’s “Over The Top”. But Big Beat records in their infinite wisdom released it on the 1988 compilation “The Best of The Damned Volume 1: The Long Lost Weekend” (Big Beat Wik 80).
1979 and a new wave of heavy metal was dawning. Not only did it revitalise such bands as Motorhead, but t brought the music of The Damned to a new generation of rock music fans. In April “Love Song” was released to the masses and copying Motorhead’s “No Class”. It came in sleeves each with a different member of the group on the cover. The single made top twenty in the UK pop charts – The Damned were back. Touring continued and the press became interested again, but some venues still banned them. The May/June tour included The Rats as support with local bands being added to each gig. Towards the end of June they set off for their second visit to America, taking in New York and LA. The LA gigs were the most successful and they were joined on stage by Joan Jett and somebody who looked like Gene Simmons from Kiss (Captain in disguise). The US tour ended with a few nights at the old Waldorf in San Francisco. After the US dates The Damned set off to Europe for a short tour, taking in Germany and the Punkaroka Midnight Sun Festival, in Finland. The Damned were in good company as the package tour included Motorhead, The Skids, and Rocky Sharpe and the Razors (aka The Replays). In October the single “Smash It Up” was released. Described by some critics as a pop song it remains a firm favourite with the fans. The album “New Worlds Symphony” was eagerly awaited and another taster to the album was issued as the follow up single “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” with the Motordamn version of “Ballroom Blitz” on the B-side and a third untitled track known as “The Turkey Song”. With the November/ December tour announced, the album appeared in shops re-titled “Machine Gun Etiquette” (Chiswick Cwk 3011).
Bang Bang Bang
When we talk about “Machine Gun Etiquette”, we are talking about one of the best albums of the year and one of the best from The Damned – every track a gem. The title track features Paul Simenon and Joe Strummer. Other useless facts about the album include that the Captain played organ on ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’, the lyrics for ‘Melody Lee’ were stolen from a Bunty comic, ‘Antipope’ was originally a King song on the Peel session they did. Algy and the Captain played percussion on part of said song, and former temporary bassist Henry Badowski does backing vocals on ‘Noise, Noise, Noise’
In 1980 Algy left The Damned and formed heavy metal group Tank with two brothers. Tank were soon getting a reputation as the new Motorhead. By the late eighties Tank fizzled out and after a brief spell with Vera Cruz, a female fronted group Algy joined The Atom Gods, a band who mix Motorhead with Hawkwind and do it quite well.
Algy’s replacement was the man responsible for one of the best riffs of all time. That man was Paul Gray and the riff I refer to was on the album ‘Life On The Line’ by Eddie and the Hot Rods (with whom Paul had spent the previous three years). The track is ‘The Beginning Of The End’, if you ain’t got it – get it!
Paul did not in fact become a permanent member of The Damned until the summer of ’80 as he still had a few commitments with the Hot Rods. With time on their hands the band worked on various solo projects including helping out Magic Michael, and Rat plus girlfriend covering The Band’s song ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. Recording began on new material and the result was two singles, ‘The Sanity Clause’ (based on a line from Chico Marx). In October, they released their acid rock album, ‘The Black Album’ (Chiswick CWK 3015). A brilliant double album with one live side. It’s highlight was the 17 minute epic ‘Curtain Call’, written by Vanian. The album sold better in American than in the UK, so a tour was planned for March ’81 in the US. By the end of November the band were booted off Chiswick Records they then went to NEMS and released one EP, ‘Friday The 13th’, before NEMS collapsed.
The Next Generation
Meanwhile Big Beat got the rights to the Chiswick material and quickly set about a ‘Best Of The Damned’ (Big Beat Dam 1) package, and in ’82 they also reissued ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ (big Beat Dam 2) but more of that later. Stiff also got in on the act and reissued the first four singles in a special limited edition wallet. (Captain: Typical of Dave Robinson – I could tell you some stories). 1981 ended with the Christmas On Earth Festival in Leeds, with The Damned alongside the new generation of punk/Oi bands. 1982 was greeted by a hail of reissues from Big Beat Records but by May a new single appeared. ‘Lovely Money’ was hardly punk, in fact it was hardly rock (Captain: Good!). It’s one redeeming feature was the inclusion of verbal talents of ex-Bonzo Dog Vivian Stanshall. This was, however, the first release by The Damned on a new record label, Bronze. June brought the name of The Damned to everyone’s lips thanks to what can only be described as a freak hit by Captain Sensible. The Captain covered the song ‘Happy Talk’ from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific and it reached number one.
