New documentary The Damned: Don’t You Wish We Were Dead? chronicles the seminal UK punk outfit from their early years through today, with warts and all. The eccentricities of Vanian, the unique guitar sound of Captain Sensible, the years without the Captain, the post Rat Scabies years, the tumultuous relationships, their friendship with Lemmy and Motörhead (including the year he played bass for them), the times that Chrissie Hynde and Mick Jones covered for missing members of the band… it’s all here.
It all starts in 1977 and follows the rollercoaster that is The Damned all the way through today. For casual fans of The Damned, like myself, this is a fascinating look at a band who meant a ton to the musical genre that changed our lives. Without The Damned, so much of what is now punk may not have been. In 1976, they were the first UK punk band to release a single. In early 1977, they were the first UK punk band to release a full length. Later that year, they were also the first UK punk band to tour the US. And, what’s more is that they are the only of the original 1976 punk bands to still be touring the world today.
Diehard fans likely know much of the lore of Dave Vanian’s antics and the numerous everpresent internal feuds throughout the band’s history, but even those diehards have never heard the members of the band and the folks closest to them speak so candidly about their takes and feelings on what really happened. There are many compelling moments throughout the film, notably whenever any of the core members take center screen to share their parts of the story. From Sensible admitting he “can’t help [himself]” because he’s just “an asshole” to the happy nostalgic stories, there is a ton in this doc to enjoy and discuss.
For this week’s New Music Monday, I submit something not so new, but perhaps new to you, The Damned’s “Smash It Up” (below). The Offspring’s cover of the classic tune was featured on the Batman Forever soundtrack, but many people in today’s world don’t likely know the original.
As the band begins their 40th anniversary tour on May 20th, the new documentary becomes available worldwide. You can preorder a copy at MVD or through your favorite retailer.