Classic Tunes: “Damaged Goods” by Gang of Four

I’m listening to this one right now on a various artists double-CD compilation of indie music, FEAR OF MUSIC.

Damaged Goods is one of my absolute favourite Gang of Four tracks, from their first classic 1979 album ENTERTAINMENT, although it had actually appeared previously as the A-side of their legendary first single, the 1978 Damaged Goods EP, which was released on the Fast Product record label. This EP also featured the equally legendary tracks Love Like Anthrax and Armalite Rifle.

Gang of Four incorporated various other genres such as funk, reggae and dub into their stylistic repertoire, which gave a lot of added “oomph!” to their music. Damaged Goods is like all good punk and post-punk – angry, short, and to the point – but it is also more sophisticated than many of its punk predecessors. This track is undoubtedly one of the pivotal post-punk anthems, and had a huge impact and influence on everything that came afterwards. The sheer simplicity of the best punk and post-punk classics like this reminds me so much of the great three chord/sub three minute garage tracks of the mid-to-late 1960s, albeit with large added dollops of anger and social awareness.

My tastes in music are pretty wide-ranging and eclectic, and on occasion I like some overproduced rock, disco and dance music as much of the next guy. But there are times that I just want to have it short, raw and punchy, like Damaged Goods, New Rose, Public Image, Ever Fallen In Love or Pretty Vacant. Heady company, that, and Damaged Goods is deservedly up there among these other classic tracks.

The version I’m listening to right now is the later re-recorded version of Damaged Goods, and the purists would undoubtedly groan and roll their eyes, and assert that the original version, and only the original version on the EP is the real Damaged Goods. And when it comes to music, I have to admit that I’m almost always a purist myself. So I invariably hate most cover versions of classic tunes. But not on this occasion.

I actually prefer this re-recorded version, which is faster and snappier than the slower original EP version. It just seems to be that bit more angry and aggressive, a searing indictment of love and lust. And angry and aggressive is how I feel a good punk or post-punk song should be. Both versions are classic, but the newer one just edges it for me.

Like I said, the purists will surely disagree with me strongly (most of them probably foaming at the mouth), but I don’t care! 🙂