40 Years of The Damned, Don’t You Wish They Were Dead?

So ever since I was fourteen, I’ve held the notion that a great rock n’ roll record should always be able to make the hairs at the back of your neck stand up. In the case of The Damned, they did something completely different. They managed to make all the hairs on the back of your neck, and your head, fall out instantly. With this year marking punk rock’s 40th birthday, and the group having embarked on their 40th anniversary of  Damned, Damned, Damned with supporting act, Bleached (whom I highly recommend you check out if you’re punk rock snob), I thought what a perfect time to talk about why this just might be the greatest rock n’ roll album of all time. Also the world might be ending soon, so I might not get a chance to ever add in my two cents about this record!

So when punk rock was kicking off in the year 1977, everyone in New York City and their neighbors across the Atlantic couldn’t wait to be in a band. This type of mentality was new to the making of art, as previously it was always believed that in order to begin even dreaming of making some sort of impact in music, one would have to be a God-like virtuoso who had been practicing since the day they were born. When punk rock came along, all of that changed. Suddenly, you began to see kids from different walks of life with no musical backgrounds, or pervious ambitions, who picked up guitars and had no holds barred attitudes about everything. Generally, when people think of the early British punk scene they think the Sex Pistols or The Clash, but there was one band who be really credited as being the true punk rock group, as far the ideals of punk rock go. That band was The Damned.

Comprised of Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Brian James and the devilishly handsome Rat Scabies (with a name like that he could only be). These four young men really didn’t care about anything or anyone. They said and did whatever they wanted, to whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted. They had the energy and stage presence to match any rehearsed Deep Purple gig and songs that would shatter any venue they played. They certainly had more of an edge than the Sex Pistols. The Damned were also a collective of really strange young men, like out of this world strange. Their idea of a “fun night” involved breaking and entering and sometimes urinating on people’s beds and yes, all of this 100% fact.  All of this culminated in their first and most critically acclaimed album; “Damned, Damned, Damned”. So without further ado, let’s put aside all the bollocks and talk about the music.  

First off, let me note that I am obviously not the first to talk so extensively about the importance of this album. Having said that, I sure as hell won’t be the last snot-nosed hipster to do so. At forceful twelve tracks the record opens up with the eardrum destroying and fun “Neat Neat Neat!”, which is by far the best opening track to a record in the history of the last 40 years and is guaranteed to have you destroying furniture (or your money back).  As the album progresses, it manages to defy expectations in terms of songwriting and production with poppy tunes like “Fan Club”,a satirical look at people’s obsession with celebrity and a rumored jab at Beatlemania, and the sombre tones of “Feel the Pain” which is basically a spoken word venture. Although the quality of these tracks should not be surprising as the band aspired to actually be competent musicians, an ideal that most of their peers did not waste dreaming of. Through and through the band manages to capture some the raw and untamed energy of their live performances, with Brian James strumming out as bloody brilliant lead guitarist and writing riffs that would inspire generations of music to come. However, one element of the album that at times feels quite under appreciated is the drumming style of Sir Rat Scabies. Let me put it this way, most punk rock drummers enjoyed beating their instruments to pulps, Scabies gave his drum kit really fast love taps in damn near expert timing, somewhat akin to that of late The Who drummer, Keith Moon. I mean both musicians made crazy faces when the played drums, so there’s that. Let’s also take this time to address the sexy King of goth fashion himself; Dave Vanian. Oh my, where do I begin with him? First of all, he’s got this voice that instantly puts me in some sort of Freudian trance. Then there’s the fact that as a front man he was just a complete animal, howling, jumping around like a spastic, destroying equipment and doing just about anything to get reaction out of the crowd. I mean what more could you ask of a lead singer, besides hoping he does not spit blood at you.  In particular, there’s a track on this record, “New Rose”, where all of the band’s talents really come together and not only is it my favorite song by The Damned but it is probably the catchiest tune on the entire record. First off, the song is frantic as heck. Like, full on “can’t sit still to save it’s life”, secondly written under the guise of being a love song which to a certain degree it was. Although the love wasn’t being expressed for any women, instead it was written as a love letter to the excitement surrounding punk in the late 70’s. I guess in modern terms you could classify this song as a “banger” ( I hope I used this term correctly).

All in all, this album is just balls to the wall, fun rock music. This is the way that any rock n’ roll album should be played. If you haven’t heard it yet make sure that you do so before you die, because it’s just that awesome.   

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