The Damned are an English punk rock band formed in London in 1976 by lead vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist (and later guitarist) Captain Sensible and drummer Rat Scabies.[2] They were the first punk band from the United Kingdom to release a single, "New Rose" (1976),[7] release a studio album, Damned Damned Damned (1977)[8] and tour the United States.[9] Nine of the band's singles charted on the UK Singles Chart Top 40.[10]

The Damned
The Damned on the Evil Spirits Tour 2018
The Damned on the Evil Spirits Tour 2018
Background information
OriginLondon, England
Years active1976 (1976)–present
Past members

The band briefly dissolved after Music for Pleasure (1977), the follow-up to their debut studio album, was critically dismissed.[11] They quickly reformed without Brian James and released Machine Gun Etiquette (1979).[12] In the 1980s, they released four studio albums: The Black Album (1980), Strawberries (1982), Phantasmagoria (1985) and Anything (1986), which saw the band moving toward a gothic rock style. The latter two albums did not feature Sensible, who had left the band in 1984.[13] In 1988, James and Sensible rejoined to play a series of reunion gigs, one of which was released the next year as the live album Final Damnation (1989).[14] Their fast-driven punk rock has been cited for influencing and shaping the emergence of hardcore punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United Kingdom and the United States.[15]

The Damned again reformed for a tour in 1991.[16] In 1995, they released a new studio album, Not of This Earth, which was Scabies's last with the band.[17] This was followed by Grave Disorder (2001), So, Who's Paranoid? (2008) and Evil Spirits (2018), their first studio album in the Official Charts top-10 list, landing at No. 7.[18][19] Their most recent album, Darkadelic, was released in 2023. Despite experiencing numerous lineup changes, the formation of Vanian, Sensible, keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West had been together from 2004 until 2017, when West left the band and former bassist Paul Gray rejoined.[20] In 2019, drummer Pinch left the band, and in February 2022 he was replaced by Will Taylor, who left in November 2023, when Scabies rejoined.

As one of the first gothic rock bands, the Damned, featuring lead singer Vanian's baritone singing, dark lyrics and vampire-themed costume, were a major influence on the goth subculture.[21]



Formation and Stiff years (1976–1978)


Dave Vanian (David Lett), Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) and Rat Scabies (Chris Millar) had been members of the band Masters of the Backside, which also included future Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde.[22] Brian James (Brian Robertson) had been a member of London SS, a band that never played live but also included musicians who later found fame in the Clash and Generation X. Scabies knew James through a failed audition as the drummer for London SS.[23] When they decided to start their own band, with James on guitar and Scabies on drums, they invited Sid Vicious, later of the Sex Pistols, and Dave Vanian to audition to be the singer. However, only Vanian appeared, and he was added to the band.[22] Sensible became the band's bassist, and the four called themselves the Damned.[24] Chrissie Hynde would later write: "Without me, they were probably the most musically accomplished punk outfit in town."[25]

The Damned played their first show on 6 July 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. A lo-fi recording of the show was later released as Live at the 100 Club (2007).[26] As part of London's burgeoning punk scene, the Damned again played the club on 20 September for the 100 Club Punk Festival.[27]

On 22 October, five weeks before the release of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.", Stiff Records released the Damned's first single "New Rose", thus making them the first UK punk band to release a single. The single's B-side was a fast-paced cover of the Beatles' "Help!".[28] "New Rose" was described by critic Ned Raggett as a "deathless anthem of nuclear-strength romantic angst."[29]

When the Sex Pistols released their single, they took the Damned, along with the Clash and Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, as openers for their December "Anarchy Tour of the UK". Many of the tour dates were cancelled by organizers or local authorities, with only seven of approximately 20 scheduled shows taking place. The Damned were expelled from the tour before its end by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.[30]

The Damned released their debut studio album Damned Damned Damned on 18 February 1977. Produced by Nick Lowe, it was the first studio album released by a British punk band and included a new single, "Neat Neat Neat".[31] The band toured to promote the album, in March opening for T. Rex on their final tour before Marc Bolan's death that September. Later that spring, they became the first British punk band to tour the United States.[32] According to Brendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angeles club the Masque, their first tour of the U.S. found them favouring very fast tempos, helping to inspire the first wave of West Coast hardcore punk.[33]