The continuing output from The Damned seemed pointless, they issued poor singles and in September the album ‘Strawberries’ (Bronze Bron 542). Although it reached the top twenty, it was not a real Damned album. In November Paul quit and joined the hard rock group UFO.
Paul was replaced by Bryn Merrick from the Missing Men and other Missing Men member Roman Jugg was brought on keyboard. (Captain: He (Bryn) marched into our dressing room and said ‘give me that bass’ and played every Damned song – not perfect. Then Gray left and we thought the only person we can get quickly is that drunkard from Cardiff. He just marched into the job!). They spent the rest of the year touring and working on new material. In January 1983 they split from Bronze Records and the world went black for them. With no record label they became disheartened, Big Beat reissues and rehashes, (Captain: Didn’t they Just, every album track has been a single by now surely!) and even the Captain’s solo works fell short of success. Management soon went out of the window and Rat set off for a day job.
In November ’83, a sort of official bootleg appeared, ‘live In Newcastle’ (Damned Damu 2). Originally recorded at the Newcastle Mayfair in October ’82, (Captain: Awful Quality) the album was limited to 10,000 copies half of them picture discs.
In February ’84 Rat released a new single ‘Let There Be Rats’, by mail order only, then came a brief glimpse of hope in the form of Plus One Records. A single was immediately released, ‘Thanks For The Night’. It was the B-side that got the attention, ‘Nasty’ was a song that could have been the B-side for ‘Neat Neat Neat’. It was great it only just hit the top forty but it got The Damned back on the television. They played the song ‘Nasty’ in the BBC2 series The Young Ones.
On the brink of stardom again and things fell apart. The Captain had a hit the top ten with his single ‘Glad It’s All Over’, and had become a TV personality. You know the type of things, kids’ programmes, adverts etc. (Captain: So what. It kept me in beer money). In August Captain left The Damned.
Many thought that was the end of The Damned, but they rose above it and snuffed the critics once and for all. First to appear was Naz Nomad & The Nightmares, a sixties garage album featuring Dave and Rat, pressed in limited quantities in purple vinyl only, then shortly after, it was announced that The Damned were all gothed up and signed to MCA. In 1985 they made their label debut with ‘Grimly Fiendish’, along with a glossy video and everyone in Edwardian clothing, the single reached the top twenty and got them on the television left, right and centre. In June, the next single, ‘The Shadow Of Love’, hit the charts and the tour which started on May 25th was now in full swing. In July the album ‘Phantasmagoria’ (MCA Mcf 3275) was released to critical acclaim and was also the first Damned album to be released on compact disc. It reached number 11. Roman had now switched to guitar, and keyboard work was handled by Paul Shepley. 1985 drew to a very successful close and January ’86 stared on a massive high when The Damned chose to release their version of Paul and Barry Ryan’s ‘Eloise’, which by February hit the number three spot in the charts. Not surprisingly reissues appeared and Stiff released their first two albums in a limited edition double pack in yellow vinyl.
Another collectable from this period is the NME cassette ‘Pogo A Gogo’ which features the track ‘Stretcher Case baby’. In December the follow-up album ‘Anything’ (MCA Mcg 6015) was released, after the single of the same name from the previous month had been well received. February ’87 saw the release of ‘Gigolo’ and in May ‘Alone Again Or’, an excellent cover of the love song. It charted high and was the first CD single from the band, packaged in a 7” sleeve. It’s now very hard to find.
