Life’s a rat’s life in The Damned
Boys! Lack confidence when girls are around? Your tongue gets twisted when you stumble up to her in a disco? All your buddies seem to pull but you can never get past sticky stutter syndrome?
There is a solution y’know. Join The Damned! (It’s a man’s life etc.)
See, Rat Scabies was just like you. Listen . . .
“I used to go to discos, meet a bird and ask her for a dance. They’d usually say no or have one dance and then sneak off. I never went out with a girl. But now . . . . “
Now Rat ‘meets’ girls all the time. He’s got a neat line in introductions – “‘Ullo, my name’s Rat, ‘oo are you?” Either their hearts flutter and melt, or they snigger and spurn his advances. Usually they melt.
“Did you see those badges they had made up,” inquires Rat, “They were called ‘I’ve Had Scabies’.”
The Damned were front runners in the old days. The first punk outfit to release a single, ‘New Rose’ on Stiff, the first independent; It was Rat who instigated the break up when he quit after the band had released their second album, “Music For Pleasure”.
“I got bored with it all and I certainly wasn’t happy with the situation. Oh sure, it was great being a pop star at first – but it ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. It got to the stage where I couldn’t go out in public.
“In fact, it all got so violent I wasn’t even able to go down my local boozer. I took a girlfriend down the Hope and Anchor one night and she got glassed in the face by someone who had a grudge against me.
“And I got beaten up twice through no fault of my own. But I was drunk both times, so maybe it was my fault. I can’t remember now.”
Good enough reasons to opt out – but there was more to it than cuts and bruises.
“The songs were rotten too,” he moans. Brian James, who wrote most of the songs, had achieved his aim and, in my mind, dried up. We seemed to have gone as far as we could musically. After all, you can only take a nurse’s uniform so far,” (referring to Captain Sensible’s taste in fancy dress).
“And our reputations were getting out of hand. I was being accused of the most ridiculous things, like blowing up entire audiences.”
So Rat left a seemingly doomed Damned in search of individual fame. For three months he was holed up in a hallway in a mate’s flat. But Rat passed the time sensibly by learning to play guitar.
“I needed to get completely away from the rock world. I thought I was gonna have a nervous breakdown. My whole personal defence mechanism decided it was time for me to call it a day.”
But as time passed Rat found it increasingly difficult to ignore the call of the wild. So one morning he walked down the hall and formed Whitecats. Short lived, they finally went kaput around the same time as one Captain Sensible lifted a telephone receiver somewhere in London and dialled Rat’s number.
“He had this band called King but that wasn’t working out either. So he had decided he wanted to work with me again. He came down, we had a walk around the block and agreed to do a tour.
“The only problem was – who could we get as a singer? We looked around, but came to the conclusion that the best we could get was Dave Vanian.”
You remember Vanian – the white faced, the black suited warrior who prowled in front of the original Damned like a rabid Count Dracula. And with the addition of ex-Saints bassist Alisdair Ward, the new, improved Damned or Doomed as they called themselves, were formed.
The name Doomed was quickly dropped and to celebrate their rebirth a single ‘Love Song’ was released on a new label (Chiswick) and it proved to be The Damned’s biggest hit to date.
“We then toured the States and in New York played a disco, which was gay to boot! But we packed it out every night.”
Now the band have just finished recording an album and the new single, ‘Smash It Up’, has just been released.
Although Rat didn’t have a hand in writing the single its title is an appropriate description of one side of his character. He thinks nothing of smashing up his most prized possessions when the mood takes him.
“When I split up with my girlfriend I threw all the chairs in the living room through the window. You can always put in a new window but you can’t put in a new face – that’s why I seldom give vent to my anger on people.
“I like breaking up things that mean the most to me, especially when they cost a lot of money.
“I ripped apart stereos, TV’s, guitars. The other week I set fire to my publicist’s office. I guess I must have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage over the years.”
Rat doesn’t miss his girlfriend now.
“I got over it in a week. It’s great now cos it’s just like being on tour all the time. There’s none of that worrying when you’re drunk having to face the missus when you get home. There’s nobody to moan at you and ask what you’ve been up to.
“I’ve been getting drunk a lot recently. It’s getting bad cos I wake up in the morning’s feeling really bad.
“But that won’t last long. Next week I’ll be wearing a kaftan and eating health food. I’m sampling everything that comes along.”
Isn’t Rat worried that it all might get too much for him like it did before?
“You get to know the dangers and when they’re near, like when you start shaking in the morning. My attitude has changed now. You get used to people staring at you. You stay in the places where you’re known. Take things in your stride.
“I’m not going to fall into the old rock star’s trap, y’know, here’s yer big house, yer chauffeur, yer drugs. See, I never forget I’m just a product. I regard myself as being throwaway. Pop music is a product like toilet rolls, it’s here today and gone tomorrow.
“But don’t get me wrong. I sincerely believe in what I and The Damned are doing. The band’s machine gun etiquette will never die.
“We have got a lot to say – and we say it fast.”
Smash Hits, October 1979