What were the clash songs about?
A Band Of The People
"In a funny way, I thought THE DAMNED catched the true spirit of punk, as understood by punks, better than their rivals." (John Peel) With that, the late godfather of "alternative" music started the band formed in 1976 around founding members Brian James (guitar), Rat Scabies (Chris Millar / drums), Ray Burns (later known as "Captain Sensible" / bass) and Dave (Lett) Vanian (Vocs) aptly characterized. Because what else marked the beginnings of the punk movement if not the "you can do anything if you want" mentality. Unfortunately, individuality as the supreme principle of punk was soon forgotten, not least because of the compulsory uniformity and the standardization of world views. We want to bring back the time when punk was still young in Britain and quote Dave Vanian: "The main thing was, it wasn't so much of a style. Punk was an idea, an idea of being original and being true to yourself. "
THE DAMNED have been a collective of unique and completely different personalities from the start. They weren't wearing punk clothes from Vivienne Westwood's accessory store, but apparently dressed for participation in Bela Lugosi lookalike contests, wearing nurse uniforms, tutus, or nothing at all. Rat quickly became known for lighting his drum kit with lighter fluid when performing live. It wasn't about "changing society" for them, but about going on stage, having fun and making a truckload of coal with it. "Music was our way out ..." said the former toilet cleaner Sensible, who dreamed of being a pop star like Marc Bolan, with the girls at his feet.
Ex-gravedigger Dave Vanian became a singer because Rat and Brian James thought he looked "good" (and because Sid Vicious hadn't come to audition). That was what punk was about. THE CLASH, whose band members had an upper-class background, therefore considered THE DAMNED to be a joke or comedy band that could hardly be taken seriously. Her fans love her to this day. Because with all the anarchy and joy of playing, the punk attitude and the political protest of the SEX PISTOLS from McLaren were calculated. With THE CLASH, on the other hand - according to Captain Sensible - you could hear tomorrow on the radio what was the headline in the newspaper yesterday. They both slid from gig to gig in air-conditioned coaches, while THE DAMNED followed them in a rickety van.
Glen Matlock: "THE DAMNED was a bit of a downer kind of thing ..."
And neither the socially critical CLASH nor the anarchist SEX PISTOLS ever had problems getting under contract with the really big record labels of that time, while THE DAMNED was considered "not manageable" (Dave Robinson, Stiff Records). The latter was of course also true, after all THE DAMNED seized the opportunity. Each band member took the liberty of behaving, dressing and lighting (drum kits, mini-vans, Elvis Costello ...) whatever and how they wanted. Captain Sensible once said that Siouxsie from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES accused him of not being "punk". Sensible found this ridiculous because she was in a £ 200 outfit while he wore £ 1.50 clothes.
So what was "punk"? A political movement that was born out of the working class, as Captain Sensible says. Or is it a "designer product" that was born in the New York art scene, spilled from there to Great Britain and was specifically used by people like Malcolm McLaren? Or a bit of both?
Advice: "McLaren always said, that three bands are a movement. He was very keen on? Movements' (...)."
It is well known that Vivienne Westwood sees herself and McLaren as the inventor or - as it is perhaps more aptly - "designer" of the British punk movement. Whether this is true or not: it is obvious that the leading English protagonists of this "movement" all knew each other. Dave, Rat and Captain were initially part of an early McLaren project (!) Together with Chrissie Hynde (later THE PRETENDERS), which however never came to be. Brian, on the other hand, was initially in a band called LONDON SS with Mick Jones (later THE CLASH), among others. Even if these bands never made a performance, it is striking how manageable the circle of actors was at that time .
Of course, the great influence of the music industry and the appropriation of pop cultural movements by the music press (as happened to the grunge movement in the 90s) is both the reason why the journalle never took proper notice of THE DAMNED on the one hand, and perhaps on the other also the reason why THE DAMNED - in a changed line-up - still exist today, while the other bands of the first punk generation, such as the SEX PISTOLS or the CLASH, have long since passed their half-life.
THE DAMNED are one of the very few examples of bands that have managed to stay alive "despite the record labels and despite the (lack of) music press" (P. Morrison) and maintain a stable fan base for almost 30 years , for whom THE DAMNED are more than just a band beyond the well-oiled machinery of the music industry, but a way of life. Dave Vanian once aptly described the relationship between the band and their audience when he stated: "This is a band of the people."
