The Damned – “Damned, Damned, Damned” (Stiff Records SEEZ 1 ) February 1977
Ladies and Gentlemen – welcome to the world’s first 78 rpm album. At last, a recording that gives credence to the claim that punk dos have a place in the hierarchical structure of contemporary music – at the top.
Sorry, change that to hieranarchical. The Damned are guitarist Brian James, drummer Rat Scabies, bassist Captain Sensible and singer Dave Vanian. The victory goes that Dave, a retired gravedigger, was spotted in a Sex Pistols audience by the rest of the band and asked to join because he “looked like a singer”.
He wasn’t but it didn’t seem to matter. The stuff that legends are made of. Superlatives are superfluous. Suffice it so say that ‘Damned, Damned, Damned’ lifts punk out of the dole queue (an unfortunate misnomer) and gives it a position in the logical progression of rock.
Just listen to ‘Feel The Pain’ and then try and tell me The Damned and their ilk are purveyors of frantic, hollow fabrications. Just listen to ‘New Rose’ (clap, clap) and try and tell me punk lacks humour. Just listen to ‘1 Of The 2″ and try and tell me this music ain’t got guts.
Like the guy says “I was born to kill”. They’re dancing on the grave of the seventies. Stiff are going places.
(Record Mirror, 19/02/77)
It’s time to pay off. No more time for talking about the old farts in The Rock Establishment, no more time for talking about Princess Margaret and backstage cocktails with the Stones, no more time for talking about Townshend singing that he hopes he dies before 40 . . .
The recording contracts, the studio time and all the rest are here at long last and it’s time for every New Wave band to put up or shut up. The Damned have delivered the goods.
Nick Lowe’s superb production has harnessed the essential good-time raw power that The Damned are all about – and why they are less than popular with the more politically minded New Wave combos – and channelled it into the 12 songs that make up the album.
Most of them performed better than I’ve ever heard them before, convincing me that The Damned will (with Lowe producing) have no trouble retaining the excitement of their live act on cold black vinyl in much the same way that their last Roundhouse gig proved to me that they could transcend the small club circuit into the larger halls without losing their guts, their spirit, and yeah, their energy.
That’s very important: there’s no point having the energy of a dexie addict who has been listening to far too many Stooges, Dolls and MC5 albums only to be at a loose end what to do with said energy.
On the album The Damned show that they know exactly what to do with it. They don’t spill a drop.
‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ is the opening cut, a wise choice for the new single, another Brian James song (he will collect songwriting cheques for 10 out of the 12 tracks on the album), the song falls somewhere between the cacophonic teenage wasteland noise of two New York Dolls songs, namely ‘Pills’ and ‘Trash’, and the chanted hookline psychosis of the Stooges’ ‘Now I Wanna Be Your Dog’.
Musicianship on this cut and throughout the album is superb: James’ guitar playing a healthy blend of incessant Keef-riffs and screeching solos, Rat Scabies trashing hell out of his kit in the donner and blitzen style that has endeared him to such luminaries as Phil Lynott and Robert Plant, and Captain Sensible’s bass line proving that he’s really not as dumb as he looks. (Anyway, nobody could be that dumb)
Dave “Tombstone Eyes” Vanian’s vocal is his usual distinct deadpan, but it’s a drag that the lyrics will be mostly unintelligible to those not cognisant with the bands repertoire because it’s one of the best songs James has written.
The second cut, however, is the best song penned by The Damned. It’s called ‘Fan Club’ and is one of the most perceptive songs written this decade about the dressing-room-camp-follower-females that another generation knew as groupies.
You can hear all the words on this one, great lyrics that will prevent it being played on Radio 1. All about waiting in the pouring rain, just another one night stand, and feeling sad as hell because you can’t figure out who’s using who.
‘Born to Kill’ is the malevolent vehicle for Vanian to work out his Hammer Horror persona, one of the best live numbers, and ‘Stab Your Back’ is the extremely short Rat Scabies-penned song, or rather chant, that could well turn into a North Bank favourite.
‘See Her Tonight’ is an urban love song, and the last track of the album is without doubt the finest, a superlative, relentless interpretation of The Stooges’ ‘I Feel Alright’. Iggy never had a finer tribute to him than this.
If you buy this album your parents will undoubtedly tell you to turn it down because “we’re trying to watch the telly down here.”
That’s because The Damned’s music is as provocative as the cover that depicts them smeared with cream, jam, baked beans and other nameless gunge all over their faces.
You are forced into either taking them to your heart or turning away repulsed. The choice is yours. I’ve made mine.