2020 has been a year that we all would rather forget due to the pandemic live shows have been sorely missed so any new music we must grab with two hands so that brings me to the latest EP release by The Damned titled ‘The Rockfield Files’.
The Damned has recorded some of their classic material at Rockfield and the welsh studio was where the band decided to record their last album Evil Spirits.
‘Keep em’ alive’ is the first track on Rockfield files and it doesn’t disappoint with a chanting intro the track then bursts into life with guitars and drums crashing in and with Dave Vanian’s glorious vocals over the top the tune is a sure-fire winner.
‘Manipulator’ is next up and is a melodic punk ripper with sneering vocals from Dave and some great slashing chords on the guitar courtesy of the Captain. This track also contains some powerhouse drumming from Pinch who sadly said goodbye to the band and with the Palladium and now this EP as his swansong he is leaving on an extreme high.
The spider & the fly’ is an interesting track as the beginning sounds like something off ‘Phantasmagoria’ but quickly morphs into the psychedelia of “The Black Album” and shows what a diverse band The Damned are.
The last track ‘Black is the Night’ is a song most Damned fans will know as it was the bonus track on the anthology of the same name released last year albeit this is an extended version and a welcome edition here for any fan who has not picked it up.
Overall this EP is top quality with some more great songs from such a great band.
Do yourself a favour and go and buy it and cheer yourself up cause after the last couple of months we all need some happiness in our lives and what better way to do that than with music.
I hate concept albums as the 16 year Punk Rock Kid inside of me still thinks of some Prog Bloke in a Wizard’s Hat and Cloak stabbing his keyboards, which takes up the space of a fitted wardrobe, with a large Kitchen knife whilst the drummer enters the 20thminute of his half hour drum solo. Right, now that’s out of the way; my favourite Bass Player ever is Paul Gray who found fame with Eddie and the Hot Rods, The Damned, UFO and erm Andrew Ridgley. One of my three all time favourite Drummers is Rat Scabies who fortunately played on the ground breaking Damned albums “The Black Album” and “Strawberries” with the aforementioned Paul Gray. So when the news broke earlier this year that once more Scabies and Gray would be joining up with Alfie Agnew (Adolescents, D.I.) and Sean Elliott (D.I., Mind Over Four) for the follow up to the Professor and the Madman’s “Disintegrate Me” album I reached for the Box of Kleenex. However, my hand hovered as the words “Concept album” was banded about. Of course the middle-aged me knows that any Genre can tackle the idea of a Concept record, Jazz, Blues, Classical and even Punk, but having quality musicians play on analbum doesn’t automatically mean you’ll pull it off, see “Son of Albert” by Andrew Ridgley. “Séance”,is the story relating to a group of mates who hold a séance to say one final farewell to friends who have obviously died,” does manage to pull it off and rather well at that, in the manner of “Sgt Pepper” and “Yellow Submarine.” It does feel as it should be a West End or Broadway Musical, the soundtrack produced by George Martin cue a séance.
“All the lonely Soul” is the brooding intro before the title track introduces us the main characters longing to reconnect with their past and lost loved ones through a séance. “So Long” starts off with a Monkees style intro before we’re taken though a journey of what seems like regret or reflection. Something that does come across throughout the album is the great vocal Harmonies. Alfie and Sean take it in turns in the lead vocal department but it’s the chorus’ that would make Brian Wilson proud. After “So Long” the character in “Real Me” contemplates the Devil on his shoulder. It’s probably the best song the Kinks never wrote. “Child’s Eyes” looks back at how things throughadolescent eyes are so much simpler whilst in adulthood it “Seems like the jokes on each of us”. There are two types of people who play bass; Bass Players and Bass Guitarists. John Entwistle, Lemmy and Paul Gray are Bass Guitarists; they play their instrument as if it was a lead guitar and Paul’s style so fit’s in on “Séance” you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. “Time Machine”/Man With Nothing To Lose” introduces us to another couple of characters; the Scientist who has had enough of reality and wants to build a time machine to go back to his perceived better era. Now “Time Machine” really screams ‘Musical!!’ I can see in my mind a row of men in blazers and straw boaters jazz handing across the stage, all that is missing is trumpets! A homeless man overhears the Scientist in the more downbeat fairground sounding “Man With Nothing To Lose” and imagines what could be achieved if time travel was possible “We could go back and fix all our mistakes. Build ourselves mansions with the money we’d make.” And “Hit 1980 and go see The Damned” If only, if only! “Two Tickets To The Afterlife” returns to the original character who now finds himself in a Game Show set in Hell with some choice prizes “We’ve Got Thrills, we’ve got pills, we’ve got million dollar bills. We’ve got weed, we’ve got speed, we’ve got everything you need” but they all come with a price. “…Afterlife” is probably the heaviest track on the album. Once off the Game Show our main man now finds himself in front of “The Council of Purgatory” who confuses him with their gentle overtones, almost a Barber Shop quartet? Again I can really see this on the West End Stage.“All The Lonely Souls” is reprised as an instrumental that finishes of the main, first act.
