Today's artists influenced future hardcore punk bands with their fast-paced, energetic playing style and attitude. Along with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, they helped to spearhead the punk movement in the United Kingdom. They are sometimes referred to as British punk's "band of firsts," having made accomplishments mentioned previously, as well as other "firsts" like the first punk band to break up and come back........N'Joy
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With punk's history having entered a new millennium, the impact of the band initially judged "the least likely to" seems to grow ever more each day. The Ramones hold deserved pride of place for kick-starting the whole thing, while the Sex Pistols -- and to a lesser extent, the Clash -- helped take it to an even more notorious level, serving as role models for many young bands to this day. But arguably just as important and memorable were the Damned, London contemporaries of the Pistols and Clash that made their own mark from the start. Eschewing political posing, ill-fitting outside rhetoric, and simply doing the same thing over and over again, the group -- which lacked anything like a stable lineup -- took punk's simplicity and promise as a starting point and ran with it. The end result, at the group's finest: a series of inspired, ambitious albums and amazing live shows combining full-on rock energy, a stylish sense of performance, and humorous deadpan cool. Not necessarily what anyone would have thought when Ray Burns and Chris Millar met in 1974, when both ended up working backstage at the Croydon Fairfield Hall.
Burns and Millar -- more famously known in later years as guitarist/singer Captain Sensible and manic drummer Rat Scabies -- kept in touch as both struggled in the stultifying mid-'70s London scene. Things picked up when Scabies talked his way into a rehearsal with London S.S., the shifting lineup ground zero of U.K. punk that nearly everybody seemed to belong to at one point or another. There he met guitarist Brian James, while in a separate venture overseen by Malcolm McLaren, casting about for his own particular group to oversee, Scabies first met theatrical singer Dave Vanian, still working through his New York Dolls/Alice Cooper obsession. Vanian's own history allegedly included singing "I Love the Dead" and "Dead Babies" while working as a gravedigger, but whatever the background, he proved to be a perfect frontman. Scabies put Sensible in touch with Vanian and James and the Damned were born, with Sensible switching over to bass while James handled guitar and songwriting.
Though the Sex Pistols became the most publicized of all the original London punk groups, forming and playing before everyone else, the Damned actually ended up scoring most of the firsts on its own, notably the first U.K. punk single -- "New Rose" -- in 1976 and the first album, Damned Damned Damned, the following year. Produced by Nick Lowe, both were clipped, direct explosions of sheer energy, sometimes rude but never less than entertaining. The group ended up sacked from the Pistols' cancellation-plagued full U.K. tour after only one show, but rebounded with a opening slot on the final T. Rex tour, while further tweaking everyone else's noses by being the first U.K. act to take punk back to America via a New York jaunt. Things started to get fairly shaky after that, however, with Lu Edmonds drafted in on second guitar and plans for the group's second album, Music for Pleasure, not succeeding as hoped for. The members wanted legendary rock burnout Syd Barrett to produce, but had to settle for his Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason. The indifferent results and other pressures convinced Scabies to call it a day, and while future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss was drafted in to cover, the group wrapped it up in early 1978.
Or so it seemed; after various go-nowhere ventures (Sensible tried the retro-psych King, Vanian temporarily joined glam-too-late oddballs the Doctors of Madness), all the original members save James realized they still enjoyed working together. Settling the legal rights to the name after some shows incognito in late 1978, the group, now with Sensible playing lead guitar (and also the first U.K. punk band to reunite), embarked on its most successful all-around period. With a series of bassists -- first ex-Saints member Algy Ward, then Eddie & the Hot Rods refugee Paul Gray and finally Bryn Merrick -- the Damned proceeded to make a run of stone-cold classic albums and singles. There'd be plenty of low points amidst the highs, to be sure, but it's hard to argue with the results. Vanian's smart crooning and spooky theatricality ended up more or less founding goth rock inadvertently (with nearly all his clones forgetting what he always kept around -- an open sense of humor). Sensible, meanwhile, turned out to be an even better guitarist than James, a master of tight riffs and instantly memorable melodies and, when needed, a darn good keyboardist, while Scabies' ghost-of-Keith Moon drumming was some of the most entertaining yet technically sharp work on that front in years.
