The Damned’s debut album ‘Damned Damned Damned’ is 40 years old. I am 48 at the time of writing, that means I was eight when it, and the single ‘New Rose’ came out, when Punk was born.
The Damned are not an easy band to follow. I mean in terms of chronology, members, who has fallen out with whom, all that. Brian James (one time principal songwriter) is long gone, Dave Vanian is the only constant member, Rat Scabies (one of my major drumming heroes – there, I said it) is long gone, and Captain Sensible is… Captain Sensible. Also, they have been doing this for forty years. Who works with all the same people for forty years? Not creative people, that’s who.
Tonight, I went to the O2 ABC in Glasgow to catch The Damned, and my friends The Media Whores playing support, for The Damned’s 40th Anniversary Tour. I didn’t really become aware of The Damned much before Machine Gun Etiquette in 1979, but I do remember New Rose from the summer of ’76, and a glorious sound it was.
There were a lot of Harrington jackets and DMs and baldy heids in attendance. There were a few younger people who have obviously picked it up from parents along the way. It was great, we loved it, it was a 40 year retrospective and they included a lot of non-punk stuff like ‘Eloise’ and ‘Waiting For The Blackout’ (but no Happy Talk, thankfully), all the stuff you would want.
They closed with ‘Smash It Up’. How else could The Damned close a show? It was incendiary when I saw them in the 80s at The Barrowlands, but even tonight there was fire behind the polite 60-year-olds performing a song of teenage angst. There were fifty-somethings moshing away in front of the stage. I suspect they will be sore today. Like The Who at the Olympics Closing Ceremony in 2012, singing “Hope I die before I get old”, it should have been ridiculous, but it wasn’t.
The Damned represented the next generation after The Who, the Who’s Next generation if you like, who refused to grow up. At the time we wanted to smash up what other people owned, what our parents’ generation represented. Overthrow the tyranny! Redress the balance!
But now we are old, we are our parents’ age, we still don’t own our own homes, our own jobs, the means of production. We are deeper in debt, more divided, with fewer rights and less privacy than 40 years ago. The Damned are nearly getting bus passes, and yet the problems they sang about forty years ago as young men are still there, and worse than ever. The message stands – Smash it up. Smash it up, I say.