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The Damned are an English rock band formed in London in 1976. They were the first punk rock band from the United Kingdom to release a single ("New Rose"), an album (Damned Damned Damned), to have a record on the UK music charts, and to tour the United States. The Damned later evolved into one of the forerunners of the gothic genre.
They have incorporated numerous styles into their music and image, including: garage rock, psychedelic rock, cabaret, and the theatrical rock of Screaming Lord Sutch and Alex Harvey. Lead singer Dave Vanian's vocal style has been described as similar to a crooner. The Damned have dissolved and reformed many times, with Vanian as the sole constant member; the lineups have always included either guitarist Captain Sensible and/or drummer Rat Scabies, who are both founding members. The current line-up is Vanian, Captain Sensible, Monty Oxy Moron, Pinch and Stu West.
Dave Vanian (David Letts), Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) and Rat Scabies (Chris Millar) had been members of the band Masters of the Backside, which also included futurePretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde. Brian James (Brian Robertson) had been a member of the Crawley-based garage band Bastard and fledgling punk band London SS, who never played live but included musicians who later found fame in The Clash and Generation X. Scabies knew James through a failed audition as drummer for London SS. When the two decided to start their own band, James and Scabies had invited Sid Vicious and Dave Vanian to audition to be the singer of The Damned. Only Vanian showed up, and so he became the frontman of the band.
They were the first of the London punk bands to release a single: "New Rose", on the independent label Stiff. It was described by critic Ned Raggett as a "deathless anthem of nuclear-strength romantic angst". Vanian's deadpan intro — "Is she really going out with him?" — referenced The Shangri-Las' 1964 "Leader of the Pack". The B-side was an ultra-fast cover version of The Beatles' "Help!". Their first album, Damned Damned Damned, was the first album released by a British punk band, and included the single "Neat Neat Neat" as well as a cover of The Stooges' "1970", re-titled "I Feel Alright". Nick Lowe, already solidly established among cutting-edge British artists including various Stiff acts, produced both the Damned's first single and their debut album.
In 1977, they became the first British punk band to tour the United States. According to Brendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angeles club The Masque, the Damned's first tour of the U.S. found them favouring very fast tempos, helping to inspire the first wave of U.S. west coast hardcore punk.
I've changed my opinion of the Damned. I've seen them a lot, and I think they're fun to watch. They play good. The only thing I have against them is that they can't play as well as us.—Joe Strummer
In March 1977, The Damned opened for T. Rex on their final tour. They then recruited a second guitarist, known as Lu. This expanded line-up unsuccessfully tried to recruit the reclusiveSyd Barrett to produce their second album Music For Pleasure. They settled for Barrett's Pink Floyd bandmate, Nick Mason, who they reported was generally uninterested in the task. Scabies, displeased with the record, quit the band before the LP was released, and was replaced by Jon Moss, later of Culture Club.
Music for Pleasure flopped both critically and commercially. After touring the record to promote it, the band broke up in early 1978, ending their relationship with Stiff Records.
The former members of the band worked on a series of brief side projects and solo recordings, all making little commercial impact. Scabies formed a one-off band called "Les Punks" for a late 1978 gig: Les Punks was a quasi-reunion of The Damned (without Brian James or Lu) that featured Scabies, Vanian, Sensible and bassist Lemmy of Hawkwind and Motörhead. The Damned soon tentatively reformed with this same "Les Punks" line-up in early 1979, but originally performed as The Doomed to avoid potential trademark problems. Captain Sensible switched to guitar and keyboards, and after a brief period with Lemmy on bass for studio demos and a handful of live appearances, and a slightly longer period with Henry Badowski on bass, the bassist position was filled by Algy Ward, formerly of The Saints. Once Ward joined, the band was officially known as The Damned again, playing their first gig under that name in April 1979. The band signed a deal with Chiswick Records, and went back to the studio to record another album.
