How did the band the Damned contribute to music?

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Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The London, England, based punk rock band that formed in 1976 is credited with several achievements including two "first" for punk musician:

  • Sustained the "attitude and spontaneity of punk rock" without being swept away by punk's "combustibility" (Nicole Elyse, "The Damned," Gale Cengage).
  • First British punk single recording released (single as opposed to album).
  • First British punk group to tour in America (1977).

Punk became popular during the socially and culturally violent 1970s when England was torn by labor strikes by postal workers, television technicians (Colour Strike), Northern Ireland workers, coal miners, grave diggers, trash collectors, train drivers and nurses. The youth of England are said to have felt disenfranchised from society by the chaos and turmoil surrounding them for a decade. The result of this disenfranchisement--which led to the rejection of social and cultural mores, practices, deportment and ambitions--was, in some sectors of the youth culture, the development of the retaliatory and violent punk movement that included personal appearance, habits, attitudes and music.

The Damned was formed in this turbulent milieu along with Sex Pistols and the Clash. Damned combined a wild punk sound with physical performances that included smashed instruments and gothic overtones. Formed in London, the members coalesced into a band after meeting each other at their jobs (i.e., cleaning toilets, for Rat and Sensible) or during musical stints with other bands (e.g., Rat and Dave). While many musicians, like Roman Jugg (1981-89, keyboard and guitar), have been added over time, the original band members included:

  • Drummer Rat Scabies
  • Bassist Captain Sensible
  • Singer Dave Vanian
  • Guitar Brian James

They played their first show at London's 100 Club on July 6, 1976 as an opening act for the Sex Pistols. Damned's songs covered topics other than the hot punk topic of politics so provided an interesting, though violent and potentially dangerous (one fan lost an eye when a glass was thrown from onstage), change from the usual punk lyric topic. They played various punk festivals, including the Mont de Marsan in France, where they caught the attention of music producer Nick Lowe who took them to the newly formed punk music recording label Stiff records who recorded and released Damned's single "New Rose," the first punk single in history.

The single, though poorly distributed and received, started off the process of tours and albums. The Anarchy was Damned's first tour, though it was ultimately cancelled.

  • 1977 first album, Damned, Damned, Damned, 34th on UK charts.
  • 1977, Robert (Lu) Edmunds added as second guitarist.
  • 1977, April, played with The Deadboys at New York's CBGB Club, first UK punk band to play in America.
  • 1977, second album, Music for Pleasure not a critical success.
  • 1977-78, a succession of drummers including Jim Moss who joined Culture Club.
  • 1978, Brian James left group.
  • 1978, August, end of Damned, final performance and instrument smashing held at the Rainbow in London.
  • 1978, September, performed together again but without Brian James.
  • 1978, added bassist Algy Ward.
  • 1978, discovered that Brian James had registered the name "Damned" and held the sole rights to use of it.
  • 1978, settled financially with Brain James, who rejoined the group, which performed again under Damned instead of under the aliases Doomed and Les Punks.
  • 1979, signed a record deal with Chiswick Records.
  • 1979, released third album Machine Gun Etiquette, which received admiring reviews.
  • 1979, three singles on the record charts from Machine Gun: "Love Song," "Smash It Up" and "I Just Can't be Happy Today."
  • 1980, released fourth album The Black Album receiving good reviews.
  • 1981, moved to Bronze record label.
  • 1982, released fifth album Strawberries, with a standout single cut "Happy Feet" by Sensible, which hit number one on the UK punk charts.
  • 1984, September, Sensible leaves the Damned over tensions originally arising in his individual success with "Happy Feet."
  • 1984, keyboardist Roman Jugg steps into Sensible's guitarist role.
  • 1985, MCA label, Phantasmagoria.
  • 1986, MCA label, Anything, which was received as "uninspired."
  • 1986-88, "fractured lineup and no record label."
  • 1988, decision to disband and inaugurated a series of farewell tours.
  • 1989, final farewell tour: We Really Must Be Going tour in Britain.
  • 1990-95, reformed as a "splintered" group.
  • 1995, both Vanian and Sensible rejoined Damned.
  • 1995, joining lineup: bassist Patricia Morrison, keyboardist Monty Oxy Moron, drummer Garrie Dreadful
  • 1996, record deal with Nitro Records, which was owned by Damned fan and Offspring vocalist Bryan Holland.
  • 1998, drummer Spike Smith replaced Dreadful on drums.
  • 1999, drummer Pinch replaced Spike on drums.
  • 2001, August, released Grave Disorder, first album in more than 15 years.

Album Discography

Damned, Damned, Damned, Stiff, 1977.

Music for Pleasure, Stiff, 1977.

Machine Gun Etiquette, Chiswick, 1979.

The Black Album, Chiswick, 1980.

Strawberries, Bronze, 1982.

Phantasmagoria, MCA, 1985.

Anything, MCA, 1986.

Grave Disorder, Nitro, 2001.

Source: Nicole Elyse. "The Damned." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 34. Gale Cengage, 2006.

Roman Jugg

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laurto | Student

The Damned were a punk rock band and they were actually the first punk rock band in the UK to release a single, an album, and to have a record on the UK music charts, which is something quite difficult for a punk rock band to have. They contributed greatly to the Gothic and punk rock scene because their music expanded to many places. 

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