Gorillaz: 15 things you (probably) didn’t know about their debut album
Gorillaz debut album artwork

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since the release of Gorillaz‘ self-titled debut album.

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett‘s pet project has come on leaps and bounds over time, but here are fifteen things you (probably) didn’t know about the cartoon band’s landmark first record.

1. It features some pretty surprising collaborations


Obviously, by the time Gorillaz’ second album Demon Days rolled around, just as much attention was given to who they’d be collaborating with as to the songs themselves.

But there’s a number of interesting team-ups on the debut, most notably the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth – who provides backing vocals on ’19-2000′ – and Canadian turntablist Kid Koala.

2. ‘Clint Eastwood’ cost them a ton of money

In the early days of the band, the pretense of being an animated entity was one that was taken seriously, so when they were nominated for three MTV Video Music Award off the back of their video for ‘Clint Eastwood’, the band set about creating an animated acceptance speech in the event they won.

Which they didn’t. So that was a lot of time and effort wasted.

3. It made Gorillaz the most successful virtual band in the world

gorillaz clint eastwood

And that comes from the Guiness World Records guys themselves. Off the back of more than seven million album sales, Gorillaz’ debut ensured the act the status of Most Successful Virtual Band.

We’re not exactly sure who their competition was – though there are a lot of freaky animated K-pop bands and the like – but it’s still an impressive feat for sure.

4. Clint’s opinion of the band is still unclear

Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have both indicated that they are yet to receive any feedback from the legendary actor over the song which features his name.

Albarn wanted to send some merchandise to the Dirty Harry actor saying, “I’m sure Clint Eastwood would like the song. He’s an intelligent man.”

5. The planned video for ‘5/4’ was a bit… racy

‘5/4’ was intended to be released as a single after ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ but was canned at the last minute.

Nonetheless, a vague storyboard for an accompanying music video was drafted up, one that featured, ahem, masturbation – and bassist Murdoc shedding his clothes as he tries to reach a platform full of women.

6. ‘Get the cool shoeshine’ became the slogan for Shoe Zone

Shoe Zone Wikimedia Commons CC

Remember Shoe Zone, the garish highstreet outlet you mum used to drag you to every August for new school shoes?

They got their slogan from one of the more bizarre lyrics on Gorillaz in “get the cool shoeshine”. Not sure that’s what Albarn had in mind when he wrote it.

7. It’s an artifact of the days of the CD-ROM

Remember when all your favourite albums used to come bundled with added extras that would only pop up once you put the disc into your computer?

Gorillaz’ debut had all of those features built in, including a special section that gave the user full access to Murdoc’s Winnebago.

8. The video for ‘Rock The House’ is inspired by a lawsuit

Around the time of the album’s release, Gorillaz were embroiled in a lawsuit with another group called Doppelgangerz, who claimed they’d invented the Gorillaz concept and wanted rights over the music and image.

As Gorillaz founder Jamie Hewlett explained:

“At the time we were being sued by someone who claimed he’d ‘invented’ Gorillaz and was demanding rights over my music, brain, image and face, which obviously made my blood boil. It felt like we were under attack from a hail of bullets. So we took that feeling and made it into a video!”

9. The (virtual) band were never happy with the song

Gorillaz band

It’s sometimes hard to distinguish fact from fiction with Gorillaz, especially during the early stages of their career, where interviews were often done in character, and in reference to the band’s ‘fictional timeline’.

In the autobiography Rise of the Ogre, the band claim the were never particularly satisfied with with the song, with Murdoc expressing his opinions by claiming he “won this song in a raffle”, and that the track should not have made it on the album at all.

10. The video for ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ features a certain street artist

Speaking about the video, Damon Albarn said:

“We focused in on a little piece of graffiti by a then unknown artist called Banksy. It was a spray painted image we found daubed on a wall, a bit of graffiti of a monkey wearing the statement ‘Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge’. Kind of summed up how I felt about our band.”

11. Damon Albarn wanted to set fire to a vital piece of equipment


After becoming annoyed with the Solina String Ensemble, a machine that produced string parts for a lot of the album’s tracks, Damon Albarn wanted to set fire to it on stage.

He had to be convinced otherwise by music techs who said “you can’t set fire to that! It’s a classic!”

12. ‘Re-hash’ was reportedly written by throwing magnets at a fridge

Again, hard to say if this is true or part of the band’s fictional heritage, but the album’s opening track was reportedly written by writing random phrases on magnets and throwing them at a fridge.

We’d like this one to be real.

13. It’s chock full of samples

Gorillaz press 'shot'

Gorillaz is an album stacked full of samples from other tracks.

Notable examples include Bo Diddley’s ‘Hit Or Miss’ on ‘New Genious (Brother)’, samples from Day of the Dead on ‘M1 A1′ and Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish Boy’ on ‘Left Hand Suzuki Method’.

14. Most of the collaborators were more familiar with Hewlett than Albarn

Gorillaz real life press shotGorillaz real life press shot

Before Gorillaz really made a name for themselves, collaborators, especially rappers and hip-hop artists, seemed to be more au fait with Hewlett’s Tank Girl and comic book work than Blur.

15. Gorillaz share the same universe as the Powerpuff Girls

Around the time of the album’s release, the animate band of Gorillaz cropped up in episodes of The Powerpuff Girls, being referenced as having played shows in the cartoon’s Townsville location.

Strange but true.

Listen to Gorillaz’ debut album on Spotify:


Gorillaz at 15: The animated band’s 15 best tracks

Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher team up for Gorillaz cover

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