Vanian's vocals had by now expanded from the high-baritone barks of the early records to a smooth, proto-Gothic crooning style. The Damned had established a dark, melodic style that was sometimes fast and loud, and at other times relaxed with dominant keyboards.
The Damned released a couple of hit singles, "Love Song" and "Smash It Up" leading up to 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette, and later a version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", with a new Damned song, "Rabid", on the B-side.
Machine Gun Etiquette featured a strong 1960s garage rock influence, with Farfisa organ in several songs. Recording at Wessex Studios at the same time as The Clash were there to record London Calling, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones made an uncredited vocal appearance on the title track. Fans and critics were pleasantly surprised, and Machine Gun Etiquette received largely positive reviews;Ira Robbins and Jay Pattyn described it as "A great record by a band many had already counted out".
Ward left the group in 1980, to be replaced by Paul Gray, formerly of Eddie and the Hot Rods. The Black Album was released later that year, with three sides of the double album consisting of studio tracks, including the theatrical 17-minute song "Curtain Call". Side 4 featured a selection of live tracks recorded at Shepperton. It would be their last album for Chiswick.
In 1981, The Damned released "Friday the 13th", a four song E.P. on NEMS which featured original tracks "Disco Man", "Billy Bad Breaks", "Limit Club" (a tribute to late Malcolm Owen, former lead singer of punk band The Ruts) and a cover of The Rolling Stones '60s song "Citadel".
In 1982, The Damned released their only album for Bronze Records, Strawberries The band had now expanded to a quintet, with the addition of new full-time keyboardist Roman Jugg. At this time, Sensible was splitting his time between The Damned and his own solo career, which had seen success in the UK with the number one hit "Happy Talk" in 1982. Consequently, the group's next album was a one-off side project recorded without the unavailable Sensible: a soundtrack to an imaginary 1960s movie called Give Daddy the Knife, Cindy. This limited-run album of 1960s cover songs had the band billed as Naz Nomad and the Nightmares.
In 1984, The Damned made a live performance on the BBC Television show The Young Ones performing their song "Nasty", featuring new bassist Bryn Merrick (replacing Gray) and both Jugg and Sensible on guitar. Sensible would play a last concert with the band at Brockwell Park (from which a bootleg called Captain's Last Stand was issued), before leaving to pursue his solo career full-time, Roman Jugg taking over his spot as guitarist. Jugg's first appearance with the band live was when they headlined Nostell Priory rock festival held in West Yorkshire on 24 August 1984. The somewhat confused crowd repeatedly chanted 'Where's Sensible?' but it soon became obvious that the Captain was not part of the band - for the time being.
From the beginnings of the band, Vanian had adopted a vampire-like appearance onstage, with chalk-white makeup and formal dress. With Sensible gone, Vanian's image became more characteristic of the band as a whole. The Damned signed a contract with major label MCA, and the Phantasmagoria album followed in July 1985, preceded by the UK No. 21 single "Grimly Fiendish". Another hit from the same album was "The Shadow Of Love" with its gloomy sound.
However, Phantasmagoria's November 1986 follow-up, Anything, was a commercial failure, although MCA did include one of its tracks ("In Dulce Decorum") on the soundtrack release of Miami Vice II. The epic "Alone Again Or" was also released as a single.
Late in 1987 The Damned began to work on a new album for MCA, but the result of these sessions remain unreleased as the record contract was dissolved. Two of the new songs ("Gunning For Love" and "The Loveless And The Damned") were later re-recorded by the Dave Vanian and the Phantom Chords side project. James and Sensible rejoined the group temporarily for a few live appearances including a concert at the London Town and Country Club in June 1988 which was released the following year as Final Damnation - The Damned Reunion Concert. Following a farewell concert at London's Brixton Academy supported by The Milk Monitors, Horse and Claytown Troupe the band disbanded again.