Advice: "We don't regard ourselves being anything special or different so it does actually give us a much greater responsibility to our fan."
Another feature that set THE DAMNED apart from their competition from the start was the musical potential of the individual band members. Initially, they orientated themselves towards American groups such as MC5, IGGY & THE STOOGES or NEW YORK DOLLS. Captain was also a big fan of SOFT MACHINE and Syd Barret, which helps explain a number of DAMNED songs to come. Regarding the early PINK FLOYD single "See Emily play", Sensible notes: "It was a psychedelic masterpiece. It changed my life."
In 1976 the debut single "New Rose" was released, the very first single in British punk rock and perhaps one of the best punk songs of the time, which Brian James claims he wrote in fifteen minutes.
In early 1977, "Damned Damned Damned" was the first album of the punk movement, which captures the atmosphere of the live performances of the time and is one of the outstanding milestones in rock history. The songs, composed throughout by Brian James, are energetic and crisp punk anthems, with catchy to ingenious riffs and melodies. The whole album was recorded on a single day in the studio, without overdubs and the fiddling that is so common today. Compared to this, the SEX PISTOLS debut "Never Mind The Bollocks ..." that followed shortly after was hopelessly overproduced. On "Damned, Damned, Damned" you can already see the musical abilities of the individual band members, above all those of Brian James and Rat Scabies, probably the best drummer in the entire British punk movement.
Outstanding tracks are "Neat neat neat" with Captain's driving bass, the devious "Feel the pain" and the ingenious, rowdy cover of the STOOGES track "I feel alright". "Damned Damned Damned" was also a great success commercially. The songs haven't lost any of their class to this day and some of them are still part of the live set without even appearing out of date.
Captain: "If you want to know what punk rock is, put that record on."
Unfortunately, in November 1977, PINK FLOYD's Nick Mason produced the drastic misunderstanding "Music For Pleasure". Originally, Captain Sensible PINK FLOYD mastermind Syd Barret wanted to do the job. In the end, "only" Floyd's drummer came and nothing came of a second "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn". The Kandinsky artwork on the album cover didn't help either.
Brian James aimed for a fatter guitar sound for "MFP", which is why Lu Edmunds was brought into the band as "reinforcement". In fact, the second guitar on "Music For Pleasure" is hard to hear. Parts of the band were of the opinion that Brian didn't need any guitar reinforcement anyway. However, there is an unconfirmed rumor that Brian James intended by hiring Lu Edmunds to keep the equally talented guitarist Sensible on the bass.
Although distracted, "Music For Pleasure" of course also offers good titles, for example "Idiot box" or the weird "You know" (with Lol Coxhill on saxophone). The outstanding cover of the BEATLES hit "Help" can hardly be named here as a contemporary witness, since the title was already released in 1976 as the B-side of the "New Rose" single. Overall, the album looked even more "American" than its predecessor, but unfortunately it was produced too smoothly and no longer had the rough live character of the previous album. "Music For Pleasure" also features a number of very average tracks, for example "You take my money", "Your eyes" or "Politics". Gap fillers were at all times completely untypical for a DAMNED album. "Music For Pleasure" flopped.
A short time later, Stiff Records (slogan: "If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck") dropped the band. On a tour of France, to make matters worse, advice was lost, who left the band completely unnerved and was briefly replaced by Jon Moss (later CULTURE CLUB!). So there they were, with no regular drummers and no record deal.
At the beginning of 1978 the band was broken up by Brian James (who later founded Bators THE LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH with ex-DEAD BOYS Stiv) and - after various solo projects by everyone involved (Brian James founded TANZ DER YOUTH, Dave became a member of THE DOCTORS OF MADNESS, John Moss and Lu founded THE EDGE, Rat Scabies THE WHITE CATS and Captain King) - the reform, initially as THE DOOMED.
Advice: "We (Captain and I) got Dave on the phone and told him about lots of money and contracts and the fool believed us."
