I’m enjoying Gorillaz new album, The Fall. This song, “Detroit,” is about my hometown. It reminds me of a cast off from McCartney II. There’s not much too it, but I like it.
You thought rock opera died with Quadrophenia or, perhaps, Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. You were wrong…partially at least.
For the last few months I’ve pretty much ignored the big ad on the back of my Mojo magazines for Monkey Journey to the West, the most recent multi-media project from Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewett, collaboratively known for their Gorillaz projects.
The wiki entry for the project reads (in part)
Monkey: Journey to the West is a stage adaptation of the 16th Century Chinese novel Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en. It was conceived and created by the Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-zheng, together with the British musician Damon Albarn and British artist Jamie Hewlett. However, the original idea came from Jean-Luc Choplin, head of the Chatelet Theatre in Paris
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Billed as a “circus opera“, the show is Hewlett and Albarn’s first major collaboration since Gorillaz. Albarn composed the musical score while Hewlett designed the visual concept, set and costumes. The adaptation for stage has been written by Shi-zheng, who also directs the production. Dramaturgy is by David Greenspan. The show features Chinese singers and 70 Chinese acrobats and martial artists. The orchestra put together for the production includes members of the UK Chinese Music Ensemble (led by Cheng Yu), Demon Strings and Sense of Sound.
In addition to the production, the Manchester International Festival also ran a programme of educational workshops in local schools, in partnership with the Chinese Arts Centre. In the programme, local children were introduced to the tale of Journey to the West, and learnt about various aspects of Chinese culture, music and dance, including mask-making, puppet-making, Tai Chi and Kung Fu.
Hewlett and Albarn included characters from Monkey: Journey to the West in an animation sequence titled “Journey to the East.” The BBC used the sequence to introduce coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics, held in Beijing
Here’s the feature one trailer
I was really surprised to find this project was that ambitious, that expansive. In the strictest sense, it’s not a rock and roll opera. In fact, it’s more truly a multi-media version of traditional Chinese opera. With Albarn involved, there are definitely rock elements. Regardless of how one might label it, the project, to me, is stunning in its daringness. It’s outside the box (to borrow the overused corporate cliche.) To me, that makes it worth a look or listen.
My mp3 player on shuffle played U2’s “Staring at the Sun” just as I lay back on the bench to do my skull crushers. I hadn’t heard the song in a long time as it has been buried behind thousands of other songs on my player. “Gosh, what does this first verse sound like? This is really familiar.”
It bothered me the rest of morning at the gym, the nagging war in the mind between a lost memory and the battle to reclaim it.
Then it hit me. The verse sounds just like part of one of Damon Albarn’s songs. I was pretty sure it wasn’t from a Blur song, so when I got to work today, I started going through Gorillaz tunes. Sure enough, the song I was thinking of was “Feel Good, Inc.” I’m not sure whether it is a verse of that song — there are so many bits to it — but it kicks in about 1:10 into the song, the bit that starts “Windmill, windmill…”
The first verse of “Staring at the Sun”
Summer stretching on the grass… summer dresses pass
In the shade of a willow tree creeps a crawling over me
Over me and over you stuck together with God’s glue
It’s going to get stickier too…
It’s been a long hot summer
let’s go undercover
Don’t try too hard to think… don’t think at all
The lifted portion of “Feel Good, Inc.” is
Windmill, Windmill for the land.
Love forever hand in hand
Take it all in on your strife
It is sinking, falling down
Love forever love is free
Let’s turn forever you and me
Windmill, windmill for the land
Is everybody in?
Mind you, I don’t think this is some sort of blatant rip off. But George Harrison was sued (successfully) for a less blatant borrowing of “He’s So Fine.”
Both of these songs are great. I like these twin verses the best.