Although officially on hiatus, the group issued two singles in 1991. The first, "Fun Factory", was a song recorded in 1982 by the Sensible/Vanian/Scabies/Merrick line-up; intended for single release at the time, the bankruptcy of their record company prevented the issue of the record for 9 years. The year's second single, "Prokofiev", was recorded by Scabies, Vanian and Brian James, and was sold on a 1991 reunion tour of the US.
In 1993 the group reformed again with a new line-up featuring Scabies, Vanian, guitarists Kris Dollimore (formerly of The Godfathers), Alan Lee Shaw, and bassist Moose Harris (formerly of New Model Army). Around this time, two prominent modern rock groups each covered a Damned song: Guns N' Roses recorded "New Rose" for their "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993), while The Offspring covered "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack (1995). Both cover versions would enjoy major label distribution and create more exposure to the Damned sound, sometimes to a younger audience unfamiliar with the group.
The reformed Damned toured regularly for about two years and released a new full-length album, Not of This Earth in late 1995. Promoted with a series of long tours prior to its release, by the time the album was released The Damned had yet again split, partly as the result of legal battles: Vanian and Sensible accused Scabies of releasing Not of This Earth without proper authorization.
Sensible rejoined Vanian in 1996 and yet another formation of The Damned appeared. This initially featured bassist Paul Gray, who was later replaced by Patricia Morrison, previously of The Bags, The Gun Club and The Sisters of Mercy.Captain Sensible performing live with The Damned at Cleethorpes in August 2006
By 2000, The Damned consisted of Vanian, Sensible, Morrison and new recruits Monty Oxy Moron on keyboards and Andy (Pinch) Pinching, a founding member of English Dogs, on drums. In 2001, the band released the album Grave Disorder, on Dexter Holland's Nitro Records label and promoted it with continual touring.
Morrison and Vanian eventually married and had a daughter, Emily, born on 9 February 2004. Around this time, Morrison 'retired' from performing with the band, though she remained involved with The Damned as the band's manager. Her replacement on bass was Stu West.
In 2006, The Damned released the single "Little Miss Disaster", and a live DVD MGE25 documenting a 2004 Manchester concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of Machine Gun Etiquette. On 21 October 2006, BBC Radio 2 broadcast an hour-long documentary titled Is She Really Going Out With Him? concerning the recording of the Damned's first single "New Rose" and the group's place in the 1976 London punk scene. Featuring interviews with James, Sensible, Scabies, Glen Matlock, Don Letts and Chrissie Hynde, the programme discussed the bands and personalities around the scene, particularly the Anarchy in the U.K. tour.
On 28 October 2008, The Damned released for download their tenth studio album, So, Who's Paranoid?, followed by a conventional release on the English Channel label on 10 November (UK) and 9 December (US). To promote the album, the band made back-to-back appearances performing on the CBS network TV broadcasts in the US on Halloween eve and Halloween on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. The band undertook a 23-date UK tour to promote their new album, supported by Devilish Presley and Slicks Kitchen. After a cancelled US tour in January, the band played a set and conducted a short interview on the Cherry Blossum Clinic on WFMU on 16 May 2009.
In November 2009, the band supported heavy metal band Motörhead on the UK leg of their world tour. On The Damned's official website, Captain Sensible is quoted as saying: "Ha ha..... we're working with Lemmy again are we? Excellent! He's the real deal, the absolute antithesis to all that the likes of Simon Cowell stand for. And for that we should all be grateful. This tour will be a celebration of all things rock 'n' roll..... pity the poor roadies is all I can say!"
Continual touring occurred throughout the UK and Europe over the next few years. In 2012, they played South America for the first time, with dates in São Paulo (Brazil) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). They returned to the Rhythm Festival, one of only four headline acts to return over the festival's seven year history. In 2012, The Damned announced that they would return for 2013's Rebellion festival alongside The Exploited, The Casualties and others. `
In November 2012 The Damned received recognition for their contribution to British music when they were awarded the Classic Rock outstanding contribution award for services to Rock music over 36 years