At the end of 1979, under the decisive influence of Captain Sensible, who had now switched to guitar, and the former SAINTS bassist Algy Ward, the milestone "Machine Gun Etiquette" followed on the Chiswick Records label, which had been rushed to rescue. "MGE" represents a musical quantum leap compared to the two previous albums. While the songs on the first two albums were almost entirely written by Brian James, the band as a whole was now more or less asked to provide input on songwriting, especially Captain. The result was phenomenal. "MGE" also features typical two-minute punk songs such as the brilliant and pre-released single "Love Song", which climbed to number 20 in the English charts and whose lyrics are "Just for you, here's a love song, and it makes me glad to say, it's been a lovely day and it's ok " the raw music of course counteract and ironically break, or "Melody Lee", with the sugar-sweet piano intro, whose lyrics Sensible supposedly scribbled completely from the girl's comic "Bunty", and finally of course the apocalyptic MC5 cover "Looking at you." ". What made "Machine Gun Etiquette" different from the previous albums and many of their contemporaries' albums, however, was: fun!
This album was fun and you could hear that on every song. An example of this is the anarchic "Smash it up", which was banned from the radio when it was released due to its violent lyrics, but nevertheless presents itself against a pop and exuberant background that most closely resembles the DAMNED-typical "kindergarten chaos" described by Brian James corresponds to. The melodic intro to "Smash it up" is legend and, like the cover of the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE classic "White Rabbit", shows the great musical sophistication of the band. "Machine Gun Etiquette" contained everything that THE DAMNED has made up to this day, namely the attempt to record a joint album with different personalities who are interested in different musical directions. The whole thing is held together by the joy of playing, energy and, last but not least, a good dose of English humor.
Dave: "THE DAMNED is like Frankenstein's monster, stitched together from pieces of other people ...".
"Over the top", which was recorded on a joint jam session with MOTÖRHEAD and was only released in 1988 under the century band pseudonym "MOTORDAMNED", on the "Long Lost Weekend Best 1 1/2" - also dates from this time. EP was released, as well as the cover of "Ballroom Blitz". Lemmy Kilmister played bass for THE DAMNED on a couple of gigs during the DOOMED period.
The development towards a more complex and experimental musicality is continued in 1980 - now with Paul Gray (ex-EDDIE & THE HOT RODS) on bass - on the "Black Album", the band's best album to this day for many fans. Here you will find classics like the rocker "Wait for the blackout" and the almost wavy "History of the world pt. I", psychedelic songs like "Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde", the piano accompaniment of "13th floor vendetta" and finally Dave Vanian's strange 16-minute epic "Curtain call". This had only marginally to do with punk, although punk songs like "Drinking about my baby" (an unused EDDIE & THE HOT RODS song that Paul Gray had brought with him) or "Hit or miss" were well represented - and marked the weaker sides of the "Black Album". As the name suggests, this album was overall "darker" than the previous albums and (not least for the music press) could hardly be classified stylistically. Despite or because of the musical demands, the commercial success fell short of expectations.
The record label Chiswick dropped the band, but refused to release THE DAMNED from the existing contract, which is why they looked again in 1981 for a label that was willing to buy THE DAMNED under the Chiswick contract. Finally, on Friday, November 13th 1981 and in consultation with Chiswick, the NEMS label released the "Friday The 13th." EP, which, along with "The limit club" and "Billy bad breaks", included the DAMNED classic "Disco man." "as well as the ROLLING STONES cover" Citadel ". NEMS promptly went bankrupt and Roman Jugg (keyboard) came to THE DAMNED via Paul Gray. And the search for a new record label began again.
Captain: "All the British labels are frightened of us because we are considered a violent, stupid and crazy band who smashes record company offices and kick the windows in! Yes, we have done that! But, only because the record company people were wankers ! We won't do that to a good truthful label! "
Due to the good contacts of Paul Gray's friend Lynne, it finally came to a contract with the bronze label. In 1982 the album "Strawberries", which was much more poppy but very entertaining than the previous albums, was released here, which was more influenced by Captain Sensible than any other album and climbed into the top 20 of the English album charts.
Outstanding tracks on it are Vanian's great "Stranger on the town" and the musically complex "Under the floor again", as well as typical captain pieces like "Life goes on" or "Don't bother me". "Strawberries" delivered three singles, namely "Lovely Money" in June 1982, the DAMNED classic "Dozen Girls" in September ("He's alright and he don't care, he's got thermal underwear ...") and the last single on the bronze label the trendy "Generals" in November 1982, which is somewhat weaker than the aforementioned titles.
