The Damned’s Smash It Up: “It’s about frothy lager… hardly a call to revolution”

The band explain how they made their two-part powerpop hit

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ROGER ARMSTRONG: Part 1 was Captain’s tribute to Marc Bolan. That’s what he always told me. He then wrote the original song and tagged that in front.

SENSIBLE: Part 1 is the calm before the storm. It creates a dreamy vibe that will be shattered by Part 2’s mania. Bolan died in a car crash and Part 1 is written for him. Part 2 wasn’t, but with a title like “Smash It Up” it seems incredible that it wasn’t intended to be about his car crash. I only realised this a few years ago. It was subliminal songwriting.


ALGY WARD: Part 2 of “Smash It Up” was something Captain and his brother, Phil Burns, had worked up.

SCABIES: Captain wrote the music for the bulk of Part 2, we demoed it and then one of the Croydon punks, Ralph, came up with a lyric, the “smash it up” bit.

SENSIBLE: The shouty title may well have been contributed by whoever was at my mum and dad’s house at the time. We had a crew who called themselves the Croydon Punks Ltd. Peter Lord, some chaps called Gent and Ralph were members.

ARMSTRONG: I booked them into a studio for two weeks and told them to come back with a bunch of songs. Most of Machine Gun Etiquette was demoed there.

WARD: They told us to go and make some noise and stop hanging around the record company offices. We went to a studio opposite Selhurst Park. That’s where Captain did all four parts.

SENSIBLE: We virtually lived in RMS Studio. It became our musical laboratory. We’d demo every idea we had or recreate an old classic to see how it was constructed. “Chantilly Lace” would be dissected and reassembled with multi-layered backing vocals and mandolin. We were given a free rein – which is how we got a four-part “Smash It Up”. Parts 3 and 4 never got the proper studio treatment, as the label only wanted the first two parts. They do meander towards Shadows territory a bit. I like instrumentals, though.


ARMSTRONG: We recorded Parts 1 & 2 in Wessex. Part 3 was demoed in Croydon and Part 4 we worked on in Sound Suite Studio in Camden. We put 1 & 2 on the album but didn’t use Part 4 because we’d never properly recorded Part 3. We put them all out in 2004.


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