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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

S4L Presents: The Best Debut Albums #9 - The Damned

The Damned are one of those bands that often get a raw deal when it comes to writing the history of the whole Punk scene between 1976 - 1977. Some saw them as one of the real catalysts for the scene, whilst others often write them off as some cartoonish creation not worth the vinyl they released (a view hard not to agree with when one considers the buffoonary of Captain Sensinble at times!). I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the two bands that are often given the most attention, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, maybe felt a little threatend by The Damned because they were actually quite proficient when it came to playing their instruments and the fact that they already had released music. Whatever viewpoint one takes there is no denying them their place in the history of the scene because they were just as vital to it as The Clash and the Sex Pistols.

I remember being in W.H. Smith in Forest Hill and seeing their debut album for the first time and being amazed by that front cover! Four grown chaps covered in cream and cake was not what one expects to see on a debut album cover! It's funny when you consider some of the other albums of the time with their arty farty covers, or pretty boy/girl photography and then place the cover of 'Damned, Damned, Damned' next to them and it's like some nightmare by comparison!

And musically this was something altogether different, probably the closest thing to it's sound was the 1973 album 'Raw Power' by Iggy and the Stooges (well to my ears at least, I'm sure someone will say different). I remember asking the lady in the music department of W.H. Smiths (yep, they used to have those way back then!) if she could play a little of it for me. The opening throbbing bassline of 'Neat Neat Neat' kicked in and next thing the manager of the store was rushing behind the till to turn it off, 'you are scaring the customers with this racket', he said! There on the spot I bought it with the money from my milk round (and it had the Hot Rods picture on the back of it!).

Playing it again all these years on it still sounds brilliant I think. A few years back, 2007 to be exact, I picked up the 30th Anniversary Boxset of the album. It had 3CD's, the actual album, a disc of demos and sessions, and the 3rd disc was a very rough sounding recording of The Damned live at the 100 Club. I didn't stump up the cash five years later to get the 35th Anniversary Boxset (with another disc added containing interviews etc about the making of the album.

Whilst the singles ('New Rose' and 'Neat Neat Neat') are standout tracks for me I absolutely loved '1 of the 2' and 'I Feel Alright' (a cover of The Stooges song '1970') have been my favourites since the album was released and still are today. The Stooges cover by the way is just one of many classics that The Damned have covered down through the years (The Beatles' 'Help' was on the B-side of 'New Rose').

The Damned were a band of firsts:
First UK Punk band to release a single ('New Rose' was released 5 weeks before the Sex Pistols issued 'Anarchy in the UK').
First UK Punk band to release an album (two months before The Clash released their debut album).
First UK Punk Band to break up and get back together again!

Released 18th February 1977
Stiff Records
UK Album Chart #36
Produced by Nick Lowe
31Minutes 32 Seconds

Band Line Up
Dave Vanian - Vocals
Brian James - Guitar and Vocals
Captain Sensible - Bass and Vocals
Rat Scabies - Drums and Vocals

Some copies of the album were released with a Eddie and The Hot Rods picture on the back cover! A deliberate ploy apparently by Stiff Records (who were distributed by Island Records home of Eddie and The Hot Rods).

The proper back cover was a shot of the band playing at The Roxy and a small photo booth picture of Captain Sensible. This was due to the fact that the Captain had said that because on the front cover he was the one who ended up with so much cream and cake that he could barely be recognised,"so I went down a photo booth and got some pictures, cut one out and said 'put that on there' so I would have something to show my relatives, because I didn't think we'd be invited to make another album.

   Original Album Tracklist
All Songs written by Brian James unless otherwise noted
The links here are not necessarily the actual album versions (though some might be) but are live or alternative versions. The original album versions can be heard in the video above.

Side One  
1. "Neat Neat Neat"       2:46
2. "Fan Club"       3:00
3. "I Fall"       2:08
4. "Born to Kill"       2:37
5. "Stab Yor Back" (Rat Scabies)     1:03
6. "Feel the Pain"       3:37

Side Two 
1."New Rose"       2:44
2."Fish" (Brian James/Tony James)     1:38
3. "See Her Tonite"       2:29
4."1 of the 2"       3:10
5. "So Messed Up"       1:55
6."I Feel Alright" (David Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, Iggy Pop)     4:26

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