The Damned were always a little different to most punk bands, with singer Dave Vanian possessing the kind of voice many crooners would kill for and guitarist Captain Sensible being a skilled musician. Contrast this to Paul Simonon writing chords on his fretboard and Sid Vicious who had the right attitude, but no ability to play a guitar, and you can see why they stood out.
When Guns N' Roses released The Spaghetti Incident in 1993 consisting only of covers of their favourite punk songs, it was The Damned's New Rose that opened the album. Their sound has influenced a generation of musicians who are not ashamed to blend psychedelia and gothic sensibilities with full-on punk rock.
The band is touring the world now as a celebration of their 35 years in the business. I recently met with Captain Sensible for a pint of London Pride at the Queens Head pub in São Paulo, Brazil, to ask him what they were doing in South America.
First I asked the Captain if he would ever have imagined sitting in an English pub in Brazil talking about a 35th anniversary tour when he started out back in 1976: "No, the honest answer is that we never really thought it would last more than three weeks. We started up at a time when the musicians playing stadiums had all been to the Royal College of Music. These were great musicians - then we came along and though we were passionate, we didn't think it would last. We must have been doing something right though", he said.
"I'd rather see someone with a guitar round their neck who really means it, singing songs that mean something, rather than seeing a buffoon in a white suit who looks bored on stage", he added.
As the Captain mentioned, this world tour celebrates 35 years of The Damned. It's been a chequered past with indie record labels, major labels, chart success, and band members coming and going as they tried to keep it together. But in the end, they are still selling gig tickets and T-shirts all over the world 35 years on.
I asked the Captain who decided on arranging this tour: "The anniversary just seemed like a good opportunity to do a world tour, it's amazing that we got to 35 years. We came through days that I refer to semi-affectionately as the 'chaos years' because we did everything we could to destroy the band as well as our physical and mental health. The fact that we have got to 2012 is a miracle - it's worth celebrating!"
Though he calls TV talent shows "a misery" he is paradoxically grateful that they now fill hours of prime-time schedules. "I have to say thank you to Simon Cowell because every decent punk band is out on the road again because people want to hear some decent, honest, live music again without all those Pro Tools techniques you hear on TV karaoke shows," he said.
And when I mentioned that bands like the Damned and Stiff Little Fingers wrote the book of chord progressions used by modern-day punk stars such as Green Day he suggested the Queen should reward punk musicians for services to British exports.
"The bankers are all still getting big bonuses - I think punk rock musicians should have huge bonuses. We fought in the punk wars of 1976 for the likes of Green Day to come along and make mega-bucks. We were not doing stuff [directly] for Britain, but we put Britain at the forefront of what was going on in the world. I think I should be invited to Buckingham Palace to get a medal - I deserve it. After all, Green Day come off stage and just shake hands with their accountants!"
Captain Sensible was only half-joking about Green Day. He clearly has an appreciation for anyone in the business who can write and perform great music - as opposed to stars created by computer software. But the business of making music and earning a living has changed enormously since The Damned were shifting a large number of albums.
"These are interesting times for the music business because people don't buy records anymore. The genie is out of the box and - regardless of musician demands - the old world has all gone. I download music, everyone does," he said.
The Captain elaborated further on the new business model for aspiring musicians: "Instead of making a new record each year you make a new T-shirt and you sell it on the merchandise table at gigs - and thankfully people buy them. So if you have the ability to design new T-shirts and you can get up on stage and twang a guitar then you still have a reasonable career. You don't make new records anymore - you make new T-shirts!"
When I asked the Captain about his plans once the world tour is over, he defined it in terms of a mission to remind people just how good music used to be: "We have never had any plans for world domination. We are just a band who get together, make a record now and then and go on tour. We are like a pirate ship with no rudder, bobbing around in an ocean of turgid music. I like to think we are on a mission to save people from mass-produced karaoke music produced by Pro Tools..."
The Captain disappeared into the night admiring the bright orange air-conditioning ducts at Faria Lima metro station - on a global mission to save us all from TV karaoke.
The Damned are touring the UK and Ireland throughout May and June. Check their website for details of when they are appearing near to you: www.officialdamned.com
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