THE DAMNED – DON’T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (2015)
Written and Directed by Wes Orshoski
THE DAMNED – DON’T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD is a tremendously in-depth, insightful documentary giving music fans a deeper look into the pioneering British punk band, The Damned, starting with their inception in 1976 with the original line-up of gothic-inspired Dave Vanian on vocals, songwriter Brian James on guitar, quirky Captain Sensible on bass and wild Rat Scabies on the drums to the present day incarnation where only original members Vanian and Sensible remain. The documentry goes behind-the-scenes of The Damned, interviewing each of the band members – original, past and present – to form a well rounded historical background on the group. The most entertaining of the foursome has to be Captain Sensible and he offers many anecdotes and quips that will leave you laughing, such as the time he was cleaning toilets for a living and came across a stool that just wouldn’t flush… Let’s just say don’t ever use kitchen cutlery in his company!
Detailing the band’s rise, the documentary highlights some of The Damned’s major musical moments. Being the first UK punk band to put out a single, they’d consolidated themselves in music history early on in their career but it wasn’t until 1986 that the band actually stormed the music charts with Eloise, featuring a line-up devoid of Captain Sensible who’d gone off and found his own solo success with his version of South Pacific’s “Happy Talk”. Sensible didn’t stay away for good though and returned to The Damned in 1996 and has been a part of the line-up ever since.
As much as I’d love to say that their decades in music have all been fun and laughs, the band went through some rough periods, one of which saw Brian James leave the band prompting Captain Sensible to swap four strings for six strings as The Damned’s guitarist, a more musically creative role he seemed to relish. So not bad for all involved, I suppose. However, a few arguments here and there, particularly one feud between Sensible and Scabies, seems to have left a bitter taste at times.
Despite the hiccups along the way, the band are still going strong today and we get to hear their thoughts on how they impacted the music industry and how they’ve managed to remain successful and relevant after all these years. Not content with delivering the same-old every time, The Damned were one of only a few bands that were able to reinvent themselves with every new album, bringing a different dimension to the table whilst retaining their loyal fanbase.
Documentaries can sometimes be long and drawn out but although this particular doc is 110mins long, it seems to fly past in an instant thanks to the tight editing by Wes Orshoski and of course the creative subject matter who always have something interesting to say. Orshoski seems to have found the right balance to deliver a documentary that not only tells a story but entertains visually too. The Damned fans will be thrilled with the inclusion of performance and gig footage from back in the day whilst those not as familiar with the groundbreaking punk band will be taken on a wild ride of discovery that will leave them with a PhD in all things Damned.
Chock full of wit and charismatic interviews with various bandmembers alongside the thoughts of fans and other musos, the documentary provides an engaging, raw look at one of the UK’s most overlooked, successful punk rock bands.