When it comes to British punk, the first band that usually comes to mind is the notorious Sex Pistols. However, it’s time to set the record straight and acknowledge one of the true pioneers of the genre: The Damned.
These trailblazers were the first punk band to release an album, and it wasn’t just any album. Their debut, “Damned Damned Damned,” was a raw and raucous masterpiece that laid the foundation for the punk movement. It was a breath of fresh air in the stagnant music scene of the mid-’70s, and its impact is still felt to this day.
But The Damned didn’t stop there. They were also the first British punk band to travel to America to perform live, spreading their rebellious message across the pond. And they didn’t shy away from controversy either.
During the brief 18-month span of early British punk from 1976-1978, The Damned seemed to live a lifetime. They burst onto the scene with all the energy and chaos of a new-born baby. Sadly, like many great bands, The Damned disbanded after only two albums, marking the end of an era.
However, they didn’t stay away for long. Less than a year later, they regrouped and reformed a band, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, proving that the punk spirit can never truly die.
The Damned didn’t exactly revolutionize or innovate the punk genre. They didn’t have a Malcolm McLaren or Vivienne Westwood to back them up like the Sex Pistols did. But what they lacked in fashion sense, they made up for in pure, unadulterated drunken chaos. These guys were the embodiment of British drinking culture – naked shenanigans, yelling, pranks, and teasing. In other words, they were just like your average working-class kid after a few too many pints.
So, while The Damned may not have left a lasting impact on the punk scene in terms of fashion or musical innovation, they certainly knew how to party. And let’s face it, sometimes that’s all you need in a good punk band. So, next time you’re feeling rebellious and ready to let loose, put on some Damned and let the good times roll.
Story of The Damned
Well, well, well, let’s dive into the early days of The Damned, shall we? It all started with Brian James, a guitarist who had a penchant for old-school American rock from the late ’60s and early ’70s. Before The Damned, he was in a band called Bustard, but they couldn’t get any gigs in England because they didn’t fit the pub rock meld that was popular at the time. So, they packed up and headed to Belgium, where the people had a real appreciation for bands like MC5, The Dolls, and Lou Reed.
But eventually, Brian returned to England in 1976 and be with the band called London SS. (Tony James and Mick Jones was past members) It was during this time that he met a drummer by the name of Chris Miller, who would later change his name to Rat Scabies. As the band members came and went, Brian and Rat stuck together and formed a new band – The Damned.
Meanwhile, Dave Vanian had some punk rock cred under his belt, having previously played with the band Masters of the Backside. And it was Brian James who took notice of Dave’s talents and invited him to audition for The Damned.
But let’s not forget about Captain Sensible, the bassist who had previously played with Dave and Rat in Masters of the Backside. It’s almost like a small world of punk rockers in London at the time.
Almost Syd Vicious!
Rat Scabies, the drummer of The Damned, reflected on the process of finding a new singer for the band. According to Rat, it was a challenging task to find an artist with the perfect attitude and personality that would suit the band’s style. They attended Sex Pistols gigs in search of potential candidates, but few met their criteria.
However, when Sid Vicious walked into one of these shows, he immediately caught their attention with his distinctive look, complete with a padlock, gold jacket, and spiky hair. Scabies recalled being impressed with Vicious’ attitude and approached him to offer him the job.
The Damned weren’t just looking for a singer, but rather someone with a unique personality that would complement the band’s sound. At the time, most people attending gigs were regular music fans, and finding someone who fit their criteria was a rare occurrence.
Picture this: two potential lead singers, Dave Vanian and Sid Vicious, vying for the same spot in The Damned. It’s like a battle royale of punk rock vocals. But unfortunately for Sid, he missed the final test, leading to rumours that he was drugged and sabotaged by someone. Maybe it was Dave, maybe it was someone else, but Sid was not a happy camper.
And with all the drama surrounding the lead singer auditions, it’s no wonder why Sid may have felt like he was poisoned. But in the end, it was Dave who won the spot as lead singer of The Damned, and the rest is history.