At the same time, Sensible pushed ahead with his solo project. The debut and cover single "Happy Talk" was number 1 in the British charts for two weeks in July 1982 and led to Captain's greatest dream finally coming true: to become a pop star overnight. As it turned out later, this was the beginning of the end for Captain Sensible on THE DAMNED. About "Happy Talk" today he says with a wink: "It was a bucket of shit, but I needed the cash. When you're a working-class bloke and a former toilet-cleaner and somebody says: Would you accept this large suitcase of cash? All you have to do is sing this stupid old tune from SOUTH PACIFIC, I mean ... you would do the same thing, wouldn't you? "
At the same time, tensions developed within the band between Rat and Paul Gray, which were due in particular to the interference of Paul's girlfriend in the management of the band.
Advice: "She deserves being hung, drawn and quartered. (...) Every time I see? Spinal Tap 'and the girlfriend arrives, it was just like it."
Eventually, Paul was badly beaten up by Rat while recording in the studio and hospitalized. He left the band in 1983. Bryn Merrick followed as a replacement in the same year and Roman Jugg switched to guitar.
In 1984 the band released an album under the pseudonym NAZ NOMAD & THE NIGHTMARES with cover versions of titles from the 60s and finally with "Thanks For The Night" the last single with Captain Sensible in the line-up. The friendly relationship between the once inseparable team Sensible / Scabies had long since been destroyed.
Former DAMNED manager Roger Armstrong (Chiswick) sums up his career as follows: "THE DAMNED always suffered the fact, that they knew they were good and no one else would recognize that (...). The main problem is, that they never managed to hold on a manager. "
The band was back to zero again, with no record deal, no money and no manager.During this phase, Rat struggled desperately and ultimately successfully to keep the remainder of the band together. They scraped together their last pennies and recorded a few demos in the studio, which after some back and forth actually led to a deal with giant MCA. A risk, after all THE DAMNED were practically dead at that time and Captain, whose sudden popularity had also positively influenced the sales of the "Strawberries" album, had definitely turned their back on the band.
Captain: "THE DAMNED's career has been a roller coaster. One minute, the record is out and it looks like people might actually buy a few and the record company might actually pay you. And the next minute, the band is split up; you 're bankrupt and you've got the police banging on your door. They want to re-possess your house. "
In March 1985 the excellent single "Grimly Fiendish" followed and climbed to number 21 in the UK charts, despite the relative success a disappointment for the band, which was convinced of a hit. The following single, the Gothic anthem "Shadow Of Love", only made it to number 25. In July the band released their sixth regular studio album: "Phantasmagoria". In the fall, the highly commercial single "Is It A Dream" followed, which reached number 34.
In early 1986 the band released the cover of the 1960s hit "Eloise" by Barry / Paul Ryan. The single climbed to number 2 in the English charts and gave THE DAMNED their only top ten hit to date.
"Phantasmagoria" eventually became THE DAMNED's most successful album. It was rumored again and again that the band had taken a completely new direction here - Gothic - and left punk. Of course, "Phantasmagoria" was darker again and had an undeniable Gothic influence. There was also a massive image campaign by MCA aimed in this direction. Nevertheless, the album hardly marks a change in style musically, but was clearly a further development of what could already be heard in part on "Strawberries". With this, "Phantasmagoria" is completely in the tradition of its previous albums, but especially of "Black Album". It seems to be more the case that the sometimes violent criticism of the fans is related to the fact that THE DAMNED had now undeniably commercialized themselves and their music as part of the MCA deal. But who could blame them for that?
Rat: "It's very difficult to try and retain your individuality while at the same time knowing that you're still part of the same rat race that everybody else is going through and you're just another band, another freak show that's arrived for the punters to go and look at. "
In 1985/1986 THE DAMNED toured America, Europe and Asia. After pressure from MCA, the follow-up album "Anything" was to be created quickly. This was released in 1986 and was a disappointment both commercially and musically, also because THE DAMNED were unable to develop new song material due to the busy tour calendar. With "Anything" and the outstanding "Psychomania" there were also higher quality tracks, but overall the record seemed colorless and uninspired, which is supposed to be due to the fact that the band manager at the time Andy Cheeseman locked the band in a log cabin in Denmark for weeks. to increase concentration. It is well known that these are the worst possible prerequisites for the creation of a DAMNED "album." Anything "consequently flopped.
