The damned the black album - the Damned - The Black Album (Full Album) - YouTube

Hans Zimmer was a German synthesiser pioneer who had access to the then state of the art machinery. Though essentially guitar-based the Damned, unlike most of the punk bands, had always found room for keyboards. In Hans they found keyboard excess to match the general ambiance of the band. Hence nothing less than a pop record called History Of The World would do. I have to add that this was before the Mel Brooks movie of the same name. This sprawling epic was to become the sole UK single from the album, but then again it was to become an album. The fact that it remained a double album was not that intentional. The core album consisted of 11 tracks and the extended Curtain Call along with a live side make up a bonus LP, hence the single sleeve album.

Wait For The Blackout opened proceedings - an exceptionally good Rat riff , with a great breakdown in the middle, and that led into a couple of distinctive Captain efforts. Lively Arts featured the world’s fastest Baroque Orchestra courtesy Hans and contrasting blunt lyrics from Captain. Silly Kids Games has some very sly Who references. Drinking About My Baby is a very Damned punk love and regret piece and is followed by the bass player’s song and a very good one at that from Paul Gray – Hit Or Miss. He had joined the band that year and integrated well into their sound. This was bracketed by two oblique songs from Dave Twisted Nerve and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, the later with a gentle pop swing that turned it into the US single. Then back to the sharp melodic punk rock thing that the Damned did better than anyone on Sick Of The Country. Next the album take of what became the single, followed by the English psyche of 13th Floor Vendetta and out on a very Damned pop punk outing leading into a total psychedelic guitar blitz as Therapy finishes the album proper.

The live side was cut at a chaotic and at times dark show at Sheperton Studios in front of a bussed in hard core Damned audience drawn from the Flashman Society – the band’s fan club. The Ruts supported and both bands were on exceptional form.

The Damned were meant to be a punk band, so having the audacity to cut a 17 minute track was not really on for the cognoscenti. But then it’s easy to confuse length with indulgence. There isn’t a wasted moment in Curtain Call and a short attention span is no excuse at all. In some ways this is a key to “The Black Album”, in that Dave Vanian was more engaged and had more minutes of needle time for his view of a band that was always a bunch of competing ideas, attitudes, takes on life and egos.

To say that the album is flawed is a cliché and like any piece of work, perfection doesn’t do it any favours. Between them the three individuals who made up the creative core of the Damned had a lot of musical ideas and satisfying enough of them was both the joy in them and their problem. Every album that they made was different and on the Black Album every track was different.

The bonus tracks follow the same course as our MGE 25 compilation with the addition of the UK singles. The 12” of History… was the same as the LP version, but the 7” is a different mix altogether. The abandoned White Rabbit is included here in the original would be . single version and in a previously unreleased mix of the extended version. As Johnny Moped would say ‘the decision is yours and yours alone’ as to the efficacy of release. Post the Black Album when no further singles were forthcoming the Marx Brothers joke was dusted off for a refreshing Christmas jollity. The flip included the then unreleased live take of the MC5’s Looking At You that just goes to show what a remarkable band are the Damned.

As a footnote it is a shame that their differences keep Captain, David and Rat apart as that deprives the World of a remarkable combination whose whole is far greater than the parts.


The Black Album is sometimes credited as being an early goth record. It wasn’t doom and gloom but it certainly had a bit of a goth edge to it at a time when goth wasn’t even a thing yet. I know a lot of goth fans who didn’t like punk rock but loved this album and some state it was pretty influential in the alternative and goth scenes. The Damned didn’t abandon their punk sound, they simply expanded it to include other influences and songs like “Lively Arts” really succeeded in being a punk sounding song that had a lot more going on for it and was still melodic and catchy.

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