Little did he know, this would set off a chain of events that would pit Sid against Dave and cause tensions within the punk rock scene.
So, there you have it – the origins of The Damned. A band born out of a love for American rock and a bunch of dudes who just wanted to make some noise. And boy, did they make noise. From their wild antics to their high-energy performances, The Damned quickly became a staple in the punk scene.
The Damned made a name for themselves with their straightforward approach to punk music, focusing on fast and fun playing. They wasted no time recording their first album, which was completed in just two days. Their breakout hit “New Rose” was released as a single in October 1976, and it quickly became a defining punk anthem.
The Damned’s rise to fame coincided with the emergence of other punk bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Johnny Thunder. They even went on tour with these iconic groups, but not without some drama.
The night before the tour, the band had a rehearsal at SoundCzech, where they were interrupted by The Sex Pistols who had just come from filming The Bill Grundy Show. The next day, the newspapers were in an uproar over The Sex Pistols’ use of profanity during the show, and they received backlash for it.
Despite the controversy, The Damned remained true to their sound and continued to release music that was fast, fun, and rebellious. They made a mark on the punk scene and influenced countless other musicians with their energetic and uncompromising approach to music.
On 7 December, Derby City Council banned the Sex Pistols from performing because of the scandal they caused, resulting in The Clash and Johnny Thunder not showing up. However, The Damned continued to perform, making it seem like they didn’t care about their comrades.
Moreover, the band had to deal with ego problems because of their position in the tour. They were originally supposed to play as the third band before the Sex Pistols, but this was changed to make them the first band, which upset The Damned. This was all due to the fact that the band wanted to elevate The Clash, whose manager Bernie Rhodes was Malcolm’s assistant. This caused even more tension between the groups.
Eventually, The Damned managed to get Malcolm knocked out of the tour, which led to them being labeled as “outsiders” in the British punk scene.
The Damned’s first album, Damned Damned Damned, was a groundbreaking moment in punk music history. Released on 18 February 1977, it was the first full-length album to be released by a UK punk band. The album was recorded in just four days, with a budget of only £2000. But despite the lack of resources, the album received critical acclaim and helped establish The Damned as a major force in the punk scene.
Following the success of their album, The Damned embarked on their first US tour in August of 1977. In preparation for the tour, the band added Lou Edmunds as another guitarist. However, tensions arose within the band as Brian James believed that he alone could handle the guitar work. The other members disagreed, leading to disagreements and internal conflict.
Despite the conflicts, The Damned continued to tour and record music. They released their second album, Music for Pleasure, in November of 1977. The album was produced by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, but it failed to match the success of their debut album. The band also experienced financial troubles and were forced to sell their equipment to pay off debts.
The release of Music for Pleasure marked a significant turning point for The Damned. The choice of Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason as producer was an unusual move for a punk band known for their raw and unpolished sound. The album’s sound drifted away from punk and towards space rock, psychedelic rock and progressive rock, which was a major departure from their previous style. The production values on the album were bizarre and seemed to alienate fans, leading to the departure of Rat, the band’s original drummer.
The addition of Jon Moss as the new drummer for the band was yet another surprise move. Jon Moss would later go on to play drums for the popular 80s band, Culture Club. Despite these changes, The Damned went on tour after the release of Music for Pleasure, but announced their disbandment just a few months later in February 1978.
May be the band’s decision to move away from their punk roots and experiment with a different sound and production style ultimately led to their downfall. However, their impact on the punk rock movement and the music industry as a whole cannot be ignored. The Damned will always be remembered as one of the pioneers of the punk rock genre.
So, the next time someone mentions British punk, remember that it wasn’t just the Sex Pistols who started it all. The Damned were there from the beginning, pushing boundaries and inspiring countless bands to follow in their footsteps. And if you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and give Damned Damned Damned a spin. You won’t regret it.