You Say It's Your Birthday: The Damned's Rat Scabies

Today is the 40th birthday of former Damned drummer Rat Scabies (given name: Chris Miller), who was born in Surrey, England. The Damned were the first British punk act to break through to American audiences, characterized by a taste for the morbid. Formed in the mid-1970s, the Damned rose out of a group called the London S.S., which featured Brian James, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes. While the latter trio went on to form the Clash, James and Scabies, who'd also worked in the S.S., also played in Master of the Backside with future Damned bassist Captain Sensible. Managed by Malcolm McLaren, the trio hired gravedigger/singer Dave Vanian to complete the lineup.

The Damned garnered an immediate following on the uniqueness of their

stage show which, among other things, featured Sensible in a tutu and

Scabies getting into frequent fisticuffs with audience members. In 1977, they

released their debut album, Damned, Damned, Damned and scored a hit

with "New Rose" just a month before the Sex Pistols' debut hit the streets.

Scabies soon left the band in favor of another outing with Patti Smith's

pianist, Richard Sohl. The Damned's sophomore effort was a flop, and by the

end of 1978 the band was on its last legs.

In 1979, Scabies reunited with Sensible and Vanian, hiring bassist Henry

Badowski and touring under the name the Doomed. The following few records

were their most popular, including Machine Gun Etiquette and The

Black Album. They charted with singles such as "Smash it Up" (later covered by the Offspring) and "Love Song," which went to #20 in the UK. Sensible began making solo records in the mid-1980s, eventually leaving the group in 1984. Five years later the band found itself on its farewell tour, although they've since been the subject of at least one best-of collection.

Other birthdays: Paul Anka, David Sanborn, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (Jethro Tull), Andy Scott (Sweet), Hugh Nicholson (Marmalade), Kate Bush, Frank Stallone and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.