That August, Lu Edmonds was added as a second guitarist.[26] Although not yet obvious in their music, the band were heavily inspired by psychedelic rock.[34] They unsuccessfully tried to recruit the reclusive Syd Barrett to produce their second studio album.[35] They settled for his former Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason. In November 1977, the album was released as Music for Pleasure and was quickly dismissed by critics. Its failure precipitated the band's exit from Stiff Records.[36] Scabies was also displeased with the album and quit the band after the recording. He was replaced by future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, who played with the Damned until they dissolved in February 1978.[37]

Reformation and Machine Gun Etiquette (1978–1979)


The former members of the band worked on a series of brief side projects and solo recordings, all making little commercial impact. Scabies formed a one-off band called "Les Punks" for a late 1978 gig. Les Punks was a quasi-reunion of the Damned (without Brian James or Edmonds) that featured Scabies, Vanian, Sensible and bassist Lemmy of Hawkwind and Motörhead. The Damned tentatively reformed with the "Les Punks" lineup in early 1979, but originally performed as "The Doomed" to avoid potential trademark problems. Sensible switched to guitar and keyboards, and after a brief period with Lemmy on bass for studio demos and a handful of live appearances[38] and a slightly longer period with Henry Badowski on bass, the bassist position was filled by Algy Ward, formerly of the Saints. During a December 1978 tour of Scotland, Gary Holton substituted for Vanian.[39]

The band officially went by the Damned again, playing their first gig under that name in April 1979 and signing a recording contract with Chiswick Records. They returned to the studio and released the charting singles "Love Song" and "Smash It Up", followed by 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette and then a cover version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit".[40] Vanian's vocals had by now expanded from the high baritone of the early records to a smoother crooning style.[41]

Machine Gun Etiquette (1979) featured a strong 1960s garage-rock influence with a Farfisa organ on several songs. Recording at London's Wessex Studios at the same time as the Clash were there to record London Calling (1979), Joe Strummer and Mick Jones made an uncredited vocal appearance on the title track. Machine Gun Etiquette (1979) received largely positive reviews; Ira Robbins and Jay Pattyn of Trouser Press described it as "a great record by a band many had already counted out."[42]

Shift towards gothic rock (1980–1987)


Ward left the band in 1980, to be replaced by Paul Gray, formerly of Eddie and the Hot Rods. The Black Album was released later that year, produced by the band themselves apart from one track produced by Hans Zimmer, with three sides of the double album consisting of studio tracks, including the theatrical 17-minute song "Curtain Call". Side 4 featured a selection of live tracks recorded at Shepperton Studios. It was their last album for Chiswick.[citation needed]

In 1981, the Damned released Friday 13th, a four-song EP that featured the original tracks "Disco Man", "Billy Bad Breaks", "Limit Club" and a cover version of the Rolling Stones song "Citadel".[43]

In 1982, the Damned released their only studio album for Bronze Records, Strawberries. The band had now expanded to a quintet with the addition of full-time keyboardist Roman Jugg. At the time, Sensible was splitting his time between the Damned and his own solo career, having reached chart success in the UK with the 1982 number-one hit "Happy Talk". The band's next album, a one-off side project recorded without Sensible, was the soundtrack to an imaginary 1960s movie called Give Daddy the Knife, Cindy.[44] For this limited-run album of 1960s cover songs, the band was billed as Naz Nomad and the Nightmares.[45]

In 1984, the Damned performed on the BBC Two sitcom The Young Ones with their song "Nasty", featuring new bassist Bryn Merrick (replacing Gray) and both Jugg and Sensible on guitar.[citation needed] Sensible played his last concert with the band at Brockwell Park before leaving to pursue his solo career.[46]

From the earliest days of the band, Vanian had adopted a vampire-like appearance onstage, with chalk-white makeup and formal dress.[47] With Sensible gone, Vanian's image became more characteristic of the band as a whole. The Damned signed a recording contract with major label MCA Records, and the Phantasmagoria album followed in July 1985, preceded by the UK No. 21 single "Grimly Fiendish". Other hits from the same album were "The Shadow of Love"[48] with a gloomy gothic sound, and the lighter "Is It a Dream?".[49]

In January 1986, the non-album single "Eloise", a cover version of the 1968 hit by Barry Ryan, became a No. 3 chart success in the UK, the band's highest chart placing to date.[40]

Phantasmagoria's December 1986 followup Anything was a commercial failure, although MCA included one of its tracks ("In Dulce Decorum") on the Miami Vice II soundtrack release. The cover of Love's "Alone Again Or" was also released as a single.[citation needed]

Late in 1987, the Damned began to work on a new studio album for MCA, but the output of these sessions remains unreleased as the record contract was dissolved. Two of the new songs ("Gunning for Love" and "The Loveless and the Damned") were later rerecorded by the Dave Vanian and the Phantom Chords side project.

