Certain Songs #488: Gang of Four – “Damaged Goods”

gang of four entertainment Album: Entertainment!
Year: 1979

One of the most influential of all of the post-punk bands, Gang of Four were somehow album to weld funk music with punk rock in a way that felt both revolutionary and inevitable.

On their classic debut album, Entertainment!, song after song combined Andy Gill’s slashing guitars, Dave Allen’s lead bass, Hugo Burnham’s danceable beats, and Jon King’s rants against capitalism and love.

It all comes together on the amazing “Damaged Goods,” where King declaims:

Your kiss so sweet
Your sweat so sour
Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you
But I know it’s only lust

It’s a remarkable lyric, because of the context it’s placed in. I mean, it could totally be the chorus of a Van Halen song. The difference, of course, would be that David Lee Roth would shrug his shoulders and not give it another moment’s thought while he went back for another round.

But Jon King feels terrible with all of the uncertainty — in fact, he feels that the situation they’re in has damaged both of them. So by the end, “Damaged Goods” becomes a break-up song:

I’m kissing you goodbye
(Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye)
I’m kissing you goodbye
(Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye)
I’m kissing you goodbye
(Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye)
I’m kissing you goodbye
(Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye)
I’m kissing you goodbye
(Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye)
I’m kissing you goodbye

Throughout the song, the bass and guitars have been dropping in and out — though not the drums, never the drums — and for this last section, “Damaged Goods” becomes cathartic, as the guitars suddenly start soaring while everybody’s chanting “goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”

“Damaged Goods”

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