Captain Sensible

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Captain Sensible
Captain Sensible of The Damned onstage 2015.jpg
Captain Sensible, performing live with the Damned in 2015
Background information
Birth nameRaymond Ian Burns [1]
Also known asCaptain Sensible
Born (1954-04-24) 24 April 1954 (age 67) [2]
Origin Balham, London
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, bass, organ, vocals
Years active1976–present
Labels A&M, Deltic, Humbug
Associated acts

Raymond Ian Burns (born 24 April 1954), known by the stage name Captain Sensible, is an English singer, songwriter and guitarist.


Captain Sensible co-founded the punk rock band the Damned, originally playing bass before switching to guitar. He embarked on a solo career during the 1980s, following a UK number one hit with his cover of "Happy Talk".

Captain Sensible's distinctive appearance includes a red beret and sunglasses, typically with white frames. He was also a founder of the Blah! Party.

Early life

Captain Sensible was born in Balham, London, on 24 April 1954. [2] He went to Stanley Technical School for Boys in South Norwood, Croydon. The first musical instrument he played was a Bontempi organ. Growing up, he listened to Brian Auger, Syd Barrett, Small Faces, Egg, Stray, Soft Machine and the Groundhogs. [6]

The Damned

Originally a member of the Johnny Moped band, Captain Sensible joined the Damned in 1976 on the suggestion of his colleague Rat Scabies, the band's drummer, filling a number of positions during his tenure (including bassist, lead guitarist and keyboardist), and eventually becoming the band's main songwriter following the departure of Brian James.

Captain Sensible left in the 1980s to concentrate on solo projects, but rejoined in 1996 after Scabies left, and co-wrote Grave Disorder , the band's first new studio album for 8 years, in 2001. He continues to tour and record with the band. [7] [8]

Solo career

Captain Sensible's first solo release came in 1978 with the single "Jet Boy, Jet Girl", recorded while the Damned were on hiatus. [9] He followed this in 1981 with the This Is Your Captain Speaking EP on Crass Records. [9] He signed to A&M Records and had a UK number one hit in 1982 with a cover of "Happy Talk", the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from South Pacific , featuring backing by Dolly Mixture and a band including Robyn Hitchcock on guitar. [9] This was later sampled for hip hop artist Dizzee Rascal's 2004 song "Dream". [10]

Other Captain Sensible songs that became hits in the UK and Europe were "Wot", "One Christmas Catalogue" and anti-Falklands War "Glad It's All Over", which was co-written and produced by Tony Mansfield. After quitting A&M Records he continued recording for various independent labels, including Deltic Records and Humbug Records. He has also toured with his solo band Punk Floyd.

Captain Sensible's recording of "The Snooker Song" from Mike Batt's musical The Hunting of the Snark was used as the theme music for the BBC gameshow Big Break , and he also wrote and performed a song called "Brain's Theme" for the movie Skinned Deep in 2004.

Playing live in Abergavenny in 1994 CaptainSensible02.jpg
Playing live in Abergavenny in 1994

Captain Sensible is also a member of Dead Men Walking, a supergroup featuring Mike Peters, Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny) and Slim Jim Phantom, [11] and The Sensible Gray Cells with former Damned mate Paul Gray.

On 25 June 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Captain Sensible among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [12]


"I always wanted to put a brick through the TV when I saw Blair pop his head up. It's quite easy to write lyrics when politicians are so corrupt. I had to start my own political party I was so angry. I called it the Blah Party. It was 50 per cent joke, 50 per cent serious but was my way of dealing with it."

Burns in November 2008 [13]

In September 2006, Captain Sensible formed a new British political party known as the Blah! Party, [14] saying, "We believe that voting is an important part of the democratic process, and we want the Blah! Party to be the party of protest, a channel through which the people of the U.K. can vent their dissatisfaction at nonsensical everyday things, and protest against the government and the current crop of political parties." [15]

The Blah! Party was largely modelled on the principle of direct democracy, with suggestions being made by anyone on the party website. These suggestions would then be voted on by the membership, resulting in a "rolling manifesto." [16] [17] The party was launched on 24 September 2006 at a conference in Manchester. [18] Initial policies included stopping "chav culture and the idolisation of airhead celebrities like the Beckhams, Paris Hilton and Jade Goody", alongside more serious policies of opposing the Iraq War and ID cards, instead spending money on public transport, hospitals and renewable energy. [17]