In 1988 the band split up again. At the end, THE DAMNED played a furious reunion concert in London's Town & Country Club, where the group performed a number of their classics from "Damned Damned Damned" to the "Black Album". Also part of the party were founding members Brian James and Captain Sensible, who allegedly had celebrated the "Happy Talk" salary. The last UK tour followed in 1989 under the somewhat DAMNED-typical motto "We Really Must Be Going". THE DAMNED also toured sporadically in 1991/1992, on the "I Didn't Say It" tour in 1991 with Paul Gray again.
In 1993/1994 Dave Vanian and Rat Scabies started a tour through Japan and Europe together with Alan Shaw (guitar), Kris Dollimore (ex-GODFATHERS / guitar) and Moose Harris (ex-NEW MODEL ARMY / bass), from the 1995 the album "Not Of This Earth" (aka "I'm Allright Jack And The Bean Stalk") was born. "Not Of This Earth" (Cleopatra) is a gruff rock album that is also often unfairly criticized because the song material is direct and authentic. THE DAMNED sound a lot harder here than on the immediately preceding albums. Needless to say, this album wasn't a success either. Dave Vanian, who allegedly recorded the demo material published here for a reunion with the original line-up, later distanced himself from the album and claimed that he had no idea that Rat wanted to publish the recorded material in this form. This also happened without his consent. Rat's version of what happened sounds completely different, of course. Today he says of his former bandmates: "They didn't give a shit about anything except getting paid (...)".
Anyway, the band broke up again and this time it hit the heart of the band with the "lovable bastard" Scabies. Rat had maneuvered THE DAMNED through the darkest hours after the separation of Sensible and Gray and the collapse of the bronze label. Now it was over.
But THE DAMNED are more than the sum of their individual members. In the meantime, the band had split up, reformed and seen so many line-ups so often that they seem to have developed a kind of life of their own. And so in 2001 it was again Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible who did THE DAMNED with Monty Oxy Moron on keyboards, Patricia Morrison on bass (ex-THE GUN CLUB and ex-THE SISTERS OF MERCY) and Pinch on drums (ex-ENGLISH DOGS ) revived and recorded a new album on the OFFSPRING label Nitro Records: "Grave Disorder" seems like a fast run through the history of the band from "Machine Gun Etiquette" to today. It includes fast rock and punk rock songs, for example the great rocker "Amen" including the ringing of bells and the "Looking for action" reminiscent of their American role models MC5, which could come directly from "Machine Gun Etiquette". Darker pieces such as the masterpiece "Absinthe" and the theatrical "Beauty of the beast" are also represented. This is where the often shallow TV commercial pop of the self-proclaimed prog rocker Sensible on the one hand and his great songwriting talent on the other hand meet the dramatic Gothic diva Dave Vanian, who is sometimes too gay, who is enthusiastic about music from the 60s and film scores. All of this in combination with a very good rhythm machine, Pinch / Morrison, and a crazy jazz-rock keyboardist in the background. Nevertheless, and maybe because of that, "Grave Disorder" is perhaps the best thing THE DAMNED have produced since the release of the "Black Album". Again, it goes without saying that "Grave Disorder" didn't turn out to be a huge success and the band were far from satisfied with the promotion of the album by Nitro Records.
Consequently, at the end of 2005, Lively Arts released the single "Little Miss Disaster" on their own (!) Label, a typical sensitive song, which unfortunately flattens significantly after a beautiful and completely misplaced intro and despite Vanian's vocals it is more like that musically gloomy moments in Sensibles solo career are reminiscent of a DAMNED song. It is to be hoped that the album expected for 2006 in fan circles will develop greater depth and Dave Vanian's remark that every DAMNED album is different from the previous one should not be understood as a threat. Incidentally, the bass is played by newcomer Stu West, as Patricia is currently devoting herself to raising little Emily Vanian.
What is left to say?
"Don't go out and spend money on Eddie van Halen records, those guys don't need your money! Save your money and buy a flute, drum kit, guitar or whatever. Just be creative. Don't strive for perfection. Perfection is boring. Be creative, do something you've always wanted to do. Just go out and do it! " (Captain Sensible)
© by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 44 September / October / November 2001 and Joachim Hiller
© by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 66 June / July 2006 and
© by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 137 April / May 2018 and Joachim Hiller
Ox-Fanzine # 155
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