Please explain The Damned—not their music, so much, because that’s easy enough to digest. I’ve got some of their records and like them well enough. They’re often a little too RAWK for my tastes, but at their best they deliver like a poor man’s New York Dolls or, on their surprisingly ’60s-rooted album Strawberries, a melodically challenged version of The Undertones or some other poppy punk band more up my alley. What I really want to understand is how singer Dave Vanian fits into everything. Did fans of the band’s typically rockin’ music need to make allowances for that guy? Were his bandmates initially accepting of his Count Rockula Look? Was he a “gateway drug” to goth? Their music never sounds that goth despite being sung by a lead singer in a cape and dyed-black hair.
Then there’s the issue of the band’s Clown Prince, Captain Sensible, whose schtick I better understand but whose schtick I also find distracting. Is the fact that The Damned was formed so early in the history of punk rock the reason for their lack of stylistic cohesion? Is their lack of stylistic cohesion key to their Collective Rock Super Powers?
Rock historians frequently bring The Stranglers up on charges of lack of stylistic cohesion and bandwagon jumping in the punk era, but The Damned are portrayed as “cool.” What gives, beyond the usual tie-ins to a pre-fame Chrissie Hynde and the legendary London SS, a band that seemed to exist for 3 days while containing, for at least an hour or two, a dozen members of eventual real bands?
What makes The Damned tick? I don’t recall ever focusing on an interview with any of the band members. What makes fans of The Damned tick? Do you pick and choose the songs and band members that appeal to you, or is there a significant run of albums under which Damned fans can rally?