The Damned, despite what you may have heard, really were the first Punk band to release a record – they were, in effect, the ones who got is all started. Oh, sure – there were The Sex Pistols and The Clash – and they were at the forefront too. But it was The Damned who got there first. Mostly because of crafty management and an equally crafty record label. Stiff Records was the label responsible – and, along with firsts, were the first of what became the DIY labels; without major the resources or the cash or the distribution of major labels like EMI and CBS (who released The Sex Pistols and The Clash) – Stiff served as the prototype for what became the Independent Movement; labels which sprang up, without the restrictions and politics of the Major labels, who forged a whole new concept of what the record business was all about.
So you had innovation on two fronts: The Damned, who had the distinction of breaking new ground, and Stiff Records which had the distinction of revamping a rapidly ineffective Record industry business model.
But strangely, they didn’t truly get all the attention or the props they deserved. The Sex Pistols and The Clash were flashier, and perhaps it was the amount of publicity Malcolm McLaren generated for Johnny Rotten and company that made them grab the headlines and the lions share of the audience. But those in the know – those people with their ears to the ground and were part of the initial Punk movement knew The Damned were the real deal and they were the originals.
For those of you who may be a bit fuzzy on that turning point in Rock history, BBC Radio 2 produced this excellent documentary nearly 15 years ago. Titled “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” it recalls the first hearing and reaction to The Damned’s debut single New Rose, with the completely accidental, but historically iconic opening line; an homage of sorts to 60s girl-group The Shangrilas, and the signature out-of-control drum intro that made New Rose the milestone record it became. And how too, Punk wasn’t met with open arms by the general public initially – in fact, it was hated vehemently by the mainstream.
But after The Damned, Rock was never the same.