The Damned kickstart the Rebellion Festival at the Winter Gardens

Punk legends The Damned, Captain Sensible, left and Dave Vanian centre
Punk legends The Damned, Captain Sensible, left and Dave Vanian centre

Punk and Goth pioneers The Damned celebrate their 40th – no, we’re not kidding - anniversary this autumn with a comprehensive tour of the UK.

But first they kickstart their party at the Rebellion Festival at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens on Saturday.

Guitarist Captain Sensible, 62, explains: “We’ll play as long as we are allowed in Blackpool as it’s a festival, but we’ll still try and get plenty of the career spanning flavour in there.”

Still around for the celebrations are original members David Vanian on vocals and Captain Sensible himself, joined on stage by long-standing stalwarts Monty Oxymoron on keyboards, Stu West on bass and drummer Pinch.

The Damned were the first band to issue a ‘punk’ single – New Rose’ and also the first UK punk band to tour the US.

Captain Sensible recalls: “In ’76 I was rather happy to be able to twang a guitar for a living. I still feel the same… I don’t take it for granted like some other musos I could mention.

“And we were the first, which always got up the Pistols’ noses. Nice eh?”

The band formed in 1976 and Cap says they nicked the name from a dark ‘60s film about decadence and debauchery. “That’s about right for us.”

Even with early hits such as ‘Neat Neat Neat’, ‘Smash It Up’ and ‘Love Song’, and sell-out tours, it seemed it was going to end in tears.

“Not a lot of people know that it was Lemmy (of Motorhead) who saved The Damned in ’78,” adds the Cap.

“It’s never fun when a band splits up.”

He admits the band was barely on speaking terms at recording sessions for their second album Music for Pleasure for Stiff Records.

And his own behaviour was “fairly out of control at the time too – we were living in this mad 24 hour punk rock party with much drunkenness and a trail of wreckage following us because I had discovered I was actually quite good at causing a bit of chaos.”

After the band broke up Cap put a band called King together and played a handful of gigs before a colleague called to say they had been offered some money for a London show if they could get ‘some sort of Damned line-up back together.’

He adds: “Being totally broke I didn’t need much persuading.”

Cap called old mate Lemmy to play bass and knocked together a set list of Damned and Motorhead favourites ‘during a short boozy rehearsal’ – and it went down a storm with the audience on the night of the show.

“We arranged another, then another and, well , you know the rest.”

A goth direction garnered more hits in the ‘80s with Grimly Fiendish and covers of Barry Ryan’s Eloise and Love’s Alone Again Or.

“The Damned straddle several genres – punk, goth, psych – it’s a good mix – but very difficult when it comes to writing the setlist. We could have several completely different ones to suit punk, goth, rock and festival audiences.”

“Without getting all uppity, The Damned can really play. It’s a proper band like Deep Purple and the Sabs (Black Sabbath) before us.”

He also promises another Damned album but admits the last So, Who’s Paranoid, with its 15 minute psychedelic freak out and a lyric dedicated to Syd Barrett, will take some beating.

“We like to think of The Damned as a rudderless pirate ship sailing through a sea of musical mediocrity – back to save the world from plastic entertainment garbage like The X-Factor, and all that horrible new-fangled pop with auto-tuned vocals.

“We’re a proper band in the old fashioned sense of the word… we don’t choreograph anything and we have never cheated with tapes like so many live acts currently. Also, we are lucky in having Dave Vanian who is by far the best singer of his generation.”

“And Pinch, Monty and Stu are genuinely Damned in character and musicianship and have contributed ‘Grave Disorder’ and ‘So, Who’s Paranoid?’ to the discography. “

Their 40th anniversary tour runs from November 12 to December 9.