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EDITIONS
Friday, 28 June, 2002, 23:32 GMT 00:32 UK
The Damned's passion for punk
Captain Sensible
Captain Sensible: Dislikes manufactured pop bands

The Damned are punk pioneers.

They put out the first punk single, New Rose - beating The Sex Pistols' Anarchy In The UK to the honour. And a quarter of a century later, they are still going strong.

They recently released a new album - Grave Disorder - as well as reissuing their first album, plus a compilation CD and are preparing for a one-off gig at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire on 12 July.

Frontman Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible - who recently rejoined the band after an 18-year break reflected that punk caused shock in the 1970s because "Britain had barely changed since the 50s".

"The shops weren't open late, there was no Sunday trading and there were still people in bowler hats on the trains," said Vanian.

The Damned
The Damned have been performing for 26 years
"In those days, walking down the street was quite a dangerous thing. If you looked a bit odd you couldn't go just anywhere. Now if you walk down the street with dyed hair and black fingernails, no-one bothers you."

Sensible added that the era was "very strange", and that this was why their rivals' single - The Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen - caused "so much outrage".

"You couldn't say anything on TV or in the newspapers against the royals," he said.

"People under the age of 35-40 don't realise how much a lid was kept on public dissent."

Captain Sensible
Sensible: His 80s music proved "highly lucrative"
For many people, the Silver Jubilee marked the onset of punk. Vanian remembered the era as "an exciting blur".

"It wasn't just bands, it was writers and artists," he said. "It was a bunch of disillusioned kids who didn't want to be told they were factory fodder."

The royal celebrations, however, passed them by.

"We didn't get tied up in it all. We were just desperately trying to make a buck," said Vanian, while Sensible added that he would have been "throwing eggs at the Queen" if he had not been otherwise occupied with music.

'Dubious'

The pair was swift to dismiss any rivalry between The Sex Pistols and The Damned.

Sensible revealed that although the managers "hated each other" the bands "got on pretty well".

The Pistols' reunions are few and far between, however, but The Damned have been plying their trade for 26 years.

"Punk could have become relegated to three chords, but quite early on we started experimenting," said Vanian.

Despite his obvious passion for his music, Sensible left The Damned in the 80s for what he describes as his "extremely dubious but highly lucrative Happy Talk period".

'Terrible'

He is now delighted to be writing with Vanian once again, saying: "We are the Lennon and McCartney of punk."

The Damned are renowned for their explosive performances, and Sensible said: "We're not shoe-gazers, but we aren't Westlife either."

The mention of manufactured pop sends both men into paroxysms.

"The new punk bands don't bother me, It's the plethora of boybands doing terrible ballads," said Vanian. "If I was a teenager, it would be like listening to your mum's music. There's nothing thought-provoking about any of them."

Sensible added: "When Take That disappeared, I thought it was finished. But then came Boyzone, Westlife and eventually Popstars, which was the icing on the cake. It made me want to put a brick through the TV. "

Fans

He said he thought that the "Slipknots and Limp Bizkits of this world are to be thanked for getting British kids back into guitar music".

"In the 90s, you would go into a music shop and there wouldn't be any guitars on the racks - just DJ consoles," he said.

Both men are full of praise for The Damned's loyal fan base. "They have been behind us even when the press have put us down," said Vanian.

Vanian said he has got no time for the beer-throwing antics which characterised early punk gigs.

'Resurrected corpses'

"That should have dried up now. I wouldn't go up to a bricklayer and throw beer on him," he said.

These days, Sensible said the band talk politics and read "big newspapers". He claimed his hobby is "public transport systems of the world".

Public transport systems and politics aside, Vanian said there's still plenty of life in the band.

"I refuse to bury The Damned until we are ready. People have tried to put us down but we have clawed our way back like resurrected corpses. I want us to go out with a bang," he said.

See also:

16 May 02 | Entertainment
17 Apr 02 | Entertainment
16 Apr 01 | Entertainment
08 Apr 00 | Tom Brook
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