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The Damned formed in 1976, and played their first gig supporting The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. They were the first of the London punk bands to release a single, 'New Rose', on the independent record label Stiff Records.
Brian James, left in 1978. The band splintered, but after a series of brief side projects and solo recordings, they reformed. Sensible had switched to guitar and keyboards. and the bassist position was filled by Algy Ward, formerly of The Saints. The band gained a deal with Chiswick Records, and went back to the studio to record another album.
The Damned released a series of singles leading up to 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette, which featured a strong 1960s garage rock influence. They had established a dark, melodic style that was sometimes fast and loud, and other times relaxed with dominant keyboards.
From the beginning, Vanian affected a vampire-like appearance onstage, with chalk-white makeup and formal dress. With The Black Album, the band turned into a proto-goth ensemble. Ward had left at this point, and was replaced by Paul Gray. The band released the album Strawberries featuring new full-time keyboardist Roman Jugg in 1982. Sensible played a last concert with the band at Brockwell Park (from which a bootleg was issued, called Captain's Last Stand), before he left to pursue a solo career, and Jugg took over the guitar slot.
With Sensible gone, Vanian's Gothic influence took over unimpeded, and his smart crooning and spooky theatricality ended up more or less founding goth rock inadvertently.
The Phantasmagoria album followed. Phantasmagoria's official follow-up, Anything (1986), was another critical and commercial flop, which ended the band's record deal and original run. However, the non-album single "Eloise," a cover of a 1968 hit by Barry Ryan, was a success.
The Damned received exposure to a new audience when two groups each covered a Damned song: Guns N' Roses recorded "New Rose" for their "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993), while The Offspring covered "Smash It Up" for the Batman Forever soundtrack (1995).
In 1993, a new line-up of The Damned appeared featuring Scabies, Vanian, guitarists Kris Dollimore (formerly of The Godfathers), and Alan Lee Shaw, and bassist Moose Harris in 1995. They toured regularly following the release of a new full-length album, Not of This Earth. The Damned split, yest again, partly as the result of legal battles.
Sensible rejoined Vanian in 1996 and yet another incarnation of The Damned appeared. This featured bassist Patricia Morrison, previously of The Sisters of Mercy. In 2001, the band released Grave Disorder and this has been followed by continual touring. Morrison and Vanian were eventually married and they have a daughter, Emily, born on February 9, 2004. While she has been replaced by ex-English Dog Stu West, her return to the band's lineup in the future has not been ruled out. .
In 2006 The Damned released the new single "Little Miss Disaster", and the live DVD MGE25 documenting the 25th anniversary of Machine Gun Etiquette.