The Damned: Don’t You Wish We Were Dead is a completely unpretentious representation of the divided factions of the original Damned lineup. The documentary cruises through the Damned’s history, showing viewers their beginnings and musical evolution, landing squarely in the current stand off between the members of the original lineup. On one end stands Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, leading the current Damned lineup, and on the other end stands Brian James and Rat Scabies.
Members of the Damned fandom are going to have a more vested interest in this documentary, but I wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone that has an interest in the punk rock movement. Between the band’s Draculaesque singer, Dave Vanian, Brian James’ timeless lyrical and musical composition, Rat Scabies’ thunderous drumming and Captain Sensible’s enigmatic stage presence, the Damned and their cartoonish members are characters that any music fanatic should familiarise themselves with.
When I was a pre-teen, first embarking on my lifelong journey into punk rock, I went through the motions and checked out all of the early punk bands that come to mind when one first hears of the movement. Despite the Damned’s infamy and longevity inside the punk rock universe, they never struck it big like the Sex Pistols or the Clash, but for punks like me, they matter more. The Damned were out on the road living the punk rock lifestyle, they weren’t just singing about it. I never sat in the Sex Pistols camp. I always favoured the raw power and stunning musicianship produced by bands like the Damned. The Sex Pistols always sat there talking about how much they didn’t care, but the Damned really didn’t care.
Those of us in attendance at the premiere in London were able to sit in on a Q&A session with the film’s director, Wes Orshoshki, and original Damned members, Brian James and Rat Scabies. Much of the questioning was light hearted and comical, much like the film itself, but a few questions posed to James and Scabies carried a more serious air. During the film, Scabies insists that he doesn’t care about the band or the documentary. A girl in the crowd questioned Scabies, pointing out that he clearly cared, or else he wouldn’t be there. He ultimately agreed that he did care and that the Damned was a huge part of his life.
Scabies tells the audience that the thing he loved most about the Damned was the creativity, but that the way the band has carried on today isn’t “real”. Scabies says he has no desire to do the same old cliché thing and that the current representation of the Damned lacks the creativity that he loved about the band. In order for Scabies to revisit the Damned, they’d need to do something new.
“It’s just another boring record”, Scabies said. “It just becomes Grave Disorder”. Scabies jab at Grave Disorder brought howls of laughter and applause from the crowd. Scabies was truly a hilarious character to listen to.
Orshoshki tells the audience that he attempted to orchestrate a Damned reunion at the end of the documentary, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. After the film screening Scabies adamantly tells the crowd that a reunion will never happen. During the film Captain Sensible says that Rat Scabies would have to tell him what a cunt he’s been in order to reconcile, but Scabies never says what Sensible would have to do to fix things on his end. A curious audience member asked Scabies what he’d need to hear from Sensible in order to make amends. Scabies went completely silent. After several pensive minutes all he could tell us was that he had no idea what it would take.
Part of the charm of the premiere in London was hearing the Q&A with Scabies and James, but just because you can’t catch that, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t run out to your local theatre and watch the next screening! This film will make you laugh, it’ll make you pine for a Damned reunion (more than you already were), and it’ll get the infectious tune of “New Rose” jammed in your head even further than it was to begin with. Those first two Damned albums are still as astounding today as they were the day they were released. Now, its time for you to go out and school yourself on the Damned, catch this movie!