Reunion and farewell tours (1988–89)


In June 1988, James and Sensible rejoined the group temporarily for three live appearances, including a concert at the London Town and Country Club that was released the following year as the album Final Damnation.[50]

In June 1989, James and Sensible rejoined the group for two UK appearances billed as The Final Curtain. In July this lineup performed a farewell tour of the U.S. and in December they performed a further five UK gigs advertised as the We Really Must Be Going Now tour.[51]

Second and third reformations (1990–1995)


Although officially on hiatus, the Damned released "Fun Factory" a song which was recorded in 1982 with the Sensible/Vanian/Scabies/Gray lineup and intended to be released as a single at that time. However, the bankruptcy of their record company prevented the release of the song for nine years. The year's second single, "Prokofiev", was recorded by Scabies, Vanian and Brian James, and was sold on a 1991 reunion tour of the U.S.[52]

In 1993, the band reformed with a new lineup featuring Scabies, Vanian, guitarists Kris Dollimore (formerly of the Godfathers), Alan Lee Shaw and bassist Moose Harris (formerly of New Model Army). Around this time, two prominent rock groups each covered a Damned song: Guns N' Roses recorded "New Rose" for their The Spaghetti Incident? 1993 album, while the Offspring covered "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack (1995). Both cover versions enjoyed major-label distribution and created more exposure to the Damned's sound, sometimes to a younger audience unfamiliar with the group.[citation needed]

The reformed Damned toured regularly for about two years and released a new studio album, Not of This Earth, in November 1995, which was promoted with a series of long tours prior to its release. However, by the time when the album was released, the Damned had yet again split, partly as the result of legal battles; Vanian and Sensible accused Scabies of releasing Not of This Earth (1995) without proper authorization.[citation needed]

Return of Captain Sensible and new lineup (1996–2003)


Sensible rejoined Vanian in 1996 and yet another formation of the Damned appeared. This initially featured bassist Paul Gray, who was later replaced by Patricia Morrison, previously of Bags, the Gun Club and The Sisters of Mercy.[53]

By February 1999, the Damned consisted of Vanian, Sensible, Morrison and new recruits Monty Oxymoron on keyboards and Spike T. Smith on drums. Smith later joined Morrissey's live band and recommended that the Damned recruit Andy (Pinch) Pinching, a founding member of English Dogs, to replace him on drums. Garrie Dreadful, a recruit from Sensible's solo band, had played drums from 1997 to 1999 before Smith's arrival. In 2001, the band released the album Grave Disorder on Dexter Holland's Nitro Records label and promoted it with continual touring. A spring tour of the U.S. was planned in 2002 supporting Rob Zombie. However, the band withdrew after a few shows. Sensible said that "gothic punk was completely lost on the predominantly metal crowds." In the summer, the band played the Vans Warped Tour in the U.S.[54]

Lineup change, 40th anniversary, and new album (2004–2019)

Captain Sensible of the Damned performing live at the Manchester Academy, 2018

Morrison and Vanian married and had a daughter, Emily, born on 9 February 2004. Around this time, Morrison retired from performing with the band, although she remained involved with the Damned as their manager. Her replacement on bass was Stu West.[citation needed]

In 2006, the Damned released the single "Little Miss Disaster" and a live DVD MGE25 documenting a 2004 Manchester concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of Machine Gun Etiquette (1979). On 21 October 2006, BBC Radio 2 broadcast an hour-long documentary titled Is She Really Going Out with Him? concerning the recording of the Damned's first single "New Rose" and the group's place in the 1976 London punk scene. Featuring interviews with James, Sensible, Scabies, Glen Matlock, Don Letts and Chrissie Hynde, the programme discussed the bands and personalities around the scene, particularly the Anarchy in the U.K. tour.[citation needed]

