Damon Albarn, better known as the vocalist for Britpop sensation Blur, formed Gorillaz as a virtual band with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett in 1998. On 5th March 2001, 15 years ago today, their first single ‘Clint Eastwood’ was released from their self-titled debut album.
Even after 15 years of existence, the song still remains iconic within alternative music culture, with its eclectic blend of rock, hip hop and electronic music. It has been highly praised for its catchy chorus sung by the virtual lead singer 2D (Damon Albarn) alongside the verses rapped by Del the Funky Homosapien. Named after the infamous actor of the same name, Albarn argues that this is because the song has similarities in terms of melody to the theme music of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Upon release in the charts, it was highly successful, peaking at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart and number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 in America. In October 2011, several months after its 10th anniversary release, NME magazine placed it at number 141 in their list of the “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years.” It was also ranked #347 by the magazine on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.”
For live performances of the song, alternative rappers were used such as De La Soul and Bootie Brown for the 2005 Demon Days Tour. Gorillaz’s headline performance at Glastonbury in 2010 featured an improvised rap from Snoop Dogg. When Damon Albarn went on a solo tour in 2014 in support of his first solo album Everyday Robots, he invited Del the Funky Homosapien to perform the song live for the first time alongside other producers and rappers, such as Dan the Automator and Kano.
The music video also became popular on release due to its highly stylised animation, which was directed by Hewlett and features references to Spaghetti Westerns, Resident Evil and Peter Jackson’s zombie horror film Braindead.
Remind yourself of the track in the video below.