The last single to be released from the album failed to make any real impact but ‘In Dulce Decorum’ was, I believe, featured in an episode of Miami Vice. In August 23 1987 The Damned as Naz Nomad & The Nightmares, played the Acid Daze Festival in Finsbury Park, they were in good form, a great set including a fantastic version of The Doors’ ‘Riders Of The Storm’. By the end of the year The Damned were disappearing from the public’s eye, but the double album compilation/CD/video/book package titled ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ (MCA Mcsp 312) kept them in the limelight.
T the start of 1988 I began to wonder what they would do next. I remember bumping into Rat at a Virgin Megastore one Wednesday, just for the record he was buying MC5 and Stooges CDs. I asked him what The Damned were going to do next. The answer I recall was: “I don’t know, reform the old line up and split I suppose”. In June I heard of a Damned reunion gig and on the 13th they played the Town & country Club with Bryan, the Captain and Bryn joining Dave, Roman and Rat. They cracked through 17 tracks including a cover of The Rolling Stones ‘The Last Time’ for the finale. A week later they played the Amnesty gig joined by Joey Ramone for a version of ‘Bliitzkreig Bop’. By the end of the year Vanian, Scabies and Jugg release ‘Give Daddy The Knife Cindy’ as Naz Nomad & The Nightmares through Chiswick.
The following year I saw them at Brixton Academy with Horse London and the Claytown Troupe, 1989 also saw the release of ‘The Final Damnation’ (Essential Esslp 008) a live recording of the Town & Country Gig. Many thought that would be the last of The Damned album and in July The Damned decided to quit, they embarked on a farewell tour and that was it they were no more.
Dave Vanian surfaced in1990 with a psychobilly band and a new image, The Phantom Chords released their debut single, a cover from John Leyton’s ‘Johnny Remember Me’. It received good airplay on the radio but did not crash the charts. They did tour however and I believe they also supported The Cramps.
April saw ‘The Black Album’ re-mastered and re-released on the Chiswick label, and by the end of the year yet another compilation imaginatively titled ‘The Collection’ (Castle Ccslp 278), a double album also featuring eight live tracks from the T&C gig in ’88 appeared. As Christmas approached rumours were again abound that The Damned would reform again and by January it appeared that they had with the release of the single ‘Fun Factory’, taken from the sessions for the ‘Strawberries’ album. Issued on Deltic Records, it definitely features Dave, Captain and the guitar work of none other than Robert Fripp. Although they played two nights in July at the T&C and played four more dates with the Ramones, it was still a quiet year.
The Rats Back
It looked like the end forever, but Rat was still harbouring ideas about forming a Who style rock band, and with the help from the Moose from New Model Army and Kris Dolimore from the Godfathers they began rehearsing. Meanwhile Alan Lee Shaw (Physicals, Ring, Maniacs etc…) finished working with Brian James and began writing new stuff, invited by Rat to join the new band they soon started working on new songs. Soon it became apparent that the band were ready and needed a vocalist, Vanian was persuaded to rejoin. By November ’93 after repetitive reunion gigs, the Damned were reborn. On the 23rd The Damned played 3 new songs – ‘I Need A life’, ‘Never Could Believe’, ‘Testify’ and a blistering version of ‘Neat Neat Neat’ on BBC1’s Mark Radcliffe show, they also record a two song session for GLR.
Captain meanwhile released his greatest solo album to date called ‘The Universe Of Geoffrey Brown’ on Humbug Records, which featured contributions of ex-Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley and poet Martin Newell (Cleaners From Venus), this is a truly outstanding record that deserved better press than what it got. Captain and Newell along with Nelson from N.M.A continued to tour, playing a string of dates in Europe.
In December after a couple of one off dates, the new Damned line-up play an 8-day UK tour to varied reviews. In The New Year Dave & co join CBGB’s anniversary concerts in New York, the gig is recorded, although the album was never issued except by mistake in Australia.
I’m Alright Jack, One Step Forward, One Step Back
After tours of Japan and Europe, the Damned head back in the studio in Cologne with producer Dave Allen, after mixing a new album in the UK, the band set about finding a label.
