Created in 1998, Gorillaz are a four-piece cartoon band with a huge fan following. But what was their first song?
Gorillaz’s first official song was Tomorrow Comes Today, which was released on 27 November 2000. However, the first song they recorded was Ghost Train, which was later released as the B-side on their later single Rock the House in October 2001.
Read on to learn more about the band’s origins, back-stories, and their music.
Coming to Life
Gorillaz was created by Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn, whose combined talents were able to produce a fully functional virtual universe.
Hewlett and Albarn started sharing a flat together in London in 1997, and it was there that the idea for the band originated.
Albarn, who’s also the frontman of alt-rock band Blur, was introduced to Hewlett, a critically acclaimed pop artist, through a mutual acquaintance and though they didn’t really like each other initially, their friendship blossomed.
Fast forward to the pair watching MTV as flatmates and the spirit of Gorillaz was born. In an interview with WIRED Hewlett said, “if you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell – there’s nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that”.
Albarn and Hewlett felt that bands and musicians at that time were churned out, artificial, and lacking characters. From this observation they asked the question, “why not just invent fake characters and have them do it all for you?”. And so Gorillaz was born.
According to Albarn, “right from the beginning it was ‘I’ll do the music and that stuff and you can do all the visuals”, and their separate roles have been key to their success.
‘Tomorrow Comes Today’
David Albarn is the man behind the music, and he began to record for the band in 1998.
Creating music for Blur as well, Albarn told interviewers that Blur’s song ‘On Your Own’ was actually “one of the first ever Gorillaz tunes”, as he explored their sound through his other music.
A lot of Gorillaz’ early music developed from old bits of recording and rhythms that weren’t able to be used for Blur. Albarn revisited the melodies and spun together some Gorillaz worthy tracks.
‘Ghost Train’ was the first song to be recorded at Studio 13 in London but wasn’t released until it appeared on the record of their single ‘Rock the House’ as a B-side track.
However, some of the music that was being developed at the time was released on the band’s debut EP ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’, which featured the single of the same name.
The single was their first official release and made it to the UK singles chart, peaking at number 33. Dan the Automator contributed to the track and Billboard described it as a “darkly beautiful tune accented by the vocals of Blur’s Damon Albarn”.
Virtual Band Members
While Albern and Hewlett are the masterminds, it’s the virtual band members that steal most of the limelight.
The animated characters feature in their music videos, on their merch, and as part of their live sets and each has their own unique characteristics and stories.
The band’s lead vocalist is 2-D, who also plays keyboard, and is named for the 2 dents left in his head after a car accident.
Murdoc Niccals, the band’s bassist, is to blame for the accident. Whilst it was Murdoc who formed the band, 2-D became the frontman and Hewlett said of their relationship, “2D got the job, which is always going to piss him off”.
The other two band members are Russel Hobbs, percussion, and Noodle, lead guitar, who complete the animated team. Add in Albarn and Hewlett, and you’ve got the world’s ‘Most Successful Virtual Band’.