The Damned continue to move confidently into their fourth decade as the disruptive punk pioneers they were when they first made their way into the collective consciousness in 1976. One integral part of that authenticity comes from the band’s empirical guitarist, Captain Sensible.
The guitarist, whose real name is Raymond Ian Burns, quickly earned himself the brilliant moniker of Captain Sensible with his indestructible smile. An immovable artist both in his solo work, which includes a chart-topping Rogers and Hammerstein cover, ‘Happy Talk’, and his work with The Damned, Sensible’s sheer abundance of creative energy has always seen him hit the heights. His favourite albums hold the key to understanding Sensible a little more clearly.
That list of favourite albums includes a call-out for albums from artists like Stereolab, Bee Gees, Soft Machine, Hendrix and everything in between. Thanks to Luke Turner of The Quietus, who interviewed the guitarist for their Baker’s Dozen feature, we get some in-depth background to these choices. We’ve even pulled together a playlist for your listening pleasure a little further down.
During the early seventies, the UK was not the most fun place to be for a creative yet not academically prudent teen. Sensible was soon looking for an escape and music provided that for him. One album that struck a chord was Jimi Hendrix and The Experience’s iconic record Are You Experienced. An album that likely had influence over Sensible and his decision to pursue punk as an escape. The Damned’s seminal record Damned Damned Damned would provide that same escape for a generation and generations to come.
About Are You Experienced, Sensible said, “By the mid-70s it was clear to me that my only chance to escape a lifetime of crap jobs (and I was a bog cleaner at the time) was as a musician, so I set about practicing with a sense of purpose. When I first heard this album I thought, “That’s the way to play guitar!”
The guitar adoration continues with Sensible’s selection of Santana’s Abraxas who ranks the guitar impresario as one of music’s most innovative figures. Acknowledging the harmonies of The Beach Boys and The Hollies, the guitarist said, “Carlos Santana was doing a similar thing for melody with the genius of his guitar playing. Not for him soloing for its own sake – the endless repetition of blues licks that some other late 60s guitar gods were indulging in – no, Santana was searching for something more beautiful and spiritual in his excursions around the fretboard.”
While some choices are rooted in the deeply personal affectations of the man himself, one selection is Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air – firmly placed because it helped the guitarist finally get to the dentist. Sensible says, “[the album] is a long meandering piece with a distinctly hypnotic tendency – and when delivered to the ears via a decent pair of headphones, it turns a trip to the dentist into a psychedelic dream.”
Sensible also has kind words for Felt, a band Sensible says refused to compromise commercially – something which bit the band on the arse, The Bee Gees, who really “knew a tune”, and Stereolab who “almost single handedly rehabilitated the Moog.” Safe to say that Captain Sensible is a cultured and cultivated music listener.
The full list can be seen below and is a shining example of the mind of Captain Sensible. At one part a man and a list ingrained with the determination of music pursuit as well as the purist expulsion of expression. Captain Sensible is the man who brought you both ‘New Rose’ and ‘Happy Talk’, so what did you expect?
- Bee Gees – 1st
- Felt – Absolute Classic Masterpieces
- Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced
- Robyn Hitchcock – Black Snake Diamond Role
- Sing Sing – The Joy Of Sing Sing
- Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express – Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
- Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup
- Terry Riley – A Rainbow In Curved Air
- Mylene Farmer – Cendres De Lune
- Santana – Abraxas
- Fleetwood Mac – Then Play On
- Soft Machine – Third
- The Groundhogs – Thank Christ For The Bomb
Source: The Quietus