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Monday, January 16, 2006

THE DAMNED: Thanx for the memories

The Damned, circa 1976
I have now opened me Damned box set thang, and have to say it is a bit special and has brought back some memories.

I would like to be able to say that I bought The Damned’s New Rose, the first ever official UK punk single, the week it came out, but the truth is by the time The Damned came across my radar in late ’77 they already had two albums out and were on the verge of breaking up. By the time they got back together in early ’79 I was a massive fan and had got my hands on most of the stuff they had released on Stiff records (the subject of this box set).

The set also contains loads of demos, peel sessions and live tracks never previously released. It is quite understandable why the Mont De Marsten festival thing has never been released before, it is dreadful; as an item of ‘curiosity’ though, it is perfect.

When the come back single, Love Song, was released the Damned were in a position of already having a massive fan base, myself included. From then on, I went to see every Damned gig my limited budget would allow, sometimes travelling considerable distances. There were nights spent sleeping in bus shelters, in squats and on the floors of student digs; there were long hours on the side of the motorway with my thumb out, or jammed into the back of over packed transit vans and nights driving half way accross the country in cars that we were not sure would get us home.

There was a time I could count the number of gigs I had been to by individual bands; I have long since given up counting such things but I do remember there was a time when I would say that I had seen the Damned over 60 times… that was a long time ago and the number has no doubt increased since then.

There was a period when we used to get backstage through the various Welsh lads that drifted through the band, in particular Maesycwmer boy Roman Jugg, who played keyboards for them for a while. I remember them being larger than life, Captain Sensible being every bit as animated off stage as he was on, Dave Vanian being the perfect gentleman and Rat Scabies being, quite frankly, an arrogant t@at.

They kept at it for a good many years, mutating as they went. With the Black Album they dared to mix psychedelia with punk and it could be argued that they influenced the birth of ‘Goth’, but they never really got bogged down with that label themselves.

Somewhere in the ‘90s they lost the plot a bit with Captain wandering in and out of the band, and (for me at least) became a bit irrelevant. I confess there is a period where I lost track of the band almost completely, Captain was concentrating on side projects, Rat was being a tw@t about money (he is no longer in the band and the band want nothing to do with him) and somehow they managed to release an album 'I'm Alright Jack and the Beanstalk' which Dave Vanian did not want released; indeed the band have now disowned the album completely. But then I remember catching them in Butlins and somehow everything had changed.

A gang of us went to a punk weekend in Butlins in Minehead. If this sounds cheesey, let me assure you it was. For a mere £35 we had three nights accommodation in a chalet and in the region of 60 punk bands to keep us occupied. At that price we had to go, we might even hava laugh while we are at it!

Many of those that had turned out looked as if they had been wearing the same t-shirts and listening to the same music for 25 years, I could not help but think they had somehow missed the point of punk. Many of the bands were stuck in the same time warp and we stood there in amazement as Chelsea appeared to be doing the exact same set as they had when we first caught them two decades earlier. Not all the bands were living in the past, Slaughter and the Dogs and a few others had moved on a little… and then there was the Damned.

The Damned far and away stole the show, blowing everyone off the stage. They still had that old energy but the music had progressed, in keeping with a band that now had twenty odd years of constant gigging and recording under their belt. Perhaps most importantly, the Captain was back. They were tighter, sharper and slicker than ever before. I think one of the reasons they were so good was that they have managed to keep the ‘spirit’ of punk going but have not been caught in a rut and have progressed to something much slicker than punk ever could have been , or would ever have wanted to be.

I was firmly back on board and got back into checking them out on a regular basis again.

Official Damned website
The Captains (B)Log
Another Great Website from The Damned (fan site)
One Way Love (fan site)
Sugar and Spite (on-line fanzine)
Totally Damned (another fan site!)
Eternal Damnation (blog)


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