The Damned formed in 1976 with Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies, and Brian James, all former members of punk-genre groups. When Scabies and James initially decided to strike out on their own, they invited Sid Vicious and Dave Vanian to audition for lead vocalist. Vanian was the only one to show up, so he got the job. Thus began The Damned, a vital, eclectic, and important influence on the 80’s music scene.
The Damned released their first album, Damned Damned Damned, which was coincidentally the first album to be released by a British punk band. Not only was it a first, it garnered some minor hits, and worldwide recognition for the band. A US tour shortly followed (another British punk band ”first”), and The Damned began to set a solid foothold in the highly volatile late 70’s punk rock scene.
After recruiting a second guitarist known simply as Lu, the band released a second album which reportedly was not promoted properly and tanked miserably .The band broke up and ended their recording relationship with their label. They tentatively reformed without James, signed on with a different label, experimented with switching roles, and headed back into the studio to try for another successful album release. During this phase, Vanian changed from typical punk front man to a more melodic and Gothic flare, giving the band the reputation of being one of the first to give birth to the genre.
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 was replaced by Paul Gray in 1980. After a couple of years and another album and EP release, The Damned added a full-time keyboardist, Roman Jugg, to fill in for Sensible who not only was splitting his time between guitar and keyboards, he was also splitting his time between The Damned and his own solo career. Captain Sensible made the jump to his solo career full time in 1984, leaving Jugg to take over the guitarist spot. Bryn Merrick was also added on Bass.
In 1985, the band decided to play up Vanian’s penchant for vampire-esque looks and music. They released Phantasmogoria, noted for its decidedly Gothic sound. The band found success with a non-album release of the single “Eloise” which charted in the UK Top Ten. In 1986, they released the album Anything, a commercial flop as a whole; but one very moody, elegant, and beautiful track, “In Dulce Decorum,” was included on the “Miami Vice II” soundtrack. This was my first introduction to the group, and remains my personal favorite.
The group broke up officially after releasing the aptly titled live album recording The Final Damnation.
Purchase The Damned music here.
“In Dulce Decorum” via YouTube user jebekijkthetmaar:
“In Dulce Decorum (Dub Version)” via YouTube user roberteitor:
“Eloise” via YouTube user eddieredblood:
“Grimly Fiendish” via YouTube user NightNursebetty:
“Neat Neat Neat” via YouTube user r200300418:
Damned, Damned, Damned (18 February 1977)
Music for Pleasure (18 November 1977)
Machine Gun Etiquette (2 November 1979)
The Black Album (20 October 1980)
Strawberries (1 October 1982)
Phantasmagoria (15 July 1985)
Anything (5 December 1986)
Not of This Earth (11 November 1995)
Grave Disorder (21 August 2001)
So, Who’s Paranoid? (10 November 2008)