The Damned, Damned Damned Damned, 1977, Stiff Records
Neat Neat Neat
Born to Kill
Stab Your Back
Feel the Pain
See Her Tonite
1 of the 2
So Messed Up
I Feel Alright
The Damned are known for being the band who released the first ever punk single in the UK and Damned Damned Damned was the first UK punk album released a whole half a year before the Sex Pistols finally got around to making their Never Mind the Bollocks. The Damned’s later work falls firmly into the goth rock category and so their first album tends to be overlooked in favour of the debuts from the Sex Pistols and The Clash. It’s a shame because while their contemporaries deserve all the accolades they get, Damned Damned Damned still stands the test of time as a great punk record. If you’d never seen a punk band by February 1977, which would not have been unlikely outside London, this album would have been mind blowing.
Made up of lead vocalist Dave Vanian, Brian James on guitar, Raymond “Captain Sensible” Burns on bass and drummer Christopher “Rat Scabies” Millar. The Damned were pioneers of the punk genre, their signature being their energetic and relentlessly paced playing style.
They stood out from the other bands on the burgeoning London punk scene because Dave Vanian always dressed like a vampire with white makeup and sharp suits (which was convenient for when they transitioned from punk to goth rock later in their career).
Damned Damned Damned was recorded off the back of their tour with the Sex Pistols and The Clash as well as a support slot with T-Rex and was produced by Nick Lowe famous for his later work with Elvis Costello and The Pretenders. So despite being genre-pioneers, The Damned already had a decent reputation as a live band by the start of 1977. The cover image is the band covered in cream cakes because someone bought cream cakes to a photo session, so why not? Interesting marketing would come to define the beginning of British punk and Stiff records deliberately put a picture of another band on the back cover of the album with a sticker on the plastic wrapping highlighting the error (because, reasons) as well as another sticker with “Damned Damned” on it to complete the title of the album, rather than having it printed on the actual sleeve.
If you’ve only ever heard The Damned’s later goth rock albums, you’re in for a treat (unless of course you only like goth rock, in which case, look away now).
Neat Neat Neat sounds much closer to American punk than the Sex Pistols, especially since the title line is delivered like Roadrunner from Loony Tunes, It’s a perfect fast and frenetic way to kick off the album. Fan Club is more of a traditional rock song with a Kinks-like flavour, but I Fall brings back the frenetic pace of the first track. Born to Kill is a highlight with almost Elvis-esque vocals, and a pretty incredible guitar solo at the end. Feel The Pain finally offers you an opportunity to catch your breath, it’s got a glam rock vibe and while it might seem like a welcome relief, it’s definitely the weakest track and it’s probably a minute too long. New Rose notably the UK’s first punk single has stand out drums and must have seemed so exciting when it came out. It’s recognisably a punk song but the vocal is polite enough to bridge the gap over to traditional rock. Fish is a return to fast-paced form with guitars and drums that are equally strong. There’s even an impressive guitar solo and the song’s only 1 minute 30 seconds long! “Guitar solos aren’t very punk though are they?” I hear you cry, well look at The Damned, subverting the genre that came to subvert all the others right at the start of the game - I told you they were cool. See Her Tonite is a perfect punk love song, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that it’s therefore exactly my kind of love song, what a track!
As you know, I do love a drummer and Rat Scabies is brilliant on every track. You definitely get a sense of who The Damned are with this album, admittedly it’s not got a lot of variety to it, but then it’s only half an hour long and they had a lot of shouting to fit in. The Damned are certainly not Sex Pistols wannabes or mediocre punk also-rans though, and while it will never topple Never Mind The Buzzcocks or any of The Clash’s albums from the top of the punk tree, the music here stands up on its own, as well as being an important part of punk rock history.
It’s short, it’s fun and nobody dies and 42 years later it’ll still get you rocking.