I never owned a Damned album back in the 80's but first became acquainted with them when they were the musical guests on the English television comedy show "The Young Ones" which was airing on American t.v. on the MTV channel. They seemed like a groovy, gothic kinda band, and were always there on the music scene over the years, especially when Halloween rolled around in October. They seemed to perform a lot of Halloween shows in October....
Rat Scabies had tried out for the punk band London SS and became acquainted with guitarist Brian James (who was in London SS whose other members went on to form The Clash – see February 26th 80’s Quest post- and Generation X – see 80’s Quest post. Later he was in The Lords of the New Church). Scabies was in a band called Masters of the backside with Vanian, Captain Sensible, and Chrissie Hynde (who later became the lead singer of The Pretenders – see 80’s Quest post). Scabies and James decided to start a new band of their own and invited Sid Vicious (of Sex Pistols fame) and Dave Vanian to audition as singers. Only Vanian showed up, so he got the job as lead singer of their new band, The Damned.
The Damned first gig was a festival in Croydon, England, and their second gig was supporting the Sex Pistols at their 100 Club gig on July 6, 1976. The Damned released a single "New Rose", and as mentioned above, they were the first English punk band to release a single, and also an album. Nick Lowe produced both their first single and their first album: Damned Damned Damned. The lead single off the album was called "Neat Neat Neat". The album also contained a cover version of The Stooges 1970 song "I Feel Alright". In 1977 The Damned had another first: They were the first English punk band to tour the United States. In March 1977 they opened for T. Rex on their final tour.
The Damned tried to get Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett to produce their second album, but were unsuccessful. Instead Barrett’s Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason took on the position, but reportedly was rather disinterested in the project, which was called Music for Pleasure. As a result, the album flopped commercially and with the critics. For awhile The Damned broke up and the members worked on side projects and solo recordings.
The Damned reformed without James, but added Lemmy of Motorhead on bass for their studio demo recordings and a handful of shows. The band released some hit singles "Love Song" and "Smash It Up" leading up to the release of their next album, Machine Gun Etiquette, which included a cover song of Jefferson Airplanes hit "White Rabbit". Their new album was very influenced by 1960’s garage rock and contained Farfisa organ on numerous songs. The album was recorded at Wessex Studios at the same time The Clash was there to record their album London Calling, so Clash members Joe Strummer and Mick Jones sang on the album’s title track but were uncredited, however. The album was very well received by the critics and fans.
The band released a double-album, The Black Album in 1980 which included a 17-minute goth song called "Curtain Call". The next year, 1981, The Damned released a 4-song EP called Friday the 13th. In 1982 they released the album Strawberries.
It was in 1984 that The Damned made their television appearance on the BBC television comedy show The Young Ones. They performed their single "Nasty". By now Vanian was fully engulfed in a gothic-look that included chalky white face makeup and a style similar to that of a vampire.
The Damned were signed by MCA Records and released a 1985 album with them called Phantasmagoria which contained their big hit "Grimly Fiendish" as well as "The Shadow of Love". Their next album 1986’s Anything was a commercial flop. MCA records made the unlikely choice of containing one of The Damned songs, "In Dulce Decorum" on the soundtrack Miami Vice II, believe it or not! In 1987 the band began working on another album for MCA, but it was never released and their record contract was cancelled and the band went on hiatus.
In 1993 Guns N’ Roses (see 80’s Quest post) covered The Damned’s song "New Rose" on their The Spaghetti Incident album. In 1995 The Offspring recorded another Damned cover, "Smash it Up" which appeared on the movie soundtrack for Batman Forever.
In 1993 the band had reunited with yet another line-up, and toured for about 2 years. They recorded a new album, Not of This Earth but by the time it was released The Damned had broken up again mostly due to legal issues (Vanian and Captain Sensible accused Scabies of releasing the album without proper authorization). By 1996 everything was o.k. again and the band reformed with yet another line-up which included Patricia Morrison who had previously played with The Bags, The Gun Club (see 80’s quest post) and The Sisters of Mercy. Morrison and Vanian later were married and had a daughter, Emily in 2004.
The Damned continued to release singles and albums in the 2000’s and tour. In 2011 they were still performing at numerous festivals.
Grimly fiendish plays the game that never plays
Sing out loud but never prayed
Grimly fiendish wears a coat thats black and long
He doesn't know that it's all wrong
Simply fiendish, a child caught in a grown up world
No lies convince the court
Once a week I could be found on the faces all the frowns
Hide and seek, tried so hard to find that crime could pay
Just for today
Bad bad bad boy (x8)
Let me get the story straight
You never gave me a break
It's a case of give and take
You didn't make me good you just painted me green
You made me part of your forgotten dream
Grimly fiendish, we'll send you just where you belong
Where the children can't be found