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Music

Revisit the riotous Guns N' Roses cover of 'New Rose' by The Damned

English outfit The Damned remain one of the most influential groups of an era buzzing with activity. Cutting a very different image to the rest of their punk contemporaries when they broke through in 1977 with the release of their raucous debut album Damned Damned Damned, it was clear to see that frontman Dave Vanian, guitarist Captain Sensible and drummer Rat Scabies had formed a band with genuine longevity, and it is a promise that they have invariably delivered. 

Their career has been an adventure of artistic experimentation, with the band always keen to push boundaries. Reflecting this sentiment, when speaking to GQ in 2019, Vanian was asked how happy on a scale of one to ten he was with his work, saying: “I’m about a nine”. 

Then pressed by the interviewer about what point in his life he was closest to reaching a ten, the black-clad vocalist explained: “That comes and goes. It seems to happen in ten-year cycles, but I think the best is yet to come. I don’t think you ever stop learning. There’s a lot of things I still want to attempt. I never think, ‘Oh, I’ve done it now, I can just sit back and play ‘New Rose””.

It is this total commitment to their craft that has driven the work of The Damned, despite many different lineup changes. This is a band of authentic artists, something which cannot be said for many of their contemporaries. They lead by example, showing both fans and critics that music is what you make it, and that hard work is the key to finding any tangible iota of satisfaction.

Revisiting The Damned anthem that was produced by Hans Zimmer

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Arguably, the most significant period of the band’s career commenced in 1980 with the release of The Black Album, an effort which saw them make their first foray into gothic rock. It kicked off a four-album run of increasingly atmospheric music, followed by 1982’s Strawberries, 1985’s Phantasmagoria and 1986’s Anything.

Thanks to the grandeur of this period, The Damned are lauded as one of the critical drivers of the goth subculture, and in addition to Vanian’s now-iconic vampire-inspired aesthetic, they gave the subculture some of its defining musical features, alongside the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy. The Damned are the only band from the first wave of punk that is inextricably linked to two subcultures in what is a clear testament to the quality of their efforts.

Whilst we could spend an age discussing The Damned’s impact on goth, it wouldn’t be fair to discount the impact that their punk work had on those in and around them. From John Frusciante to Green Day, this period has influenced many of the most revered musicians of the contemporary era, and rightly, titles such as Damned Damned Damned are coveted in the most hallowed of ways.

Arguably, the most prominent band that Damned Damned Damned influenced is American hard rockers Guns N’ Roses. They are so heavily indebted to the early work of The Damned that on their 1993 covers album, The Spaghetti Incident, they delivered a high-octane cover of The Damned’s riotous debut single, ‘New Rose’.

The cover is the most punk Guns N’ Roses ever pushed themselves, taking proceedings right back to the days when they were developing as musicians, galvanised by the unwavering energy of punk.

Interestingly, bassist Duff McKagan performs the lead vocals on the track, and without any real solo by lead guitarist Slash, it is a refreshing change of direction for the band, who, at this point in time, were deeply ensconced in their own hype, releasing overblown cuts such as ‘November Rain’. Fittingly, their rendition of ‘New Rose’ was so well received that it has remained a semi-regular feature of their live shows.

When asked about the cover rendition by the NME, The Damned’s Captain Sensible revealed that he’s never heard it, claiming that he doesn’t listen to music released after 1980: “The truth is, I haven’t heard it, because I don’t listen to any music made after 1980.” Although The Damned may not have heard the cover, you can make up your own mind by listening below.

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