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The Damned, Clitheroe Grand,
CAPTAIN Sensible once declared that all acoustic guitars should be abolished and chopped into tiny pieces.
“I’ll tell you why I said it; in the mid-70s there was a country rock boom going on, mainly stuff like Emmylou Harris, and it was gruesome,” said the Damned’s mad-cap guitarist.
“That was all driven by Bob Harris and his crowd, and those people were all driving me to the brink of insanity.
“I couldn’t stand it, and I just wanted to trash the whole thing.
“If I saw an acoustic guitar I’d grab it and go ‘Arrrrrgggggh!’ “Then there was the half-baked prog rock stuff. There was nothing for the kids except Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd.
“Something like punk had to happen and it did because of all that rubbish.”
Sensible laughingly describes The Damned as a ‘daft, rudderless, pirate ship’.
But they have sailed those stormy seas for nearly 40 years now – from the punk glory of New Rose to the melody of their biggest hit Eloise – and Sensible reckons the British punk revolution never got the recognition it deserved.
“1977 and all that got swept under the carpet, but if it had happened in any other country people would be celebrating the legacy of bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols,” he said.
“When did you last hear a Damned record on the radio?
“But I loved the brazen cheek of it all, and England’s establishment hated punk. It was just too horrible and rotten for a lot of folk.
“Punk was considered to be a total disgrace, but it was a disgrace that needed to happen.”
When Brian James broke up the original version of The Damned in 1978, rock god Lemmy, Motorhead’s iconic leader, stepped in.
“We were broke and couldn’t find a bassist who was good enough, and we were in a pub and Lemmy was playing the bandit behind us and he said: ‘I’ll do it gentlemen’.
“So that was that – we were called The Doomed then – and Lemmy played a handful of dates. He saved the band.”
Sensible admits the heart of The Damned remains his long time friend and lead singer Dave Vanian.
“Dave Vanian is the darkness that is in the band’s soul,” said Sensible. “He lives and breathes the lifestyle.
“When you visit his flat there’s big plastic cobwebs and spiders on the wall, black curtains, dusty books, the whole goth rock thing.
“Dave’s a fantastic bloke, and he doesn’t look any different than he did 30 years ago.
“The rest of the band reckons he has sold his soul to the devil in return for the secret of eternal youth.”
Sensible enjoyed a successful solo career too, and when he covered the foot-tapping tune Happy Talk, from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, it rocketed to number one.
“It was top of the pops for a fortnight and suddenly Page 3 girls started to find me attractive, and I couldn’t think why,” he joked. “They were carting me around in a limousine, drinking Champagne.
“That was a long time ago and I’m happily married with four children now.
“I used to take the kids to school and I’d have my Damned stage gear on, the red beret and the mohair jumper, and they’d be screaming in the back of the car, ‘Dad, don’t let any of our friends see you like that’.
“Of course they did and it always used to make me laugh.”
- The Damned, Clitheroe Grand, Thursday, August 8. Support the Skeletal Family. Call 01200 421599.
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