Classic Rock Wiki

The Damned are an English gothic punk band formed in London in 1976 by lead vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist (and later guitarist) Captain Sensible, and drummer Rat Scabies.[2] They were the first punk rock band from the United Kingdom to release a single, "New Rose" (1976),[3] release an album, Damned Damned Damned (1977),[4] and tour the United States.[5] They have nine singles that charted on the UK Singles Chart Top 40.[6]

The band briefly broke up after Music for Pleasure (1977), the follow up to their debut album, was critically dismissed.[7] They quickly reformed without Brian James, and would release Machine Gun Etiquette (1979).[8] By the 1980s, they evolved into one of the forerunners of the gothic rock genre.[9] That decade they released four studio albums, The Black Album (1980), Strawberries (1982), Phantasmagoria (1985), and Anything (1986). The latter two albums did not feature Captain Sensible, who had left the band in 1984.[10] In 1988, James and Sensible rejoined to play what was said to be The Damned's final live show. This was released the next year as the live albumFinal Damnation.[11]

The Damned would again reform for a tour in 1991.[12] In 1995, they released a new album, Not of This Earth, which would be Scabies last with the band.[13] This was followed by Grave Disorder (2001), and So, Who's Paranoid? (2008).

Despite going through numerous lineup changes, the current formation of Vanian, Sensible, keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West, have been together since 2004.



  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Formation and Stiff years (1976-1978)
    • 1.2 First reformation and Machine Gun Etiquette (1978-1980)
    • 1.3 1980s major label success
    • 1.4 1990s reformation
    • 1.5 2000s current status
  • 2 Discography
  • 3 Band members
  • 4 References
    • 4.1 Sources
  • 5 External links


Formation and Stiff years (1976-1978)[edit][]

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 future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde.[14] Brian James (Brian Robertson) had been a member of London SS, who never played live, but in addition to James included musicians who later found fame in The Clash and Generation X. Scabies knew James through a failed audition as drummer for London SS.[15] When the two decided to start their own band, with James on guitar and Scabies on drums, they invited Sid Vicious and Dave Vanian to audition to be the singer. Only Vanian showed up, and got the part.[14] Sensible became the band's bassist, and the four called themselves The Damned.[16]

The Damned played their first show on 6 July 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. A lo-fi recording of the show would later be released as Live at the 100 Club.[17] As part of London's burgeoning punk scene, The Damned again played the club on 20 September, for the 100 Club Punk Festival.[18]

On 22 October, five weeks before the release of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.", Stiff Records put out The Damned's first single, "New Rose", thus making them the first UK punk band to release a single. The single's B-side was fast paced cover of The Beatles' "Help!".[19] New Rose was described by critic Ned Raggett as a "deathless anthem of nuclear-strength romantic angst".[20]

When the Sex Pistols released their single, they took The Damned, along with The Clash and Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, as openers for their December "Anarchy Tour of the UK". Many of the tour dates were cancelled by organizers or local authorities, with only seven of approximately twenty scheduled shows taking place. Before the tour ended, The Damned were kicked off it by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.[21]

On 18 February 1977, The Damned's first album, Damned Damned Damned, was released. Produced by Nick Lowe, it was the first full-length album released by a British punk band, and included a new single, "Neat Neat Neat".[22] The band went on tour to promote the album, in March opening for T. Rex on their final tour. Later that spring, they became the first British punk band to tour the United States.[23] According toBrendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angeles club The Masque, their 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.[24]

That August, Lu Edmonds was added as a second guitarist.[17] This expanded line-up unsuccessfully tried to recruit the reclusive Syd Barrett to produce their second album.[25] Unable to get Barrett, they settled for his former Pink Floyd bandmate, Nick Mason. In December, this album was released as Music For Pleasure, and was quickly dismissed by critics. Its failure led to the band being dropped from Stiff Records.[26]Scabies was also displeased with the album, and quit the band after the recording. He was replaced by future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, who played with The Damned until they decided to break up in February 1978.[27]

First reformation and Machine Gun Etiquette (1978-1980)[edit][]

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,[28] and a slightly longer period with Henry Badowski on bass, the bassist position was filled by Algy Ward, formerly of The Saints. During a December 1978 tour of Scotland, Gary Holton filled in for Vanian.[29]

The band officially went by The Damned again, playing their first gig under that name in April 1979. Vanian's vocals had by now expanded from the high-baritone of the early records to a smoother crooning style,[30]while the band established a melodic style that was at times fast and loud, and other times relaxed with dominant keyboards.