Machine Gun Etiquette The one-two punch of Machine Gun Etiquette, the 1979 reunion record, and the following year's The Black Album demonstrated the band's staying power well, packed with such legendary singles as the intentionally ridiculous "Love Song," the anthemic "Smash It Up," and "Wait for the Blackout" and the catchy Satanism (if you will) of "I Just Can't Be Happy Today." On the live front, the Damned were unstoppable, riding out punk's supposed death with a series of fiery performances laden with both great playing and notable antics, from Sensible's penchant for clothes-shedding to Vanian's eye for horror style and performance. Released in 1982, Strawberries found the Damned creating another generally fine release, but to less public acclaim than Sensible's solo work, the guitarist having surprisingly found himself a number one star with a version of "Happy Talk" from South Pacific. While the dual career lasted for a year or two more, the Damned found themselves starting to fracture again with little more than a hardcore fan base supporting the group work -- Sensible finally left in mid-1984 after disputes over band support staff hirings and firings. Second guitarist Roman Jugg, having joined some time previously, stepped to the lead and the band continued on.
Phantasmagoria To everyone's surprise, not only did the Damned bounce back, they did so in a very public way -- first by ending up on a major label, MCA, who issued Phantasmagoria in 1985, then scoring a massive U.K. hit via a cover of "Eloise," a melodramatic '60s smash for Barry Ryan. It was vindication on a commercial level a decade after having first started, but the Anything album in 1986, flashes of inspiration aside, felt far more anonymous in comparison, the band's worst since Music for Pleasure.
After a full career retrospective release, The Light at the End of the Tunnel, the band undertook a variety of farewell tours, including dates with both Sensible and James joining the then-current quartet. The end of 1989 brought a final We Really Must Be Going tour in the U.K., featuring the original quartet in one last bow, which would seem to have been the end to things. Anything but. The I Didn't Say It tour arrived in 1991, with Paul Gray rejoining the band to play along with the quartet. It was the first in a series of dates and shows throughout the '90s which essentially confirmed the group as a nostalgia act, concentrating on the early part of its career for audiences often too young to have even heard about them the first time around. It was a good nostalgia act, though, with performances regularly showing the old fire (and Sensible his legendary stage presence, often finishing shows nude). After some 1992 shows, the Damned disappeared again for a while -- but when December 1993 brought some more dates, an almost all-new band was the result. Only Scabies and Vanian remained, much like the late '80s lineup; their cohorts were guitarists Kris Dollimore and Alan Lee Shaw and bassist Moose.
This quintet toured and performed in Japan and Europe for about two years, also recording demos here and there that Vanian claimed he believed were for a projected future album with both Sensible and James contributing. Whatever the story, nothing more might have happened if Scabies hadn't decided to work out a formal release of those demos as Not of This Earth, first appearing in Japan in late November 1995. Vanian, having reestablished contact with Sensible during the former's touring work with his Phantom Chords band, responded by breaking with Scabies, reuniting fully with Sensible and recruiting a new group to take over the identity of the Damned. Initially this consisted of Gray once again, plus drummer Garrie Dreadful and keyboardist Monty. However, Gray was replaced later in 1996 following an on-stage tantrum by, in a totally new twist, punk veteran Patricia Morrison, known for her work in the Gun Club and the Sisters of Mercy among many other bands. Scabies reacted to all this with threats of lawsuits and vituperative public comments, but after all was said and done, Vanian, Sensible, and company maintained the rights to the name, occasional billing as "ex-members of the Damned" aside, done to avoid further trouble.
Since then, this latest version of the Damned has toured on a fairly regular basis, though this time with instability in the drumming department (Dreadful left at the end of 1998, first replaced by Spike, then later in 1999 by Pinch). While Vanian continued to pursue work with the Phantom Chords, for the first time in years, the Damned started to become a true outfit once again, the lineup gelling and holding together enough to warrant further attention. The capper was a record contract in 2000 with Nitro Records, the label founded and run by longtime Damned fanatic Dexter Holland, singer with the Offspring (who covered "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack in the mid-'90s). In a fun personal note, meanwhile, Morrison and Vanian married, perhaps making them the ultimate punk/goth couple of all time. Grave Disorder By 2001, the Vanian/Sensible-led Damned looked to be in fine shape, releasing the album Grave Disorder on Nitro and touring to general acclaim. Knowing the fractured history of the band -- captured in the literally endless series of releases, authorized and otherwise, from all periods of its career, live, studio, compilations, and more -- only a foolish person would claim things would stay on an even keel for the future.