The Blah! Party entered into a sponsorship deal with Seabrook Crisps in September 2006, with the party logo and details on joining for free printed on their packets. [18] [19] The party also received non-financial support from PR company Propaganda. The party received £168,309 in the last quarter of 2006. [20] The party was debt-free in 2008, with a membership of 8,544, up from 5,000 in 2007. [21]

The first Blah! Party candidate was Carl Finlan, who stood in the 2007 local elections in Thornton and Allerton ward, Bradford. [22] He gained 69 votes (1.6%). [23] Deputy leader Melodie Staniforth stood in the Holme Valley North ward of Kirklees as 'Boney Maroney' in 2008. [24] She gained 38 votes (0.68%). [25] She resigned shortly afterwards. [26]

On 11 September 2007, Propaganda handed total control of the Blah! Party to Captain Sensible, former Official Monster Raving Loony Party deputy leader Melodie Staniforth, Robert Staniforth, Sadie Ingoldby, Shaun Nightingale and Gary Spate. [26] In December 2008, Propaganda closed the website. The party ended its association with Propaganda and Seabrook, launching a new website. At the same time it de-registered from the register of political parties, deciding to instead be a protest group. [26]

Personal life

Captain Sensible was previously married to Rachel Bor of Dolly Mixture. [27] The couple have three children together. [27] He later remarried and now has four children. [27] [28]

Burns adopted his stage name Captain Sensible ironically because he used to be a "debauched maniac" who had fun "regardless of the consequences." [29] However, after living at Dial House (the commune where the anarcho-punk band Crass lived) for a week to record an EP in 1981, his life changed and he became a vegetarian who adhered to Crass' pacifist and creative aims. [29] [30] Captain Sensible has written several songs about animal rights, including "Torture Me" and most notably the 1985 single "Wot! No Meat?". [31] [32]



YearSinglePeak chart positions
1978"Jet Boy, Jet Girl" (Netherlands-only release) [upper-alpha 1]
1980"Millionaire" [upper-alpha 2]
"Disco Girls" / "Blu Shoes" [upper-alpha 3]
1982"Hey Jo" [upper-alpha 4]
"Happy Talk"1353613724
1983"Stop the World"8272
"I'm a Spider"
1984"Glad It's All Over" / "Damned on 45"66
"There Are More Snakes Than Ladders"57
"One Christmas Catalogue" / "Relax"79
1985"Wot, No Meat?" [upper-alpha 5]
"Come On Down"
1987"Revolution Now"
1988"The Snooker Song"
"The Toys Take Over"
"I Get So Excited"
1990"Smash It Up (Part 4)" [upper-alpha 6]
1993"Holiday in My Heart"
"Wot '93"
1994"The Hokey Cokey"71
1995"Flip Top World"
1997"While Wrecking the Car" (Germany-only release)
1998"Cigarette Sandy" [upper-alpha 7]
1999"Missing the Boat"
2005"Wot (I Say Captain)" [upper-alpha 8] 80
2014"Wot" [upper-alpha 9]
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released


  1. Credited to 'Captain Sensible and the Softies'. The song also appeared as the B-side to the Damned's 1982 single "Wait for the Blackout"
  2. Credited to 'Magic Michael with Rat Scabies & Captain Sensible'
  3. There were three different simultaneous releases, which had different credits: 'The Sunset Boys + Captain Sensible', 'Maxims Trash with Captain Sensible', and 'Maximum Mania with Captain Sensible'
  4. Split promo single with Dead Kennedys, Infa Riot and Flux of Pink Indians titled "Extracts from Wargasm"
  5. Credited to 'Captain Sensible & the Missus' (duet with Rachel Bor of Dolly Mixture)
  6. Split single with the Brotherhood of Lizards
  7. Split single with the Real People
  8. Credited as 'Erkan & Stefan feat. Captain Sensible & Trooper Da Don'
  9. with LaBrassBanda

The Damned

Dead Men Walking

The Sensible Grey Cells

The Jack Tars

Related Research Articles

The Damned (band) English punk band

The Damned are an English rock band formed in London, England, in 1976 by lead vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist Captain Sensible, and drummer Rat Scabies. They were the first punk rock band from the United Kingdom to release a single, "New Rose" (1976), release an album, Damned Damned Damned (1977), and tour the United States. They have nine singles that charted on the UK Singles Chart Top 40.

<i>Damned Damned Damned</i> 1977 studio album by The Damned

Damned Damned Damned is the debut studio album by English punk rock band the Damned. It was released on 18 February 1977 by Stiff Records. Produced by Nick Lowe, Damned Damned Damned was the first full-length album released by a UK punk group.

