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The Damned are an English punk band formed in London in 1976. They are notable for being the first punk rock band from the UK to release a single ("New Rose"), an album (Damned Damned Damned), 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. However, the lineups have always included either guitarist Captain Sensible and/or drummer Rat Scabies, who are both founding members. The current line-up includes 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 future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde. Brian James (Brian Robertson) had been a member of the 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.


The Damned played their first gig at a free festival held in Croydon. The Damned played their second gig on 6 July 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Clubmarker.

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?" — was borrowed from The Shangri-Las' 1964 "Leader of the Pack". The B-side of "New Rose" was a fast version of The Beatles' "Help!". Their first album, Damned Damned Damned, was the first album released by a British punk band, and it included several minor hits.

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.

In March 1977, The Damned opened for T. Rex on their final tour. They then recruited a second guitarist, known simply as Lu. This expanded line-up unsuccessfully tried to recruit the reclusive Syd 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. Music for Pleasure flopped critically and commercially and the band broke up, 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. The Damned soon tentatively reformed, but without Brian James, who had been the group's main songwriter. Originally they performed as The Dimmed and The Doomed to avoid potential trademark problems. Captain Sensible switched to guitar and keyboard, and after a brief period with Lemmy of Hawkwind and Motörhead on bass for studio demos and a handful of live appearances, the bassist position was filled by Algy Ward, formerly of The Saints. 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 series of singles 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".

Early 1980s

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, the double album's centrepiece being the theatrical 17-minute goth song "Curtain Call" backed up by 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, featuring 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 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 Priorymarker 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.

Major label success

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 #21 single "Grimly Fiendish".

In January 1986, the non-album single "Eloise," a cover of a 1968 hit by Barry Ryan, was a #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.

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 rejoined the group temporarily for a few live appearances, some of which appear on 1988's Final Damnation. Following this album the band disbanded again.

1990s reformation

During their hiatus, The Damned name was afforded homage, when two 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.

In 1993 the group reformed with a new line-up featuring Scabies, Vanian, guitarists Kris Dollimore (formerly of The Godfathers), and Alan Lee Shaw, and bassist Moose Harris in 1995. They toured regularly for about two years and released a new full-length album, Not of This Earth. 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.

2000s current status

Captain Sensible performing live with The Damned at Cleethorpes in August 2006

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. During her pregnancy Morrison was replaced by Stu West, ex-member of English Dogs, who has remained with the band since.

Their July 2002 gig at Londonmarker's Shepherd's Bush Empiremarker, at which they were supported by former band member Brian James' Gang, was recorded and released on DVD and CD as The Damned's Tiki Nightmare.

In 2004, the band played with punk and new wave icons The Stranglers and Blondie at Guilfestmarker, held annually in the Surrey town of Guilford.

In 2006, The Damned released the single "Little Miss Disaster", and a live DVD MGE25 documenting a 2004 Manchestermarker concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of Machine Gun Etiquette. On 21 October 2006, BBC Radio 2 broadcast an hour-long documentary entitled 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 gave some new insights into the bands and personalities around the scene, particularly the ill-fated Anarchy in the U.K. tour.

On 26 October, the band were joined by punk rock stalwarts The Anti-Nowhere League, Angelic Upstarts, Sham 69 for the Academy in the UK 2006: 30th Anniversary of Punk gig at London's Shepherd's Bush Empiremarker but played a short set due to a few supporters of the aforementioned bands throwing cans of beer.

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 Halloween eve and Halloween episodes of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. After a cancelled US tour in January, the band finally rescheduled for a spring appearance along the East coast. They played a set and conducted a short interview on the Cherry Blossum Clinc on WFMU on 16 May 2009.

In 2009, The Damned undertook a credit crunch value for money UK tour supported by 1980s band The Alarm and Henry Cluney, formerly of Stiff Little Fingers.

In November 2009, the band are supporting heavy metal icons 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!"



Current members

Former members



  1. The Damned at Allmusic
  2. The Damned @ Nostalgia Central
  3. A Study of Gothic Subculture - What Is Gothic? - Origins of Gothic
  4. Sensible - Crooner Vanian
  5. The Damned
  6. AllMusic
  7. see Mullen's comments in the Don Letts directed documentary Punk: Attitude.
  8. see the notes for Smash It Up - The Anthology 1976 - 1987
  10. "Naz Nomad and the Nightmares", Crawdaddy!, 27 February 2008.
  11. "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)." allmusic ((( The Damned > Biography )))
  12. ""
  14. [1]

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