Permanently losing Scabies would seem to have been a killer blow on first blush, but the group has soldiered on regardless, a welcome influence from the past as well as a group of fine entertainers for the present. The year 2005 found both eras of the band being represented. While the new lineup was touring and working on a new album, the original lineup was honored by the three-disc box set Play It at Your Sister, which was released on the Sanctuary label. The limited-edition set covered the years 1976-1977, featuring all the tracks from the first two albums along with John Peel sessions and live material. It soon came time for the new lineup to issue its own album, which arrived in 2008 in the form of a slick, pop-influenced record titled So, Who's Paranoid? Extensive touring ensued, and in early 2015, with Sensible present, a documentary titled The Damned: Don't You Wish That You Were Dead premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. Merrick, who had been performing in a Ramones tribute band, died later that year of cancer.
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While the Sex Pistols will always have a prominent place in the story of U.K. punk, the Damned did nearly everything first, including the first single, the smoking "New Rose," and the first album, namely this stone classic of rock & roll fire. At just half an hour long, Damned Damned Damned is a permanent testimony to original guitarist Brian James' songwriting (ten of the 12 tracks are his) and the band's take-no-prisoners aesthetic. Starting with Captain Sensible's sharp bassline for "Neat Neat Neat," which rapidly explodes into a full band thrash, the Damned left rhetoric for the theoreticians and political posing for the Clash. All the foursome wanted to do was rock, and that they do here. Dave Vanian already has his spooky-voiced theatrics down cold; "Feel the Pain" indulges his Alice Cooper fascination while the band creates some creepy fun behind him. Most of the time, he's yelping with the best of them, but with considerably more control than most of the era's shouters. Scabies' considerable reputation as a drummer starts here; comparisons flew thick and fast to Keith Moon, and not just for on-stage antics (of which there were plenty). His sense of stop-start rhythm and fills is simply astounding, whether on "So Messed Up" or in his own one-minute goof, "Stab Yer Back." Though the Captain doesn't get his full chance to shine on bass, he's more than adequate, while James just cranks the amps and lets fly. Concluding with a version of the Stooges' "I Feel Alright" that sounds hollower than the original but no less energetic, Damned Damned Damned is and remains rock at its messy, wonderful best.
The Damned - Damned Damned Damned (flac 222mb)
01 Neat Neat Neat 2:46
02 Fan Club 2:59
03 I Fall 2:08
04 Born To Kill 2:37
05 Stab Your Back 1:03
06 Feel The Pain 3:37
07 New Rose 2:44
08 Fish 1:38
09 See Her Tonite 2:29
10 1 Of The 2 3:10
11 So Messed Up 1:55
12 I Feel Alright 4:26
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Produced, for numerous arcane reasons, by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, the second Damned album, Music for Pleasure, was considered a disaster at the time and led to their being dropped from Stiff and their first break-up. In retrospect, however, it's quite a respectable punk artifact, though the Damned themselves rejected it and never performed any of its songs again. More a historical document than a great LP, Music for Pleasure's highlights include "Politics," "Alone," "Your Eyes," and "Creep (You Can't Fool Me)." There's some great Lol Coxhill sax wailing on "You Know," and Beatles completists will be interested in the band's cover of "Help." Not essential, but a good solid album for collectors of '70s punk.