<i>Strawberries</i> (album) 1982 studio album by The Damned

Strawberries is the fifth studio album by English punk rock band the Damned. It was released in October 1982 by record label Bronze.

<i>Machine Gun Etiquette</i> 1979 studio album by the Damned

Machine Gun Etiquette is the third studio album by English punk rock band the Damned. It was released on 2 November 1979 by Chiswick Records.

Rat Scabies English musician

Christopher John Millar, known by his stage name Rat Scabies, is a musician best known as the drummer for English punk rock band the Damned.

New Rose Song by The Damned

"New Rose" is the first single by British punk rock group the Damned, released on 22 October 1976 on Stiff Records, and in 1977 in the Netherlands, Germany and France. It is considered to be the first single by a British punk group.

<i>The Black Album</i> (The Damned album) 1980 studio album by the Damned

The Black Album is the fourth album by the Damned, and the first to feature Paul Gray on bass guitar. It was released in 3 November 1980 on Chiswick as a double album, with "Curtain Call" filling the whole of side 3, and a selection of live tracks recorded at Shepperton Studios for Damned fan club members on side 4. The song "13th Floor Vendetta" paid tribute to the film The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), opening with the lyrics "...the organ plays to midnight on Maldine Square tonight".

Paul Gray (English musician) British musician

Not to be confused with Slipknot bassist Paul Gray.

Smash It Up Song by The Damned

"Smash It Up" is a song by The Damned, released as a single on 28 September 1979 on Chiswick Records. It is considered the band's unofficial anthem.

Masters of the Backside was an early British punk rock group. They never released a recording or performed beyond practice sessions, but the group's members went on to greater success: Chrissie Hynde later fronted The Pretenders, and Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies were subsequently founding members of The Damned.

"Little Miss Disaster" is a song by punk rock band the Damned, released 1 December 2005 on their own Lively Arts label. It was the band’s first single release since "Shut It" in 1996.

Neat Neat Neat Song by The Damned

"Neat Neat Neat" is the second single by punk rock band the Damned, released 18 February 1977 on Stiff Records, simultaneously with their debut album Damned Damned Damned.

"Love Song" is a single by the Damned, released in April 1979. It was the first fruit of the reformed lineup's deal with Chiswick Records, boosted by four variant picture sleeves, each one featuring a member of the band, with an additional 20,000 copies pressed on red vinyl. Combined with radio airplay and a catchy song, this yielded the Damned's first hit, peaking at No. 20 in the UK Singles Chart, and leading to the band's debut on Top of the Pops.

"Dozen Girls" is a single by the Damned, released 17 September 1982 on Bronze Records.

"Generals" is a single by the Damned, released in November 1982 on Bronze Records.

<i>Evil Spirits</i> (album) album by The Damned

Evil Spirits is the eleventh studio album from the Damned. Released on 13 April 2018, it was their first album in ten years and was produced by famed producer Tony Visconti who is best known for his work with David Bowie. The album was largely crowdfunded by a successful PledgeMusic campaign.

<i>Women and Captains First</i> 1982 studio album by Captain Sensible

Women and Captains First is the debut solo album by The Damned guitarist Captain Sensible, released in September 1982 by A&M Records. It features contributions from producer Tony Mansfield, Robyn Hitchcock and the band Dolly Mixture. The album was preceded by the singles "Happy Talk" and "Wot", which peaked at numbers 1 and 26 on the UK Singles Chart, respectively. The album reached No. 64 on the UK Albums Chart. It was reissued on CD in 2009 by Cherry Red Records, including six bonus tracks.

<i>This Is Your Captain Speaking</i> (EP) 1981 EP by Captain Sensible

This is Your Captain Speaking is a three-track EP by English musician Captain Sensible, released on 2 November 1981 on Crass Records. It was Sensible's first release as a solo artist, while still being a member of rock band the Damned. It reached No. 3 in the UK Indie Chart.

<i>Get Back into the World</i> 2020 studio album by The Sensible Gray Cells

Get Back into the World is the second studio album by English rock band the Sensible Gray Cells, released 27 November 2020 by Damaged Goods. The band is a side project of guitarist Captain Sensible and bassist Paul Gray of the Damned, and the album is the first to feature drummer Marty Love of punk rock band Johnny Moped. The album was released seven years after their debut A Postcard from Britain. The two singles "So Long" and "Get Back into the World" both reached No. 5 on the Official Vinyl Singles Chart.


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