Looking back 40 years now, October 1982’s Strawberries remains the most unique, unusual album in The Damned’s 46-year discography, a stone-cold psych-punk-pop/call-it-what-you-want classic, often overlooked or undervalued in its singularity. Yet this fifth LP culmination was their most successful blend of their original 1976 punk energy with their moodier 1979-1984 post-punk progressions—including the pioneering goth they’d perfected on 1980’s darker, more shadowy fourth album, The Black Album. Best of all, it most fully incorporated their multitude of ’60s influences, from classic Nuggets-type garage rock to psychedelia to baroque and orchestral pop to mod/soul!
Somehow, it also retains their former freak-flying spontaneity and juvenile abandon and wild streaks, encompassing Rat Scabies’ typically explosive, post-Keith Moon drumming, guitarist Captain Sensible’s unfettered lead runs, Dave Vanian’s coolest crooning, and Paul Gray’s anchoring, nimble-quick, bass, plus keyboard flourishes from incoming member Roman Jugg. The entire LP is flat out extraordinary start to finish, from the opening strike of “Ignite” to the more cranky-wistful close of Sensible’s “Don’t Bother Me,” a monumental yet welcoming, fresh work of expertly-crafted yet somehow still seat-of-the-pants-exciting melodic English pop. Perhaps that’s the biggest reason Strawberries has held up so well for four decades: it’s such a refreshing long, strange trip to all the disparate places such a mélange of influences conjures, aided and abetted, crucially, by all four members’ outstanding songwriting chops.
This 40th Anniversary Edition comes complete with two non-LP singles recorded around the same time, with this same lineup. One of them, the more foreboding organ/electronic-centric, “Lovely Money,” was released four months before Strawberries in June, and features late ’60s Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band zany Viv Stanshall’s cameo as a mock tour guide lampooning London tourists complete with sardonic references to Britain’s Falklands War then raging off Argentina, and produced by Sensible’s solo producer, Tony Mansfield. The other, “Fun Factory,” came from Strawberries’ sessions but would sit on a shelf for nine years after Bronze Records ended up going bankrupt, also “damning” Strawberries—it was finally released as a single in 1991—and it included an equally inspired guest star: King Crimson’s legend Robert Fripp on guitar. Additionally, this reissue includes all the b-sides from “Lovely Money” and Strawberries’ two singles, September 1982’s “Dozen Girls” and November 1982’s “Generals.” These show the often hilariously whimsical, more prankster side of the Damned’s irreverence. Five live cuts recorded in the month of Strawberries’ October 1982 release capture the Damned in full flight. The Big Takeover editor/publisher Jack Rabid contributes new retrospective liner notes, and the epic scope of the music is fully captured in Grammy-winner Mark Wilder’s definitive remaster.
All in all, whether you are revisiting an old favorite or experiencing it for the first time, you’re in for a treat.