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Smashing Things Up for 35 Years

My friend (Wee) John(ny) called a couple of days ago and said, “Do you fancy seeing The Damned at the Roundhouse?” I’d never been to the Roundhouse, though it was one of those legendary London venues from my teenage years, like the Rainbow and the Hammersmith Palais. And I hadn’t seen The Damned in (I thought)1 about 26 years. Not since a seated gig in the Edinburgh Playhouse the night before I had a High-Energy Physics progress test the following morning.2

I said “Yes”. I mean, why the hell not? I only really know Machine-Gun Etiquette and a few singles, but what the hell. They’re bound to do those, right? It’s a 35th-anniversary thing.

The Roundhouse is an amazing place. As a former railway shed, it’s just a stunning space. But it’s not the seedy old-school venue I half expected, because it’s been closed down and refurbished and reopened since the seventies. So it’s really nice: more like The Barbican, say, than The Forum.

Viv Albertine was supporting. I expected her to have a band, but she just stood up there on her own, with a Telecaster as old as punk, and sang us songs of non-love and stuff. She was great.

The Damned were… pretty much as I expected, actually. They came on, and the Captain said, “We’re going to do two ‘classic’ albums.” (He did the air-quotes.) I’m not sure about this recentish trend of doing a whole album live, but expect it could be good. Mostly, though, I’m amused that for classic punk albums, one would be too short.

So they kicked off into ‘Neat Neat Neat’, and I realised that we were much too close to the front: actually in the moshpit. As I’ve said, I’m really past that — much though I might enjoy dancing in the abstract, or in private.

Anyway, it was all very wild and excellent, and there were many people with t-shirts of bands I’ve seen or haven’t seen but wish I had or don’t mind that I haven’t but recognise anyway. In short, I was with, as Neil Gaiman describes it, my tribe.

It was all monstrously fine. Two albums with a break, then a few encores. Which included, as expected, several non-those-album tracks. ‘Love Song’, of course, they could hardly have avoided playing. A couple of others, and then came ‘Eloise’, which, punked-up though it was, we could frankly have done without,

Then they played ‘Anti-pope’ and were gone. I realise that the Roundhouse must have a strict 11 o’clock policy, but surely they were coming back…? No. DJ music and house lights… and no ‘Smash it Up’. I must admit, if you had asked me before I went out tonight whether there was any chance that they wouldn’t play ‘Smash it Up’, I would have laughed at you.

Very strange. And then there was a crazy queue to get out of the venue, because so many people had taken up the option to get an instant double CD of tonight’s gig. They obviously burn them straight from the sound desk while the gig is on. But it meant that you could hardly get out of the venue. There has to be a better way than that.

Anyway, my ears are sizzling, and I still owe NaNoWriMo a load of words, so I’ll call it a night here.


  1. Johnny reminded me that we saw them at a festival in Milton Keynes Bowl in about 88 or 89. 

  2. Though it’s entirely possible that I’m conflating that with my friend Andrew’s 21st birthday, which I also remember as being the night before a HEP exam. 

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