The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell
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The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell




“35 years! More like a life sentence”. That’s what Captain Sensible said to a packed crowd in Melbourne at The Damned's 35 anniversary show. That was five years ago. Five years later, a bunch of old punks are across the road at The Exford Hotel waiting for a band that Triple R Presenter, Tony Biggs told me days before that are a part of the big three of UK punk. The other two being The Sex Pistols and The Clash, of course. While The Damned never reached the acclaim, record sales of the other two, they did created chaos but they achieved something the others didn’t. Longevity. Certainly in terms of still going, never reforming or breaking up. The Damned can be described as three bands in one. You got the dark Gothic period, the raw abrasive noise of punk and the new wave of pop. Leading the way in this crazy anarchistic are the bands frontman, Dave Vanian and a bloke who I am not sure if he’s a danger to us all or just a sixty-two year man on too much red cordial, the only Captain in my life, Captain Sensible. Like most alternative kids I discovered the Damned on The Young Ones TV show. They immediately had my weak willed mind. Dave dressed in Goth/Vampire attire, the Captain being the captain, and that image of Rat Scabies with his drumsticks as fangs. It was loud, rude and crass. I liked them straight off the bat. For me The Damned represented everything punk should be, loud, fast, not giving a shit about commercial appeal, never selling out and loud camp costumes.



The Damned performing 'Nasty' on The Young Ones.

The show opens with a keyboard/organ solo, done by a fella named Monty Oxymoron, who has been with The Damned since 1996. My date Lisa tells me he looks like Viv Savage from Spinal Tap, also a keyboard player. Let's hope he doesn’t follow the tradition of some other Spinal Tap members and he survives the show. After this the rest of the band walks on stage. The red beret wearing Captain says “We’ve been here for 40 years, and we still rock. Rock in our rocking chairs.” And they play 'Melody Lee' and we are off. The Captain starts doing The Bee Gees and says they wrote a song to counter that. Of course it is 'Disco Man'. I break the seal and they rip into 'I Just Can’t be Happy Today', a song I have played many times in my life. Sigh.

The Captain takes time to tell us about the band's trip to Meredith as part of Golden Plaines. He calls Kurt Ville a boring man. Says he needs someone new to slag off. He says a past target was Paul Weller At that point I point to him like be careful where this is going. He goes back to Ville calling him a boring tosspot. He then mentions we have the most trams in the world and that’s good thing. I think is it really.

The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell

The Captain at one point tells the audience to shut up and tells us a sing-along song is coming up. The songs is 'Ignite' and what a sing-along it is. The best tune of the night as the whole crowd gets involved despite the rudeness of Sensible telling us where to go beforehand.

Sensible is making a case for being the greatest showman in Rock'N'Roll. He needs to be on TV, or radio or something. Some of the highlights of the banter include a Jimmy Savile joke (which gets a lot of groans) , calling out Chris Cheney from The Living End and also saying the immortal words, ever feel like you’ve been cheated, before realising that was some other band. 'Alone Again Or', 'Love Song', 'Second Time Around' and of course 'Eloise' get a run.

The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell

The captain says they are going to do a Bob Dylan style sings which leads to 'New Rose'. The drummer unfortunately can’t pull off the style Rat Scabies does which is what made that song so memorable but till sounds ace. 'Neat Neat Neat' next which Dave gives a shout out to Lux Interior of The Cramps and we are done for now.

The band come back with the Captain taking lead vocals for the first time playing 'Life Goes On'. Then The Captain tells us he hid this song from his Catholic Aunty. Before the band gets into 'Smash It Up' they pay tribute to The Johnnys, the cowpunk support band for the group in the 80s.

The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell

The Captain bids us farewell with this message. “Remember us this way. Nothing lasts forever.” What a way to end the show. I see someone passes the Captain a LP to sign. Same thing happened last gig, but that time he publicly shames the individual by saying he’ll sign it even though he didn’t play on it. Also last time The Captain ended the show by baring the audience his backside. Now, is it because he's getting older or the fact we now have mooning laws in Victoria he didn’t do it this time? Either way I feel cheated. As we leave 170 Russell, Lisa and I head back to The Exford. A fan in the toilets says he would have preferred songs off the first two albums, while Lisa tells me her highlight was seeing all these old husband and wives hugging and singing along. I guess that’s fine.

The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell

With Dave (60 years old) and the Captain (62 years old) both now in their sixties, they put on a show anyone half their age would be lucky to muster up. Both look incredible and Dave hits all the notes fine. And the Captain? What can i say. Any man who puts on a performance like he did deserves the Captains title. In a world where the original Ramones line up is gone, the Clash not around, the Sex Pistols around but not playing, it is amazing to think The Damned, granted with 50% of it original members not in the band, have survived this long and still playing two hour shows. The chaos of the 70's gigs might be gone but the attitude and spirit is still very much alive.

For more photographs of The Damned, check out out sister music website, GigBill with some excellent music photography by Paul Griggs.


The Damned Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary Show at 170 Russell

Here is some footage from the 35th Anniversary show, five years ago with The Damned performing 'Smash It Up (Part 1 & 2)'.
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