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The Damned Biography

Last updated: 08/23/2009 12:00:00 PM

Trying to accurately document the history of the first punk band to record, to chart and to tour America is a bit of a challenge because changes in the line-up and (sometimes) name changes just make it tough! The line-ups and other bands that evolved into and from The Damned read like a veritable "who's who" of punk and new wave!

Starting around 1975, Brian James (Brian James Robertson) was in a punk band called London S.S. with Mick Jones, Terry Chimes and Paul Simonon (which would leter evolve into The Clash). The only thing that would help to keep this straight would be one of those fancy "Rock Family Trees" (and, yes, we're working on it, folks)! He soon hooked up with Rat Scabies (Chris Miller) and Captain Sensible (Ray Burns) in Nick Kent's Subterraneans. Other "comers and goers" went on to Chelsea (which itself evolved into Generation X). James, Sensible and Scabies became the Masters Of The Backside, managed by Malcolm McLaren (later to become famous as manager of The Sex Pistols) and briefly featuring a "pre-Pretenders" Chrissie Hynde on vocals. They became The Damned after Scabies recruited Dave Vanian (David Letts), fittingly, a gravedigger, after hearing him sing at a funeral. This is considered the "classic line-up."

The quartet first performed in July 1976 and soon became famous for their stage act: Sensible in his tutu and feather boa, Vanian looking ever-so-much like Dracula, and everyone picking blows with the audience in true punk style. They were soon signed to Stiff Records and followed their first LP and single (produced by Nick Lowe) with a tour of the US. The second LP didn't fare as well and The Damned called it quits in early 1978, each member forming new bands.

In 1979 they reformed, minus Brian James, as The Doomed (Brian James retained the rights to the name "The Damned" and would not relinquish it till early in 1980) with Henry Badowski on bass for a while, and then "Algy" (Alistair Ward). It was at this time they had their biggest hits: "Love Song" and "Smash It Up". Paul Grey soon replaced "Algy" on bass and The Damned once again toured the US and found their first American-released LP, THE BLACK ALBUM, on IRS.

In 1982 Captain Sensible began flirting with a solo career with minor hits like "Wot" and " Happy Talk", but remained with The Damned for the most part, before quitting for good in 1984. They continued touring and recording until 1989 when they embarked on a "farewell tour" that summer.