After quickly following up their debut with their second album Music for Pleasure during the same year, they briefly split up after it was not received well critically. However, they soon reformed without James and released Machine Gun Etiquette in 1979. They continued into the 80’s releasing a further four studio albums which saw them moving towards a more gothic rock style. Sensible left the band in 1984 to pursue a solo career. In 1988 he and James both re-joined to play their final show after they decided to split up again which was released the following year as the live album Final Damnation.
They reformed again in 1991 for a tour before they released a new album in 1995 titled Not of this Earth after which Scabies left. They have been going with various different line-ups ever since and have released several more albums sporadically with the latest being 2018’s Evil Spirits which was their first to enter the UK top 10 album charts at Number 7. They had a long lasting line-up from 2004 until 2017 when bassist Stu West left and was replaced by Paul Gray who had been in the band before.
In addition to their influence on punk, they have also been influential on goth culture, particularly Vanian with his vampire-esque look.
# 10 – Don’t Cry Wolf
This single released in 1977 was their last for Stiff Records. It is also the last to feature Brian James and guitarist Lu Edmunds. They split up for the first time during their 1978 tour and reformed in 1979 with different members. The first 5000 copies were released in the UK on pink vinyl and all British releases had no picture sleeve. It was later re-released on the mail order set Damned 4 Pack.
# 9 – Problem Child
This single also released in 1977 was intended as a preview for the second album. It was produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and was the first recording to feature Edmunds on guitar who would go on to have a long-lasting career in several bands. Although it failed to chart in the top 75, it did enter the NME charts at Number 27. It was later reissued on Stiff Records Damned 4 Pack mail order set.
# 8 – Stretcher Case Baby
Yet another 1977 single, this was a limited edition release. Only 5000 copies were distributed and it was not sold in record shops. Initially, copies were given away when the band played at the Marquee in London celebrating their first year anniversary as a band but when these ran out they were given to people who were members of the band’s fan club and 250 were given to crossword winners via the New Musical Express.
This track and the B side “Sick of being Sick” were recorded with American producer Shel Talmy who was mainly known for his work with The Kinks and The Who, which in a way saw the band breaking away from the traditional punk ethos. The song was re-recorded for the band’s second album Music for Pleasure with the shortened title “Stretcher Case.”
# 7 – Life Goes On
Although Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” is often said to be ripped off from Killing Joke’s “Eighties,” it would seem that both songs based their riff rather heavily on this track from 1982’s Strawberries. It actually sounds more like the Nirvana song than the Killing Joke track as the riff is played in the same slow and brooding way whereas “Eighties” is played faster and more aggressively. This number sees the band moving away from punk into a more alternative direction.
During this time, the band was enjoying a more mainstream following due to the success of Sensible’s solo career. Although the album was well received for the band daring to go in a different direction, it was a time of turmoil for the band personally. Also, many fans of the band’s earlier more punk material did not like this new approach that The Damned was taking.
# 6 – Nasty
The B-side to Thanks for the Night released in 1984, it was written specifically for their appearance in an episode of the British sitcom The Young Ones titled “Nasty” which deals with the four housemates being chased by their landlord who has turned into a vampire. As a result of that it is very horror influenced and its lyrics seem to be inspired by the Video Nasty craze that was prevalent in Britain at the time. Musically it somewhat resembles The Misfits and is a key track of their goth period.
# 5 – Elouise
A cover of the 1968 song by Paul Ryan, it is a track that the band has made their own and is another staple of their 80’s goth period. Released in 1986 on the back of the success of their Phantasmagoria album, it was their highest charting track, reaching number 3. It was never included on an actual album but has been featured on several compilations.
# 4 – Smash it Up
From the third album released in 1979, “Smash it Up” is one of their most popular songs and is considered by many fans to be their unofficial anthem. It was their second single to be released from the album and was listed as “Smash it Up Part 2” when it was released as a single with it’s B-side being “Burglar.”
The song “Smash It Up,” was produced by Roger Armstrong and is structured into two parts starting off with a melodic intro before exploding into an energetic pop-punk song. Its lyrics are reportedly a critique of people who indulge in hippie culture but do not advocate political revolution. Interestingly it lost out on radio play due to BBC Radio 1 boycotting it for what they saw as having anarchistic lyrics, perhaps because of this it only reached number 35 in the charts. However, they did perform a particularly notable performance of it on the British alternative music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.
# 3 – Love Song
From Machine Gun Etiquette, this marked the start of the band’s days as a successful charting band, reaching number 20 and it was the track that saw them make their debut performance on Top of The Pops. It also received much radio play and is a very catchy number which the sound being considerably less raw than their early material. The song is not really a “love song” as such and seems to mock the idea that writing a love song is done to get more commercial success, which ironically the band did.
# 2 – Neat Neat Neat
Their second single, but the first from when their debut was actually out, was released simultaneously with it, effectively making it its lead single. It features a particularly iconic bassline from Sensible which made it into Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 basslines in 2005 at number 33. The song itself sounds very much like an early punk record with a raw sound and is produced by Nick Lowe who the band worked closely during their formative years.
# 1- New Rose
Their first single was released in 1976, which not only started The Damned’s career but also that of the punk movement in the United Kingdom. Written by James, it was also included on their first album. It is known for its iconic opening line where Vanian says “Is she really going out with him?” which was actually a parody of one of the opening lines of the Shangri-Las song “Leader of the Pack” released in 1964. The B-side to it was a cover of The Beatles’ “Help!” which was performed twice as fast as the original. Both songs became staples of the band’s early live sets. Also produced by Lowe at Pathway studios in London, according to Scabies it was all done in one day.
Updated July 11, 2023
Top 10 Songs Of The Damned article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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