The Damned

The Damned is an English punk-rock/psych band from London that released two albums on Stiff Records in 1977. They split in early 1978 but reformed later that year with a revised lineup in which original bassist Captain Sensible switched to guitar, opening the door to a succession of bassists. In 1979, the band released Machine Gun Etiquette on Chiswick Records, followed in 1980 by the triple-sided studio release The Black Album. Three further albums followed between 1982 and 1986 on Bronze and MCA, after which the band focused more on merchandising and live shows.

Members: Dave Vanian (vocals, theremin), Brian James (guitar, 1976-78, 1989-91), Captain Sensible (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals, 1976-84, 1989-92, 1996-present), Rat Scabies (drums, 1976-77, 1978-96), Lu Edmonds [aka Lu] (guitar, 1977-78), Jon Moss (drums, 1977-78), Alasdair Ward [aka Algy Ward] (bass, 1978-79), Paul Gray (bass, 1980-83, 1989-92, 1996, 2017-present), Bryn Merrick (bass, 1983-89), Roman Jugg (organ, synthesizer, guitar, 1983-89)


Background

The Damned assembled in the spring of 1976 from the remnants of two rehearsal bands: London SS and Masters of the Backside. Guitarist Brian James hailed from London SS, where he played alongside future members of The Clash and Generation X. For a brief time, London SS included drummer Rat Scabies (aka Chris Millar), who soon drifted to Masters of the Backside with singer Dave Vanian (aka Dave Lett), bassist Captain Sensible (aka Ray Burns), and American guitarist/singer Chrissie Hynde.

Masters of the Backside formed under the guidance of Sex Pistols manager Malcom McLaren, who owned the Kings Road punk boutique SEX, where Hynde worked. McLaren’s idea was to assembled more bands with a sound and image akin to the Pistols so that his boys would be seen as the vanguard of a new movement. As the nucleus of The Clash took hold within London SS, James drifted to the MotB camp, which renamed itself The Damned (a name briefly considered that spring by another rising local act, Ultravox, who performed a song titled “The Wild, the Beautiful, and the Damned”). Hynde left the band (later to surface as the frontwoman of The Pretenders) and McLaren associate Andy Czezowski took over as their manager.

The Damned played their first proper concert at London’s 100 Club on July 6, 1976, as an opening act for the Pistols. That August, The Damned played the First European Punk Rock Festival in Mont de Marsan in Southwest France. (Other acts who performed at the 8/21/76 event included Eddie and the Hot Rods, Pink Fairies, Roogalator, and the Tyla Gang).

On September 21, The Damned played the second night of the 100 Club Punk Special. Their performance took place between sets by fellow up-and-comers The Vibrators and the Buzzcocks.

That fall, The Damned signed with indie upstart Stiff Records and recorded their first single, “New Rose.” It was produced by musician Nick Lowe, who befriended the band during the Mont de Marsan event. The single appeared on October 22, 1976, beating the vinyl debut of rivals The Sex Pistols by five weeks. Its b-side is a sped-up cover of The Beatles “Help.”


1977


Damned Damned Damned

The Damned released their debut album, Damned Damned Damned, on February 18, 1977, on Stiff Records. It features their debut single “New Rose” and ten numbers from their first-year set list, including the live favorites “Born to Kill,” “Fan Club,” “See Her Tonight,” and the second Damned single “Neat Neat Neat.”

Guitarist Brian James wrote the eleven originals apart from the two shortest songs: “Fish” (a Tony James co-write from the London SS days) and drummer Rat Scabies’ 63-second “Stab Yor Back.” The album closes with “I Feel Alright,” an update of “1970” by The Stooges.

Musically, Damned Damned Damned adheres to the breakneck punk style apart from the mid-tempo “Fan Club” and the slow, spine-tingling “Feel the Pain,” a hammer-horror showcase for singer Dave Vanian.

1. “Neat Neat Neat” (2:46)
2. “Fan Club” (3:00)
3. “I Fall” (2:08)
4. “Born to Kill” (2:37)
5. “Stab Yor Back” (1:03)
6. “Feel the Pain” (3:37)

7. “New Rose” (2:44)
8. “Fish” (1:38)
9. “See Her Tonite” (2:29)
10. “1 of the 2” (3:10)
11. “So Messed Up” (1:55)
12. “I Feel Alright” (4:26) originated as “1970,” the Side Two opening jam on Fun House, the 1970 second album by The Stooges.

Sessions for the album (“New Rose” excepted) took place across ten days between December 1976 and January 1977 at Pathway Studios, where Nick Lowe produced The Damned amid work with Elvis Costello on My Aim Is True, the singer’s debut album. Pathway soundman Barry “Bazza” Farmer engineered Damned Damned Damned ahead of his production debut on “Fall Out,” the debut single by The Police.

