Damned Damned Damned By Sean O’Neill

Damned Damned Damned

Damned Damned Damned By Sean O’Neill

100 Club - 6th July 1006 - Rat Scabies and Brian James play "Damned, Damned, Damned"

Rat & Brian’s 30-year celebration of their classic debut album. 30-years to the very day that the Damned played their first official gig at the 100 Club supporting the Sex Pistols, two of the original members got back together tonight (Thursday) to run through some of the classics from that groundbreaking debut. I’m reliably informed that they’d even been rehearsing for the show as far back as Monday!! Even Rat’s drum kit was assembled at the 11th hour.

Prior to the announcement of this show, all four original members had got as far as a meeting (in the same room) with tentative talks about a reunion tour on the table, but sadly these talks broke down and came to nothing (may the momentum be with you, Cap & Dave – Ed).

Still, Brian James did write all those songs - and he and Rat did define that chaotic sound on that classic debut album. Not that Dave and Captain’s contributions can be over looked, but Rat & Brian do have a right to celebrate their history too. Certainly the missing members tonight have no qualms about playing some of Brian’s songs every time they take to the stage these days!

I arrived in London early and made my way to the 100 Club, arriving there around five. There was absolutely no sign of life at the club, so I just pushed the front door and disappeared from Oxford Street. I ventured straight down the stairs on my right and made my way into a rather empty club. There were three guys setting up equipment and I casually asked, “Is Chris Millar about”. To my surprise one of the guys replied, “yeah, Chris and the band are at the pub around the corner”. After getting directions to said pub from the same guy I made my way out of the 100 Club via the tradesman’s entrance and hastily made my way to the pub. I couldn’t believe it; there in the hot July sunshine were the band, sitting outside the pub supping beer. I bought myself a pint and duly introduced myself to Mr Scabies. I had a copy of our book for Ratty, which he got me to sign. I got him to return the favour on an extra copy that I’d brought (more on that later). After a couple of beers it was sound check time. Back at the 100 Club and it became evident that Casey Chaos voice had gone, he didn’t even sound check. I’d happily have made the whole trip just to see Brian, Manni & Rat do their instrumental rendition of “Sick Of Being Sick”. I know it’s an old cliché - but the hairs were literally standing on the back of neck as Rat looked over in our direction with a beaming smile across his face.

The Sex Pistols Experience did their sound check minus PuNk panto costumes, so Kid Vicious wore his spectacles - and as they were doing their bit I spoke briefly with Kris Needs the DJ for the night who had just arrived heavily laden with vinyl. He informed me that he had been instructed by Mr James to only play pre 1976 material. Kris made a find job of the music on the night and it did set the right ambience.

As the venue slowly started to filled up with familiar faces like Gaye Advert, Dee Generate, Steve Diggle, Jake Riveria and even Nick Lowe, I was starting to feel the effects of the afternoons beer (I don’t get out much!). I blame this on a total lack of food and absolutely nothing to do with a severe lack of self-control!

Anyway first on, was the Sex Pistols Experience. The "Steve" is too thin and well spoken, the "Rotten" resembles the one from the chubby late-period PIL days more than ‘77 vintage, "Cookie" is wearing shorts(!) and the "Sid" (surely it should have been "Glen" at the 100 Club!), although looking quite like Mr Beverley, also resembled the new Dr Who facially! They cranked out the numbers pretty well, struggling a bit through the Sid material ("Mr Rotten" left the band towards the end of their set). All right for a giggle I suppose - but I’ve never gone much for tribute bands.

Next up was TV Smith, who was great as always. A shame Gaye didn't strap on the bass as had been rumoured, but with songs of the quality of "No Time To be 21", "The Day We Caught The Big Fish" and of course "Gary Gilmore's Eyes", no one was complaining.

As it ticked round to ten o'clock, Rat, Brian, ex-Stone Roses bassist Mani and singer Casey Chaos (Amen) arrived on stage. Rat immediately disposed of a cymbal, looking a tad nervous, but all fears were soon dispelled when they hammered straight into "New Rose". The old magic between Brian and Rat was still there in abundance and evident for all to see. To see them spark off each other even in 2006 was such a glorious sight and sound it was easy to ignore Mr Chaos who didn't seem to know all the words and when he did rendered them a touch too "Death Metal" for my liking. Plenty of energy and enthusiasm to give him his due, but his voice was gone. Mani stood there stunned, looking at Rat after every song, presumably shocked at the energy and dynamic attack of the bloke, his day job in Primal Scream probably seeming very dull in comparison. The sound that Rat and Brian summoned up hadn't aged a jot and was as fresh and relevant as when I first heard their glorious racket. What a perfect noise.

They sped through "Help”, ”So Messed Up", "Stab Your Back" and "I Fall", slightly struggled with "Feel The Pain" and Mani blew his intro to "Neat, Neat, Neat", but it really was a terrific show - 40-minutes flew by - and they were gone. The set really recalled the energy, drive and feeling of 76 much better than a polished 2-hour set would have. There was a really good punk vibe about the whole evening’s proceedings. Punk was never polished and slick. It was a true delight to stand in front of Brian on my side of the stage as he twisted and pulled faces in time to his riffs.

Before the gig Rat and Brian said that if people said they still had it afterwards it would have been worth it. Well I'm here to say they still have got it - and so much more!

At the end of the night, Rat who had played the entire set in his bedroom slippers, said, “I think I’ve dispelled the myth once again that the 1st Damned album was speeded up in the mix!” It was refreshing too to attend a Damned gig and not know exactly what songs were coming and in what order!

What a shindig. The 300 lucky people present really did get a neat damned treat. Me, I left in a drunken haze, lost the signed copy of my book - but I had a night I will always remember. I did meet some nice people too. Hello Graham and Ray the plumber!

Sean O’Neill is co-author of the definitive guide to NI Punk Rock: “It Makes You Want To Spit”

Seany O’Neill – tMx 26 – 09/06
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