The Damned: New Rose
1970s Britain is rather dull, Pink Floyd are rubbish and I’m not finding my career in grave digging as wholly fulfilling as I had hoped. Can you help?
Seek thee a rat who channels the moon, a sensible clown and a guitarist whom finds favour amidst the new church. Exclaimest thee chapter and verse upon the blossoming flower that doth run red with blood and thou shalt be king hereafter.
This is more or less a fabrication. More more than less, really. Whether Dave Vanian ever actually wrote soul-searching letters to infamous 1950s psychics is up to the courts to decide. But you can never truly be sure about a guy who was dressing like a vampire before the goth movement had even written its first terrible ode to lost love and dead gerbils. Nevertheless, despite his dubious old English writing style and overly cryptic pretensions, Criswell was pretty much spot on with his prediction. Except for the part he nicked from Macbeth. To my knowledge The Damned have yet to be slain by cheesy tricks about sentient trees and pregnancy semantics.
Much like the pointless controversy over whether it was the first ‘punk’ single (but even less exciting), “New Rose” may or may not have been the first song I downloaded from AudioGalaxy—much lamented p2p system of champions. Forget your Napsters, AG was a system powerful enough to bring an entire university computer network to its knees. And then kick it in the face for good measure. The relevant moment of genius, however, was the sneaky listing of songs in order of download popularity. After a quick search for “The Damned” you would immediately be presented with a choice selection of their finest work (“Eloise” tended to be top, of course, but otherwise the system worked). Conversely, any stinkers would be democratically relegated further down the list than an English tennis player. Everyone was happy.
AG may be long gone (or the victim of a horrific Napster-style corporate makeover (essentially the same)), but that first “New Rose” download had a lasting legacy with me. Gorgeously simplistic, fuzzed-up guitar riffs backed by Rat Scabies’ frenetic war drums. A deceptively delicate tale of concern about legitimate romantic credentials, expressed in lyrical terms which at first seem trite “See the sun / See the sun it shines / Don’t get too close or it’ll burn your eyes” but later reveal their power. How could such a track fail to open my mind? It couldn’t. It didn’t. I was a converted Damned fan in four minutes, but that wasn’t the end. Within days I was downloading Buzzcocks and Stranglers material, following the yellow brick musical road of genre connections. Later still, I would be busily discovering Magazine and The Fall with a similarly joyous reception.
That’s why, whenever I take the time to cast a lazily nostalgic eye over my plastic record stacks from Next, I can quite easily find myself mentally tracing a sizeable chunk back to the few crucial seconds it took to squeeze a single mp3 through a fat university bandwidth pipe. The new rose, which flowered an entire field.