Monday, August 21, 2006

 

Peel Sessions 19

For those of you who are 20, no probably more like 30 years younger than me the Damned are likely to be a group of little real interest to you unless you are studying musical history, whereas for those whose age begins with a 4, well maybe you can remember when they were an important band. Sadly they have turned into caricatures of themselves, having never been the most serious of the class of '77, it is still a shame to see how Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible have taken the easy road by earning a crust by becoming permanent figures on the punk equivalent of the chicken in a basket circuit. Brian James and Rat Scabies have tried to raise the level by playing under the same name recently at their old London haunt the 100 club to celebrate the 30 anniversary of their classic debut album, 'Damned, Damned, Damned'.
Back in the old days they were important despite their lack of political content in part because they were the first of the new wave of punk bands to release a single and an album. An album produced by Stiff's in house maverick genius producer Nick Lowe, which probably helped to give them a little bit more of a pop edge. A second album 'Music For Pleasure' followed in 1977, almost before the other punk bands had released their first long players. The band had not succeeded in their attempts to get Syd Barett out of retirement to produce the album and so rather strangely settled for Pink Floyd's Nick Mason. The less than favorable reception that the album received led to their splitting in early 1978. Less than two years latter we saw a new version of the band unveiled without guitarist Brian James the role was filled by the Captain. In chart terms 1979-1982 was to be their most successful period, with the trio of well received albums 'Machine Gun Etiquette' (1979), 'The Black Album' (1980) and 'Strawberries' (1982). The sound was a lot less punk by now resembling more a very tight pop rock band with shades of psychedelica, this new approach was also to be rewarded with hit singles such as 'Smash It Up' and 'Love Song'. By the late eighties it seemed as if every 6 months the Damned were out on a farewell tour and since then they have been an on off mainly touring affair, the new albums that were to be released were of little real interest. The 21st century has seen the band existing around the axis of Vanian and Sensible, recruiting musicians as and when needed to play gigs.
John Peel was not to be immune to their charms and the group entered the BBC studios on five occasions to lay down tracks for him. I was going to avoid the obvious choice of 'New Rose' but when listening to it again I was persuaded otherwise by Vanian's changing of the lyrics to include John Peel, the song is taken from their first session in November 1976. Of note the humorous change of the songs introduction from 'Is she really going out with him' to 'Are we really 65 in the charts?'. They went on to record a second session with the original line up in May 1977 from which 'Fan Club' is taken. Peel wasted no time in inviting the reformed band to record for him one of the resulting tracks was 'Smash It Up' from October 1979 and featured ex Saints bassist Algy Ward. Their fourth session was one year later and featured 'Therapy', again there was a change of bassist with ex Eddie & The Hot Rod Paul Gray looking after the four strings. From their final session I have chosen their cover version of the old Jagger/Richards number 'We Love You' a song I've always had a soft spot for with the mocking way the we love is drawn out, and the Damned did the song proud on their cover version. There is a lot of Damned product available both new and used, in terms of compilations I can personally recommend 'The Light At The End Of The Tunnel' which did an excellent job of rounding up those important years '76-'87.

Comments:
I'm fifteen years old and a Damned obsessive - admittedly I haven't found that many other teenage Damned fans, but there are a few of us!

I think to say that they've turned into "caricatures of themselves" is a little unfair, but it's nice to see someone's blog acknowleding them anyway.

I've always felt they were very underrated.

P.S

They're still great live.
 
Hi Alex,
thanks for the comment it does get lonely out there in blog land sometimes, as maybe you know. 15! I have problems remembering that far back, i sometimes get the impression that my life sterted when I was 16 (1977). Seeing as you live in London did you get to see the 100 club gig?
I too have met the Captain but that as they say is another story.
Michael
 
Yeah, it's always nice to have someone post a comment, I know. Sometimes you wonder if there's any point in typing out endless messages until someone comments and you decide that it's worth carrying on...

You must be about two years older than my mother. She lived in Africa until she was fifteen, and then she came over to England just as punk was starting. It was through her that I discovered The Damned and most of the (old) bands I like.

I didn't get to to go the 100 Club gig, but I read a bit about it and it sounded great. I'd do anything to get Brian and Rat back with Captain and Dave for some kind of reunion tour.

Last November I went (with my mum) to see the current line-up of The Damned when they played at the Forum in Kentish Town. I'm also looking forward to seeing them play at the Shepherds Bush Empire in October.

Keep up the good work with the blog - I went back and looked at some previous posts and I've enjoyed reading about some of the other bands and listening to the songs. I've just started getting into Wire so it was nice finding "I am the Fly" on your blog.

Alex
 
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