As negotiations continue Dave Vanian heads off to tour with his own band The Phantom Chords in support of his Big Beat CD, originally recorded back in ’92. On 24th February 1996 the Damned play the Forum, an event billed as their 20th Anniversary Special.
In the US, Cleopatra Records release ‘Not of this Earth’ the band’s first studio album since ’86. The new album sees the band return to form, well worth picking up. But as anyone who follows the band knows, something had to go wrong, after contractual arguments, Vanian walked out before the release of the CD, sighting Rat’s deal with a Japanese label and his claim that he “represented the Damned solely”.
Dave now re-united with The Phantom Chords, next appeared alongside Captain Sensible’s Punk Floyd for a string of UK dates. Suring this time During this time Dave and the Captain decided to reform the Damned with Paul Gray on bass and Garrie Dreadful on drums and on keyboards, Monty. (Captain: Rat bought the rights to our first two albums when Stiff went bust and licensed them to labels around the world, without paying anyone any royalties for their performances. Would you work with someone who does this thing to you?)
First gig for yet another new Damned Line-up was Smash It Up Punk All Dayer festival in Birmingham on February 34th 1996. Originally billed as ‘The Damned’ with band member listed as Dave Vanian, Paul Gray and Cats Babies. But due to legal action by Rat, had to be changed to ‘Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Paul Gray and ex-members of The Damned’, aside from this gig, the band went down a storm.
While the ex-Damned continued to tour, Rat had been busy working on a CD-ROM version of ‘Not Of This Earth’ issued in the UK as ‘I’m Alright Jack & The Beans Talk’ (seadog SEALP102 catalogue number refers to the 1000 limited edition). Not only did the CD feature the entire ‘Not Of..’ album, it also featured a game, live tracks, a video clip and discography with a 3D cover to boot.
In March 1997 on the 23rd the band start a handful of UK dates at The Pitz, Milton Keynes, Bucks, before heading off for a 13-date Australian tour, their first since ’87. The autumn sees the Damned headline Dracfest ’97 Festival at Stripes Farm, Whitby, notable for a rare inclusion in the set of ‘Eloise’.
After a few Scottish dates, the band kick off 1998 with a two month US/Canadian tour, the most extensive tour in America in the bands history. 44 dates in total, with the majority of shows were sell-outs. On their return to England the band continued to tour, but still no new releases which are promised, still December brings the long-awaited ‘Looking At you’ (eMpTy MT 417) an 8 track 10” mini –LP recorded live from the Mullhouse, France, back in June ’94. Also issued in Canada as ‘Sudden Death’ (SD 006)
The New Year, The new line-up Garrie Dreadful, drummer with the Damned since January ’96 leaves to be replaced by a drummer Spike Smith for their March Luton gig. In June the band headline Holidays In The Sun festival in Morecambe, recorded for the BBC show ‘Muscle’, a documentary on bouncers! Spike then leaves the band to play on a tour with Morrisey, Pinch, former founding member of The English Dogs, and Jesus Stark is brought in for another US tour in September and October, news also filters back that the Damned are playing a couple of new tracks in their set.
200 starts with the Damned appearing on channel 4’s Top Ten Of Punk alongside the Pistols, Clash and the Stranglers broadcast on 5th February, a month later they begin 33-date European tour. When the Damned are not playing it seemed as if there was always a Captain of Phantom Chords gig somewhere.
Towards the end of 2000 the news that The Damned, featuring founding members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible along with Patricia Morrison (Bags, Gun Club, Sisters Of Mercy) on bass, Monty Oxymoron on Keyboards and Pinch (English Dogs, Janus Stark) had been signed to Nitro Records. The label owned by Dexter Holland of The Offspring have tentatively scheduled the new album, untitled as of yet, for May 2001. The Damned are also set to headline ‘Holidays In The Sun 2001’ which will take place in sunny Moroccans on 4 stages from July 6 – July 8. Tickets vary from £50 to £65 and are available now from the Holidays website.
So the story continues, The Damned in their 35th-ish year, currently in New York recording, I never thought seeing them in ’77, that the band would even surface the 70’s never mind past the end of the century and beyond! Cheers!