The Damned - Music For Pleasure (flac 259mb)
01 Problem Child 2:13
02 Don't Cry Wolf 3:15
03 One Way Love 3:44
04 Politics 2:26
05 Stretcher Case 1:52
06 Idiot Box 5:00
07 You Take My Money 2:04
08 Alone 3:37
09 Your Eyes 2:53
10 Creep (You Can't Fool Me) 2:12
11 You Know 5:05
12 Help 1:45
13 Sick Of Being Sick 2:32
14 Singalong A Scabies 0:59
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Rejoining forces without Brian James, who pursued his own interests from then on (only hooking up with the band again for a late-'80s "farewell" show), the remaining three brought in young Saints veteran Ward on bass, recorded an album, and hoped for the best. That best proved much better than expected; while singles ended up on the charts, Machine Gun Etiquette itself was deservedly hailed as another classic from the band. Over time, its reputation has grown to equal the original Damned Damned Damned; while no less strong than that record, the Damned here bring in a wide variety of touches and influences to create a record that most of their contemporaries could never have approached. The group's wicked way around witty punk hadn't ebbed a bit; the opening cut, "Love Song," is a hilarious trashing of romantic clichés (sample lyric: "I'll be the rubbish, you'll be the bin!") that barely lasts two minutes, while "Noise, Noise, Noise" and "Liar" work in the same general vein. These, however, only scratch the surface. "Melody Lee," written by the Captain for a favorite comic character, starts with a lovely piano intro, whereas the celebratory angst of "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" chugs along with garagey élan and keyboards á la the Electric Prunes. Other prime standouts include "Plan 9 Channel 7," a Grand Guignol of an epic about James Dean and Vampira with a fantastic Vanian vocal; the merry mayhem of "These Hands" (belonging to a killer circus clown, with appropriate carnival music, of course); and a great rip through the MC5's "Looking at You." The best moment was saved for last, though: "Smash It Up," a two-part number divided between an affecting instrumental tribute to longtime supporter and Captain hero Marc Bolan, and a perfect trash-the-rules-and-party pop/punk/R&B scorcher
The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette (flac 432mb)
01 Love Song 2:21
02 Machine Gun Etiquette 1:48
03 I Just Can't Be Happy Today 3:42
04 Melody Lee 2:07
05 Anti-Pope 3:19
06 These Hands 2:02
07 Plan 9 Channel 7 5:08
08 Noise, Noise, Noise 3:09
09 Looking At You 5:07
10 Liar 2:43
11 Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2) 5:11
12 Love Song (Ed Hollis Version) 2:03
13 Noise, Noise, Noise (Ed Hollis Version) 3:25
14 Suicide 3:18
15 Smash It Up (Part 2) (Backing Track - Singalonga Damned) 2:56
16 Smash It Up (Part 4) 1:57
17 Burglar 3:33
18 I Just Can't Be Happy Today (DJ Edit) 3:00
19 Ballroom Blitz 3:28
20 Turkey Song 1:32
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The fact that one of its songs is called "Hit or Miss" is quite appropriate for the double-vinyl Black Album; while not perfect, it's definitely got some high points on it. Given the intentionally parodic reference to the Beatles' own two-disc sprawler, perhaps the semi-schizophrenia is perfectly intentional. Some of the numbers show the band following their original punk vein, but by this point the four (joined here by a new bassist, Paul Gray) were leaving straight, three-chord thrash to the cul-de-sac revivalists. The album begins with a Damned classic, "Wait for the Blackout," a dramatic psych/punk surge infected with Vanian's glorious croon, celebrating the joys of the night while steering clear of overtly-serious goth affectations. After that, things start to vary, but tracks of note are still thick on the ground, including "Lively Arts," a nicely barbed take on culture with some harpsichord to match, and the goofy but still enjoyable "Drinking About My Baby." Regardless, things get a bit restful at points, and while Vanian often steps forward to continue carrying it along, sometimes even the band isn't happy with the results. "History of the World (Part One)" has always carried the credit "overproduced by Hans Zimmer" because they felt the guest synth player did just that! However, the final two studio tracks are doozies: "Therapy," a Sensible/Vanian-sung romp with a great chorus, and the sidelong "Curtain Call," perhaps the most unlikely thing the Damned ever did. That said, it's still a surprisingly good blast, a tour de force for Vanian particularly and a chance for the band to try everything from straightforward rock to gentler atmospherics.
The Damned - The Black Album (flac 368mb)
01 Wait For The Blackout 3:51
02 Lively Arts 2:55
03 Silly Kid's Games 2:15
04 Drinking About My Baby 3:27
05 Twisted Nerve 4:35
06 Hit Or Miss 2:36
07 Dr Jeckyll And Mr Hyde 4:31
08 Sick Of This And That 1:47
09 The History Of The World (Part 1) 3:52
10 13th Floor Vendetta 5:04
11 Therapy 6:11
12 Curtain Call 17:12
The Damned - The Black Album bonus (flac 343mb)
01 Love Song (Live) 2:10
02 Second Time Around (Live) 1:46
03 Smash It Up Parts 1 & 2 (Live) 4:24
04 New Rose (Live) 1:50
05 I Just Can't Be Happy Today (Live) 3:55
06 Plan 9 Channel 7 (Live) 5:12
07 White Rabbit 3:00
08 Rabid (Over You) 3:43
09 Seagulls 2:36
10 The History Of The World (Part 1) (Single Version) 3:48
11 I Believe The Impossible 2:54
12 Sugar And Spite 1:30
13 There Ain't No Sanity Clause 2:27
14 Looking At You (Live) 5:51
15 White Rabbit (Extended Version) 5:22
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