The Damned signed a deal with Chiswick Records and went back to the studio. They released the hit singles, "Love Song" and "Smash It Up", followed by 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette, and then a cover ofJefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", with a new Damned song, "Rabid", as 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".[31]

1980s major label success[edit][]

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.[32] 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.

Vanian in 2013.

From the beginnings of the band, Vanian had adopted a vampire-like appearance onstage, with chalk-white makeup and formal dress.[33] 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.

In January 1986, the non-album single "Eloise", a cover of a 1968 hit by Barry Ryan, was a No. 3 chart success in the UK, the group's highest chart placing to date.

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.

1990s reformation[edit][]

Although officially on hiatus, the group issued two singles in 1990. The first, "Fun Factory", was a song recorded in 1982 by the Sensible/Vanian/Scabies/Gray 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 theBatman 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 Cluband The Sisters of Mercy.

2000s current status[edit][]

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 Oxymoron on keyboards and Andy (Pinch) Pinching, a founding member of English Dogs, on drums. Garrie Dreadful, another recruit from Sensible's solo band, played drums from 1997-99 then gave way to Pinch. In 2001, the band released the album Grave Disorder, on Dexter Holland's Nitro Records label and promoted it with continual touring. A US tour was planned in 2002 supporting Rob Zombie but was canceled a few dates in when Zombie's audience failed entirely to appreciate the musical stylings of The Damned. It should be noted that The Damned recognized the problem and pulled out of the tour; they were not kicked off the tour by Zombie.

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).[34] 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.[35]The band undertook a 23-date UK tour to promote their new album, supported by Devilish Presley and Slicks Kitchen. The band then played a set and conducted a short interview on the Cherry Blossum Clinic on WFMU on 16 May 2009.[36]

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 Lemmyagain 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.[37]

On November 7, 2014 Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian appeared on Ken Reid (comedian)'s TV Guidance Counselor Podcast.


See also: The Damned discography

  • Damned Damned Damned (1977)
  • Music for Pleasure (1977)
  • Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)
  • The Black Album (1980)
  • Strawberries (1982)
  • Phantasmagoria (1985)
  • Anything (1986)
  • Not of This Earth (1995)
  • Grave Disorder (2001)
  • So, Who's Paranoid? (2008)

Band members[edit][]

Current members
  • Dave Vanian − vocals (1976–present)
  • Captain Sensible − bass (1976–1978); guitar (1978–1984, 1989, 1991, 1996–present)
  • Monty Oxymoron − keyboards (1996–present)
  • Pinch − drums (1999–present)
  • Stu West − bass (2004–present)
Former members
  • Brian James − guitar (1976–1978, 1988–1989, 1991)
  • Rat Scabies − drums (1976–1977, 1978–1996)
  • Lu Edmonds − guitar (1977–1978)
  • Dave Berk − drums (1977)
  • Henry Badowski − bass (1978)
  • Jon Moss − drums (1978)[38]
  • Lemmy - bass (1978)
  • Algy Ward − bass (1978–1980)
  • Gary Holton − vocals (1978)
  • Paul Gray − bass (1980–1983, 1989, 1996)
  • Roman Jugg − keyboards (1981–1989) guitar (1984–1989)
  • Bryn Merrick − bass (1983–1989)
  • Paul Shepley − keyboards (1985–1989)
  • Kris Dollimore − guitar (1993–1996)
  • Alan Lee Shaw − guitar (1993–1996)
  • Jason "Moose" Harris − bass (1993–1996)
  • Garrie Dreadful − drums (1996–1999)
  • Patricia Morrison − bass (1997–2005)
  • Spike Smith − drums (1999)