Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

30 years of Dam­aged Goods Records

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - 1988-2018

Dam­aged Goods be­gan man­ag­ing Billy Child­ish’s back cat­a­log a few years ago, and I’d ar­gue that even though he was a lit­tle late to the party, he quickly be­came the soul of the la­bel.

Steven John Ham­per — or is it Wil­liam Char­lie Ham­per? — of Chatham, Eng­land, aka Billy Child­ish, some­times records un­der the name of “Wild Billy Chyld­ish” and other vari­a­tions of his pseu­do­nym. He is a painter, a pho­tog­ra­pher, a poet, and — let’s go full Kristof­fer­son here — a picker and a prophet and a pro­lific pusher of a do-it-your­self aes­thetic of rock ’n’ roll that is in­formed by punk, garage, blues, folk, and prob­a­bly other in­flu­ences that lesser mor­tals have yet to un­cover. This in­fa­mously cur­mud­geonly con­trar­ian has been re­spon­si­ble for a crazy num­ber of bands since the mid-’70s, in­clud­ing The Pop Rivets, Thee Milk­shakes, Thee Mighty Cae­sars, The Del­monas, Thee Head­coats (which spawned the all-girl group Thee Head­coa­tees), The Buff Med­ways, The Chatham Singers, The Mu­si­cians of the Bri­tish Em­pire, The Spar­tan Dreggs, and, most re­cently CTMF — un­less he’s started a new group since I be­gan writ­ing this.

As could be ex­pected, this fifty-eight-yearold artist — who says he’s made more than 150 al­bums, never us­ing a pro­ducer — has recorded on a long list of in­de­pen­dent record com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Sub Pop, Sym­pa­thy for the Record In­dus­try, K Records, Am­phet­a­mine Rep­tile, Get Hip, and his own Hang­man la­bel. But when I think of Billy Child­ish, the first la­bel I think of is Dam­aged Goods, the Bri­tish la­bel started 30 years ago by a guy called Ian Dam­aged (who’s mar­ried to a lady named Ali­son Won­der­land). And now, that won­drous la­bel is re­leas­ing a two-disc, 37-song 30th an­niver­sary com­pi­la­tion called Dam­aged Goods

1988-2018, de­scribed by the DG me­dia ma­chine as “a se­lec­tion of top tracks, deep cuts, lost gems, and per­sonal favourites.”

No, Dam­aged Goods and Billy Child­ish are not syn­ony­mous. DG started out as a punk-rock reissue la­bel, and Child­ish didn’t start record­ing for them un­til 1991 (ini­tially with Thee Head­coats, which served as his ma­jor mu­sic ve­hi­cle through most of the ’90s). And Child­ish prob­a­bly isn’t as well known with the gen­eral pub­lic as the Manic Street Preach­ers, who went on to ma­jor la­bels af­ter their 1990 de­but on Dam­aged Goods, New Art Riot E.P. (The ti­tle track is in­cluded here, but, frankly, it’s not all that im­pres­sive.)

But Dam­aged Goods be­gan man­ag­ing Billy’s back cat­a­log a few years ago, and I’d ar­gue that even though he was a lit­tle late to the party, he quickly be­came the soul of the la­bel. I’m not com­par­ing Ian Dam­aged to Sam Phillips, but try­ing to dis­cuss Dam­aged Goods with­out Billy Child­ish is like try­ing to talk about Sun Records with­out men­tion­ing Elvis Pres­ley.

Be­sides, Child­ish is all over this col­lec­tion. He’s re­spon­si­ble for a quar­ter of the tracks on the first disc. Fol­low­ing a cool blast of punk by a guy called Johnny Moped called “Ain’t No Rock ’n’ Roll Rookie,” Thee Head­coats barge in with a tune of clas­sic Child­ish self-loathing called “Ev­ery Bit of Me.” Child­ish, who has fre­quently talked pub­licly about be­ing mo­lested at the age of nine by a “friend” of his fam­ily, roars in this song about that defin­ing in­ci­dent: “He was forty years old in­side my jeans/I was nine years old and feel­ing un­clean/He told it’s a se­cret to keep to my­self/I wanted to hate him but I hated my­self/with ev­ery bit of me, ev­ery bit of me ...” In an­other Child­ish song in this com­pi­la­tion, “I Don’t Like the Man That I Am,” recorded with the folk-punk group The Singing Loins, Child­ish works a sim­i­lar in­tro­spec­tive theme. Backed only by banjo, acous­tic gui­tar, and bass drum, he sings, “I don’t love you ’cause I don’t like the man I am.”

There’s an­other au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal tune, a fierce rocker called “Archive From 1959” (that’s the year he was born) by The Buff Med­ways, and some weird noodling from Child­ish and his crony, fel­low artist-po­et­singer Sex­ton Ming called “Sing Shed Sing” (a minute and 16 sec­onds of spo­ken word over what sounds like a toy or­gan and chimes). I also like “Are You a Wally?” by The Spar­tan Dreggs, though I have no idea what Child­ish is singing about here. (Could it be that I’m a Wally?)

But the best song on the whole col­lec­tion is “Punk Rock Enough for Me,” by Child­ish’s CTMF — and don’t ask me what that al­pha­bet soup of a band name stands for. The song is ba­si­cally a list of mu­si­cians, writ­ers, artists, and some inan­i­mate ob­jects, like a cup of tea — all of which Billy con­sid­ers to be punk rock — sung over a tune that sounds like a hard-edged ver­sion of Them’s “Glo­ria.” Among this es­teemed com­pany are Robert John­son, Jimi Hendrix (in Bea­tle boots), Bo Did­dley, Fy­o­dor Dos­to­evsky, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Niko­lai Go­gol, and Buddy Holly. And I al­most did the Fred­die when Child­ish in­cluded the ’60s Bri­tish band Fred­die and The Dream­ers. This tune is a dandy put­down of punk-rock pu­rity. Be­sides Child­ish him­self, Dam­aged Goods in­cludes what might be the most pop­u­lar song by the lovely and tal­ented Head­coa­tees, the cool, wacky “Davy Crock­ett,” which has a melody sim­i­lar to Don and Dewey’s “Farmer John.” Even bet­ter are some lesser-known songs by former Head­coa­tees who went on to solo ca­reers. There’s the soul­ful “Love Pours Out of My Heart” by Miss Ludella Black (I can imag­ine Sally Timms of The Mekons singing this one) and a cou­ple from the ever-de­light­ful Holly Go­lightly, who sings a bluesy, sul­try “Walk a Mile,” as well as a song with The Broke­offs, “Just Around the Bend.”

And speak­ing of girl groups, the best non-Child­ish tracks on the com­pi­la­tion are by fe­male bands or singers. Thee Dag­ger Debs sound like a tougher Bay City Rollers on the catchy “Ain’t Worth the Time.” The Pe­riod Pains do a tune called “Spice Girls (Who Do You Think You Are?),” while Betty and The Were­wolves toast a pop star from a pre­vi­ous era, “David Cas­sidy.” And speak­ing of were­wolves, The Priscil­las have a great spook-rock tune called “All My Friends Are Zom­bies” just in time for Hal­loween.

With the mu­sic biz im­plod­ing and trans­form­ing at a near-deadly pace, it’s re­fresh­ing to see that a de­ter­mined in­de­pen­dent la­bel like Dam­aged Goods can last three decades. Here’s to 30 more years for this won­der­ful com­pany.

Billy Child­ish

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