The Damned hits 40 in stride
Long-running British punks The Damned have built a substantial legacy. As the first UK punk band to release a single, an album, and tour the U.S., they are forever cemented in music history. In addition, they’ve influenced generations of other musicians from Black Flag and Bad Brains to Green Day and Guns ‘N’ Roses.
The band celebrated last year, but now it’s time for their classic debut record, the Nick Lowe-produced “Damned Damned Damned,” to hit the 40-year milestone.
In addition to releasing special editions of the album, The Damned are hitting the road on a 40th Anniversary North American tour that stops at the House of Blues on Friday night.
But the band is not only pausing to look back. They’re currently working on a new album - their first in a decade.
PACIFIC recently spoke about the milestone and more with co-founder/singer Dave Vanian from his home in London.
PACIFIC: How are you?
DAVE VANIAN: I’m running around like crazy trying to get things done - since I’ve been away, you know? But by the time I get the ol’ bag packed, I’ll be hitting the road. We’re also in the middle of working on an album, so I’m running around trying to do that sort of stuff at the same time.
How far along are you?
We’ve got loads of ideas. It’s now just about honing them down into complete tracks.
Your last record was nearly 10 years ago. Was the thought to pair it with the 40th anniversary of your debut?
What happened, really, is the 40-year thing came along and we didn’t realize it was coming. You don’t really think about your own birthdays, you just get on with things. Then, suddenly, people were congratulating us on the 40th and this, that, and the other, and it’s been great. It’s been a year of celebration. Lovely in one way, but it kind of hindered getting on with some things and going forward. So now I’m looking forward to a new chapter.
When: 8 p.m. April 7
Where: House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave, Downtown
This year, with all of the hullabaloo around ’77, as well as your band and debut album as part of that special class, have you had any time to really reflect on this milestone?
It’s quite shocking, really. Because, you know, when you come into a band, you never really expect it to last. You expect to be together and work, but you never in your wildest dreams think it’s going to be a lifetime career. Most bands get a good three years in. And that’s a good time for a lot of bands. If you reach further than that, it’s amazing. And if you get to 10, well then you’ve got some really good songs. Further than that and it just gets better and better.
But with The Damned, it hasn’t been just one kind of music the whole time. We’re restless. We’ve moved on and experimented. We’ve pushed a few boundaries of our own - which hopefully we’ll do some more of. But I think it’d be different if we’d just re-hashed the first album over and over again. As good as it was, that was Brian James’ (a founding member of The Damned) work. He made it what it was. But the time has been fantastic. It’s just moved so fast. And generally, reflection hasn’t been part of it. It’s just been constantly moving forward.
Four decades of making music is no joke.
Well, it’s not just the band, or the music, or the people. It’s life itself, the way we live now, has changed so incredibly. Before the term punk was even formed, and bands were just coming together and being bands, at the end of that glam-rock era, Britain felt like post-war Britain still. It felt like the war had just happened even though it had been quite a few years. It was a very different world that we lived in. So, in some ways, it feels like an absolute age, but from the personal side of it, of the actual work, it doesn’t seem that long. It’s weird.
So much is made of the “firsts” for this band. Was any of it planned?
We were just at the right place at the right time. That was more luck than good judgment. But we were the only band that was signed to a tiny, do-it-yourself label. Whereas, all of the other bands at that point, and after, went to major labels - got big record deals. We were the only band doing it the way they were talking about it. We lived it and other people talked about it. And something like the first to tour America? That just seemed like the obvious thing to do.
Supposedly, that’s where the inklings of this music came from, you know? What better place to go? But what really helped us was the Marc Bolan tour. That got us in front of people that wouldn’t have normally seen us. And it got us an audience very quickly instead of having to go out by ourselves. There were a lot of those that we saw at the time as the old guard which turned their noses up at punk rock and tried to de-value it in some way. Bolan understood it from the beginning.
Moving forward into this new album, where is the Damned creatively?
I want to take more chances and push the envelope a bit more. But I also want to delve into our more psychedelic garage side that we haven’t explored as much as we should.
That’s a really solid foundation of who we are. The band’s influences, and certainly myself, were bands that mostly came out of America - The Seeds, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Doors, MC5, The Stooges. I’m always aware that there are going to be people who don’t like what we do. That’s a healthy thing. If you pander to people, then you’re not being true to what the music really is. Music is the force that leads the way and you follow. It should dictate where to go. And I quite like it when you have to convince people that something is good. Some people won’t like what you’re doing, but if you stay true to the music, there will always be people that do.
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.