DAMNED frontman Dave Vanian’s spell working as a gravedigger added to the vocalist’s dark mystique and passed into the punk rock mythos. In an exclusive add-on to our 40th Anniversary feature, he tells Vive Le Rock's Dick Porter how he got the job...
“I was trying to be a commercial artist of some kind. This was from late 1973/74 up to ’75, I was basically drifting around trying to get work as a commercial artist. At that time it was a very cutthroat business and there were plenty more artists than I, even though I think I had the talent, which I was told a few times, I just didn’t have the qualifications that were needed to get the jobs. I couldn’t even get into the bottom end of it and just start in a small way, and it became quite obvious that that wasn’t going to happen. I was always going into London all the time, because you’re young and you’re looking for something that’s happening. Things were changing; the sixties were dead, but then you had all that great music that came out of Roxy Music and all that kind of stuff. There was lots of things happening but it was a transitional time and I somehow wandered into it.
“I actually had to plead for a job as a gravedigger because they thought that I couldn’t do the job. It wasn’t just grave digging, I used to dig huge beds, it was a gardening job as well – I used to do the whole thing. It was hard work, but I chose it. Before the Damned, I was in lots of odd jobs, I couldn’t get the job I wanted and the work was drying up. I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to sign on’, but I didn’t want to sign on. I went down there once or twice, and when I walked down there from where I lived, it was down a hill past an old cemetery. One day I was walking by and I saw this older chap on his own in the middle of it, digging away. I thought, ‘If I was to do that job, it occupies no brain capacity whatsoever – You do the work, get out and get to London, get things done’. So, I basically went into the office and said, ‘Do you need somebody?’ And they did; two fellas who were completely useless had just left, so they were short. So I talked my way into the job, and then ironically, when I did leave, they didn’t want me to go – they offered me loads of incentives to stay. It served its purpose perfectly, to bridge the gap between what I had been doing and getting into London and meeting people and trying to work out what the hell I was doing with my life.”
Read our mammoth 14-page Damned 40th Anniversary feature in the latest edition of Vive Le Rock!