“Greetings From The Other Side” starts the final act with the reawakening of mankind after 2000 years frozen in stasis, with questions and concerns of the album’s protagonist answered by the ‘Forces’ “We did not die, we were never here.” The album ends with “New World” with the ‘Forces’ leading mankind to Utopia, the Garden of Eden, you decide but warning, pleading with us to “take care of your new World, not like the old world and teach the children not to hate, because if you don’t…Maybe we’ll see you again.”
Did I ever tell you I love a good old concept album?
“Séance” by the Professor and the Madman is out on the 13th November on either yellow vinyl, CD or digital Download via Fullertone Records that you can pre-order at www.professorandthemadman.com
Bryn Merrick was a member of Cardiff-based punk band Victimize long before he joined the Damned. He joined The Damned where he survived as bass player from 1983 to ’89. He’d replaced Paul Gray, who had left for UFO. Merrick’s first release with the Damned was the single “Thanks for the Night” b/w “Nasty”. As bassist on the bands most commercial and commercially successful albums ‘Phantasmagoria’ and ‘Anything’ Bryn had arrived in the big time.
Bryn made his TV debut on the set of the Young Ones where the band performed the fantastic single ‘Nasty’ still with the Captain on board but, it would seem not for long before he fell overboard. Bryn played the two dates at Finsbury park under the circus tent for the bands Tenth Anniversary Tea Party celebrations and was then featured on the Old Gray Whistle Test recording in Denmark where the band had a pretty decent feature. The band had never had it so good at that period and after the success of ‘Grimly Fiendish’ and subsequent singles around the album there were high budget videos recorded as well as plenty of sold out shows. The high point of this period had to be the bands cover of ‘Eloise’ which saw them hit the top three in the UK singles chart. The band managed to stay a stable entity for several years thanks in no small part to the inclusion of Jugg and Merrick although stable might be a poor choice of word seeing as the tomfoolery and high jinx would continue a plenty with Merrick complaining of being set alight by Scabies as well as trashing the set of Rock the Dock in Liverpool on a promo performance of Anything ahead of the album release.
They rode the success as they pushed on with the more commercially accessible ‘Anything’ album the band was playing to big crowds every night and with Bryn and Roman occupying the guitar department the band seemed to be doing well but something was indeed rotten in the heart of Denmark and the band imploded after a time of inactivity and sitting around waiting for something to happen which did but this time it was without Jugg and Merrick. who bowed out when the ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ was released at the tail end of the ’80s. It was fun whilst it lasted and Bryn enjoyed the trappings of success and the fast living of Proper tour busses and half decent hotels.
With the return of Captain several years later Bryn only became newsworth in Damned circles due to his health issues and one we hoped he would win.It was during the making of the movie ‘Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead’ it became apparent that both Bryn and Paul were being treated in the same place by the same Doctor. Sadly the last time I saw Bryn was during a questions and answers session when the film had a screening in Cardiff Chapter Arts Centre where both Paul and Bryn were present with the film maker and seemingly in good spirits taking candidly about their time in the band. Sadly Bryn never fully recovered from his diagnosis and on this day in 2015 he lost his battle with the disease.
His time in the Damned will be fondly remembered by many fans and I personally loved following the band around during that period at some pretty amazing shows. Bryn was a character and filled some pretty hefty shoes in The Damned from Captain, Algy and Paul He last played with the band at a show at Cardiff Point where the Damned had 4 bass players on stage at the same time not something you see every day. Captain, Paul, Stu and Bryn it was great to see but I think there were a couple up there who’d had a sherry or two but it was fun to be there for that. Bryn sadly lost his battle on this day in 2015 but not before signing off Facebook with,”Goodbye, Signing out for a while”. Gone But Not Forgotten Rest in peace Bryn Nos Da for now.