The Damned Celebrate 40 Years in San Francisco

Article by: Nick Gumas
Photos by: Paul Windsor


1976 was by no means an uneventful year for music.

Of course this was the year we at BAM opened our doors for the first time, but outside of our own world, music itself underwent a renaissance unlike ever before.  Elton John was topping charts worldwide with his new hit single Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, The Band performed for the final time and went out with a concert so legendary that it prompted Martin Scorsese to produce his classic documentary The Last Waltz, and in possibly one of most remarkable revelations in music history, Punk Rock was born when on one brisk October morning, The Damned released their immortal single New Rose, making it the first of it’s genre to ever be put to vinyl, and eventually became the first to make it’s way to the U.S. and U.K. airwaves.  This seemingly ordinary release of a new band’s first EP began a revolution that forever changed music as we know it.

The Damned gave direction to the counterculture.  They were role models of a different variety who advocated against the need to conform to traditional society to succeed.  In the eyes of The Damned, it didn’t matter if you went out in a suit or with a safety pin pierced through your nose.  What mattered to them was how much of yourself you gave to this style and this movement, and how willing you were to speak your mind when it came to calling out the system in place, never hesitating to tell an authority figure that you are your own person, and that you will not go against what is authentic to yourself because you have your own opinion on things.  The Damned represent the start of an era, and with the release of New Rose, a single voice asking “Is she really going out with him” followed by an upbeat drum beat will forever be the intro music to the biography of Punk Rock.

The band now consisting of David Vanian, Captain Sensible, Stu WestMonty Oxymoron, and Andrew ‘Pinch’ Pinching may have set the table for Punk Rock in the 1970’s, but by no means were they ever willing to settle for being a one hit wonder.  With more than 20 albums and counting, The Damned have never been shy when it comes to putting themselves out there and knocking the industry on it’s side.  With other singles such as Neat Neat Neat, Love Song, and Smash It Up, there is no shortage of excellence to come from these legends.  Now on their fifth decade of “Smashing it Up”, The Damned are proving that they are still relevant.  After a lifetime of success, they’re here to let us know that they aren’t done yet, and have been embarking on a worldwide tour to celebrate their 40th anniversary.  Kicking off the North American leg of their tour on the West Coast, The Damned founds themselves in San Francisco very quickly, giving the Bay Area the full “Damned” experience.

On April 11th, The Damned made their way to The Fillmore to deliver a performance that proved beyond a doubt that Punk Rock is still alive and kicking.  After a more than entertaining introduction from Southern California band Bleached, The Damned rushed the stage, and among their first songs was a fantastic rendition of their hit Life Goes On, and immediately the crowd was invested.  Their image, punctuated by David Vanian’ serious and Vampire-like demeanor and Captain Sensible’s bright red beret, the group looked as ready to perform as any has ever been.

Every band will try and convince you that their favorite place to be in is whichever one they are in that night, but every once in a while a band will get to perform in a city that has real significance to them, and when they do, it truly is a magical moment.  One member of The Damned found a way to do just that.  It was about halfway into the show when lead singer David Vanian said something that brought the whole room just a little bit closer together.  In between songs he took a moment to collect himself that was just a little longer than a standard pause.  He then looked straight out into the audience and proudly announced “So, I met my wife in San Francisco.”  After this the crowd went ballistic.  This little tip of the hat to Vanian’s personal love affair with our home town made everyone in the room believe that even when someone has spent their entire life more than 5,000 miles away from here, everyone’s heart does in fact at one point get entwined in San Francisco.


Their energy only became more pronounced as the night went on.  At times, I wondered if there was ever going to end, and I hoped it wouldn’t.  Just as you thought these men were about to put their instruments away and walk off for good, they decided they had time for one more song.  These guys clearly were not willing to leave the stage until they knew beyond any doubt that they had played every song they had wanted to.  At nearly the end of their set, they closed with a rendition of San Francisco’s own Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, once again highlighting that the appreciation The Damned has for the Bay Area is complementary to the appreciation we will forever have for them.

What sets The Damned apart from the rest is that they still show as much passion for their music as they did 40 years ago when they first released New Rose.  Whether they knew the impact their music would have on not just the U.K. Punk Rock scene, but the entire musical world, or simply had hoped it would, modern music would not be the same without their contributions.  Congratulations to The Damned on 40 years of success, and thank you to every member of The Damned – both past and present – for all you have done, and everything you have inspired.  We at BAM wish you nothing but the best moving forward with the remainder of your tour, and beyond.