Fashion photographer Peter “Kodick” Gravelle organized the pie-faced cover photo, which captures the clustered foursome in a cream-pasted moment. The Damned were not forewarned of Kodick’s plan.

Stiff, in one of its trademark off-handed promotional moves, pressed initial copies of Damned Damned Damned with a photo of Eddie and the Hot Rods (singed to Island Records) on the back cover with an erratum sticker to “apologize for any inconvenience caused.” On subsequent pressings, the back cover shows a live pic of The Damned captured at The Roxy. In the UK, the album appeared in shrink-wrap with a large sticker with “Damned Damned” in ‘pie-spattered’ bold red letters, which amended the full title to the yellow nameplate on the cover.

Stiff lifted “Neat Neat Neat” as the second Damned single, backed with “Stab Yor Back” and the non-album “Singalongascabies.”


“Stretcher Case Baby”

On July 3, 1977, the Damned released “Stretcher Case Baby,” a new Scabies–James a-side backed with the James exclusive “Sick of Being Sick.”

The Damned cut both sides on May 19 at Roundhouse Studios studios with American producer Shel Talmy, a soundman on classic mid-sixties singles by The Who, The Kinks, and The Creation.

Stiff pressed the single in a limited 5,000-copy run as a giveaway for attendees of the band’s first anniversary concerts at the Marquee Club. A small number were given away to fan club members and 250 were awarded to NME crossword-puzzle winners.


Music for Pleasure

The Damned released their second album, Music for Pleasure, on November 18, 1977, on Stiff Records. It features a re-recording of their summer single “Stretcher Case Baby” (titled “Stretcher Case”), one of two songs guitarist Brian James co-wrote with drummer Rat Scabies, who also co-authored the album’s second single “Problem Child.”

Music for Pleasure continues the punk style of Damned Damned Damned on select cuts (“Politics” “Creep (You Can’t Fool Me)”) and also embraces melodic hard rock (“Don’t Cry Wolf”) and heavy metal (“Alone”). Singer Dave Vanian co-wrote “Your Eyes,” a stab at sixties-style freakbeat. James plays slide guitar on “One Way Love.”

Each side ends with a five-minute jam: “Idiot Box” and “You Know,” both based on repetitive riffs with extended semi-improvised outros. The former marks the songwriting debut of bassist Captain Sensible, who co-authored “Idiot Box” with Scabies. “You Know” features guest saxophonist Lol Coxhill, a figure on London’s free-jazz scene and an associate of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, who produced Music for Pleasure in a rare soundboard credit.

Music for Pleasure is the second of two Damned albums with original guitarist–songwriter Brian James and their only release with rhythm guitarist Lu, who briefly expanded the band to a five-piece.

1. “Problem Child” (2:13)
2. “Don’t Cry Wolf” (3:15)
3. “One Way Love” (3:44)
4. “Politics” (2:26)
5. “Stretcher Case” (1:52)
6. “Idiot Box” (5:00)

7. “You Take My Money” (2:04)
8. “Alone” (3:37)
9. “Your Eyes” (2:53)
10. “Creep (You Can’t Fool Me)” (2:12)
11. “You Know” (5:05)

Sessions occurred in August 1977 at London’s Britannia Row Studios, a facility opened by Pink Floyd in 1975 and used for 1976–77 albums by Michael Mantler (The Hapless Child) and Floyd (Animals). Mason produced Music for Pleasure after Floyd wrapped the US leg of its In the Flesh tour.

Music for Pleasure is Mason’s seventh production credits after titles by Stomu Yamash’ta (Floating Music), Gong (Shamal), and two albums each by Principal Edwards Magic Theatre and Robert Wyatt. The Damned partnered with Mason after an unsuccessful attempt to contact Syd Barrett, Floyd’s long-reclusive original frontman. Mason’s drawn-out methods clashed with The Damned, who expected a speedy process with single takes.

Animals soundman Brian Humphries engineered Music for Pleasure with Nick Griffiths, who engineered the Britannia Row sessions for the 1977 Passport release The Intergalactic Touring Band, recorded by an all-star supergroup.

Music for Pleasure features a multi-colored abstract doodle by illustator Barney Bubbles, whose visuals also appear on albums by Hawkwind, Quintessence, and the 1977 single “Your Generation” by Generation X. Stiff–UA photographer Chris Gabrin caputured The Damned in zoomed monochrome double-vision (back cover) and blurred movement (inner-sleeve). Gabrin’s photography appears on concurrent sleeves for Elvis Costello (“Less Than Zero”) and The Stranglers (“Grip” / “London Lady”).