On 28 October 2008, the Damned released their tenth studio album, So, Who's Paranoid?, a digital release, followed by a physical release on the English Channel label on 10 November (UK) and 9 December (U.S.).[55] To promote the album, the band appeared twice on American television, including a visit to The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.[56] The band undertook a 23-date UK tour to promote their new studio album, supported by Devilish Presley and Slicks Kitchen.[57]

In November 2009, the band supported Motörhead on the UK leg of their world tour.[58][59]

Continual touring occurred throughout the UK and Europe over the next few years. In 2012, the Damned played South America for the first time, with dates in São Paulo and Buenos Aires. They returned to the Rhythm Festival, one of only four headline acts to return over the festival's seven-year history. In 2012, the Damned announced that they would return for 2013's Rebellion Festival alongside the Exploited, the Casualties and others.[60]

On 7 November 2014, Sensible and Vanian appeared on Ken Reid's TV Guidance Counselor podcast.[61]

In 2015, the Damned were featured in a documentary by director Wes Orshoski titled The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead. The documentary charts the history of the band against a backdrop of archival footage, new interviews and tour footage from 2011 to 2014.

After the release of the film on 12 September 2015, former bassist Bryn Merrick, who had played on Phantasmagoria (1985) and Anything (1986), died of throat cancer.[62] At the time of his death, he had been playing in a Ramones tribute band called Shamones.[63]

In May 2016, the band played a 40th anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall.[citation needed]

In the summer of 2017, "Neat Neat Neat" was prominently featured in the action film Baby Driver and its soundtrack.[64] On 11 September 2017, the band announced that Stu West was leaving the band and that former bassist Paul Gray would be returning for the new studio album.[20] Evil Spirits, the band's eleventh album and first in ten years, was released on 13 April 2018. It peaked at No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart, their highest-ever chart position, topping their previous high of No. 11 in 1985 (Phantasmagoria). The album, which was largely crowdfunded through PledgeMusic, was recorded in November 2017 in New York City and was produced by Tony Visconti. The album was preceded by the first single, "Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow", in January 2018 along with the singles "Devil in Disguise" and "Look Left" in March 2018 and "Procrastination" in April 2018.[65]

On 23 May 2019, the Damned started a tour performing their third studio album, Machine Gun Etiquette (1979), which they had not played in full since its release. The tour included venues such as the House of Blues, Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival and Rebellion Festival.[66]

Departure of Pinch, original lineup reunion, drummer changes, and Scabies' return (2019–present)


On 25 October 2019, Pinch announced his departure after 20 years with the band. His last gig was the Damned's show at the London Palladium on 27 October 2019.

On 21 October 2020, the Damned announced that in 2021 the original lineup of Vanian, Sensible, James and Scabies would play a series of shows. This would mark the first time in more than two decades that James and Scabies had played with Vanian and Sensible.[67] However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the tour until 2022.

In February 2022, Pinch was replaced by drummer Will Taylor. In February 2023, the band's next studio album, Darkadelic, was announced and it was released on 28 April 2023. The album was preceded by the singles and music videos for "The Invisible Man" on 3 February 2023, "Beware of the Clown" on 10 March 2023 and "You're Gonna Realise" on 21 April 2023. All three music videos were directed by Martin Gooch.[68]

Former bassist Algy Ward, who had played on Machine Gun Etiquette, died on 17 May 2023.[69][70] After leaving the Damned, Ward had formed the NWOBHM band Tank in 1980.

Will Taylor announced his departure as the Damned's drummer in November 2023.[71] Later that month, it was announced that original drummer Scabies had rejoined the band on a permanent basis.[72][73]

In February 2024 the band announced that for the first time in 35 years they would be doing a North American tour featuring their 1980's lineup of Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies and Paul Gray. The tour will consist of ten shows in May and June 2024.[74]



Current members

  • Dave Vanian (David Lett) – lead vocals (1976–present)
  • Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) – guitar, backing vocals (1979–1984, 1988–1992, 1996–present), keyboards (1979–1981), bass (1976–1978; 2022 reunion tour)
  • Paul Gray – bass, backing vocals (1980–1983, 1989–1992, 1996, 2017–present)
  • Monty Oxymoron (Laurence Burrow) – keyboards, backing vocals (1996–present)
  • Rat Scabies (Christopher Millar) – drums, backing vocals (1976–1977, 1979–1996, 2022, 2023–present)




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