The Damned preceded Music for Pleasure with a second advance single, “Problem Child,” released on September 28, 1977 (b/w “You Take My Money”).

A second single, “Don’t Cry Wolf,” followed the album on December 11, 1977 (b/w “One Way Love”).


1978–1979


“Love Song”

In April 1979, the Damned released “Love Song,” a comeback rocker backed with “Suicide” and “Noise Noise Noise” — all group compositions.


Machine Gun Etiquette

The Damned released their third album, Machine Gun Etiquette, on November 2, 1979, on Chiswick Records.

“Smash It Up” preceded Machine Gun Etiquette as the second advance single, backed with the non-album “Burglar.”

Chiswick lifted “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” as the album’s third single, backed with two exclusives: “Turkey Song” and the Sweet cover “Ballroom Blitz.”


1980–1981


“White Rabbit”

In 1980, the Damned released a cover of the Jefferson Airplane classic “White Rabbit,” backed with the exclusive originals “Rabid (Over You)” and “Seagulls.” Chiswick limited this release to France and Germany.


The Black Album

The Damned released their fourth album, The Black Album, on November 3, 1980, on Chiswick Records.

“The History of the World (Part 1)”
Released: September 1980 backed with the non-album tracks “I Believe the Impossible” and “Sugar and Spite”

“Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde”
Released: 13 February 1981 (US-only release)

“Wait for the Blackout”
Released: 6 May 1982 backed with a cover of “Jet Boy Jet Girl,” a censored 1977 single by Elton Motello (ala Alan Ward, James’ onetime Bastard bandmate) that became an international hit for Belgian performer Plastic Bertrand under its French translation “Ça plane pour moi.”

“Lively Arts”
Released: 10 October 1982 backed with the live number “Teenage Dream.” The single appeared on 10″ and 12″ formats with a third track, “I’m So Bored” (1:17).


“There Ain’t No Sanity Clause”

On November 24, 1980, the Damned released “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause,” a Yuletide spoof backed with the Black Album track “Hit or Miss” and the MC5 cover “Looking at You.”


Friday 13th

On November 13, 1981, the Damned released Friday 13th, a four-song EP with three new originals — “Disco Man” (3:20) “Limit Club” (4:15) “Billy Bad Breaks” (3:53) — and a cover of the psychedelic Rolling Stones number “Citadel” (from Their Satanic Majesties Request).


1982–1983


“Lovely Money”

On June 18, 1982, the Damned released “Lovely Money,” a standalone single backed with “I Think I’m Wonderful” and a disco mix of the a-side.


Strawberries

The Damned released their fifth album, Strawberries, in October 1982 on Bronze Records.

“Dozen Girls”
Released: 17 September 1982 backed with three non-album songs: “Take That” (2:48), “Mine’s a Large One Landlord” (1:16), and “Torture Me” (1:26).

“Generals”
Released: 25 November 1982 backed with “Disguise” “Citadel Zombies”

Robert Fripp of King Crimson dropped in on the Strawberries sessions and collaborated with The Damned on one track, “Fun Factory,” but it remained unreleased until the album’s 1990 CD reissue.


1984–1985


“Thanks for the Night”

In May 1984, the Damned released the standalone single “Thanks for the Night,” their final recording with Sensible, backed with the exclusive “Nasty.” The 12″ contains a third track, “Do the Blitz.”


Phantasmagoria

The Damned released their sixth album, Phantasmagoria, in July 1985 on MCA Records.

“Grimly Fiendish”
Released: 18 March 1985 (b/w “Edward the Bear”)

“The Shadow of Love”
Released: 10 June 1985 backed with the non-album “Nightshift”

“Is It a Dream?”
Released: 9 September 1985 backed with a live version of “Street of Dreams”


1986–1987


“Eloise”

On January 27, 1986, the Damned released the standalone single “Eloise,” a cover of the 1968 UK hit by singer Barry Ryan. The b-side, “Temptation,” is a group original. Twelve-inch copies of the single contain a third track, “Beat Girl,” the theme to a 1960 British teen film.


Anything

The Damned released their seventh album, Anything, on December 1, 1986, on MCA Records.

“Anything”
Released: 6 November 1986 backed with the non-album “The Year of the Jackal”

“Gigolo”
Released: 23 January 1987 (b/w “The Portrait”)

“Alone Again Or”
Released: 6 April 1987 backed with another Love cover, “A House Is Not a Motel,” an orchestral ballad on Forever Changes.

“In Dulce Decorum”
Released: 16 November 1987 (b/w “Psychomania”)


Discography:

  • Damned Damned Damned (1977)
  • Music for Pleasure (1977)
  • Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)
  • The Black Album (2LP, 1980)
  • Strawberries (1982)
  • Phantasmagoria (1985)
  • Anything (1986)

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