The Good, The Bad And The Queen biographyThe Good, The Bad And The Queen Lyrics
The band behind the album The Good The Bad And The Queen officially doesn't have a name at all. The band members' names however are known with certainty - Damon Albarn (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Simon Tong (lead guitar), Paul Simonon (bass) and Tony Allen (drums). Four musicians from diverse musical backgrounds, all with impressive CVs as part of bands and projects that have sold millions of records each, and attracted the highest levels of critical acclaim. One might be tempted to call them a supergroup, if it were not for the fact that every member determinedly eschews the traditional band mentality. The fact is that they have all been there and done that - and how. This time it's all about the album, the perfomance and the songs.
The first glimmer of the band began in a most unlikely way. In 2000, Damon's band Blur were about to release their Best Of album and contractually a new track was required for the release, to accompany the previously released numbers on the tracklisting. The track that eventually made the cut was a song called Music Is My Radar, a crazy blend of styles old and new, accompanied by Damon's flowing freeform lyrics. The close of the song, influenced no doubt by his recent discovery of Africa '70 and Afrobeat, found Damon namechecking legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen (indeed, on one interpretation, the song might seem to be all about how Tony's music got him dancing). Tony heard the song and invited Damon to Paris to perform with him at a show he was playing at. A connection was made and the following year when he was looking for collaborators for this next project (the result of which would be the 2002 album 'Home Cooking') Damon was a natural choice. A few phonecalls later he ended up contributing to the track 'Every Season' which, although Damon took the existing track away to work on it on his own, ended up opening the album. For his part, Tony felt it was the best track the sessions had produced, and was eager to work with Damon on a more extensive basis at the earliest opportunity.
Damon however, had other commmitments at the time. During 2002 he had been working on Blur's seventh album, Think Tank. During the sessions, Blur's guitarist and founder member of the band Graham Coxon left the band. With the album in the can, Blur faced the problem of recruiting a guitarist to take the new material on the road. Selected was Simon Tong, who not only had a reputation as an adept and inventive guitarist but also had experience of playing live at the very highest level, during his time with band The Verve. Simon joined the Blur live setup and quickly bonded with Damon, later becoming his trusted guitar player both live and in the studio for subsequent projects, including Gorillaz. So when Blur activity ceased at the end of 2003, and Damon time to work with Tony again, Simon naturally joined the sessions with the pair.
For the first few months, Tony would travel from Paris (where he has a permanent home) to London to work in Damon's studio 13 for 3 days a week, writing, rehearsing and recording. At the same time as the initial recordings in the UK, Damon had begun demoing for the secong Gorillaz record and by early spring had invited in hot young producer Danger Mouse to oversee the album. Damon was keen to work in Africa with local musicians again after his work on the album Mali Music (released 2002) so Tony suggested that the four of them (including Danger Mouse) decamp to his home country of Nigeria to continue the sessions. There they recorded at Afrodisia Studios, once used by Fela Kuti, with a huge variety of local musicians, committing huge amounts of songs and ideas to tape before returning to England once more.
However on return to the UK, Damon found that he wasn't happy enough with the material to bring it to a conclusion in the form of an album. Firstly, he felt that he hadn't shone on the recordings and secondly they were mostly big band arrangements which, he decided, wasn't what he was looking for. However, with deadlines for the Gorillaz record approaching, he and Simon were committed to finishing Demon Days for most of the rest of the year, the fate of the project was undecided.
With the Gorillaz album Demon Days finally complete, Damon turned back to thoughts of his project with Tony and Simon. Inspiration came, as it had often during the past year, from producer Danger Mouse, who felt that the best work from the initial sessions had been that which - perhaps ironically given the style bulk of the material recorded thus far - was the more English sounding element. Damon had been holding back from writing a determinedly 'English' album since Blur's 1994 smash hit Parklife, but his new producer gave him the confidence he needed to start thinking in that direction again. However, if it was going to be material based on the traditional 4-piece 'band' arrangement there was of course still once piece of the puzzle missing - the bass. Damon got thinking and suddenly the name Paul Simonon sprang to mind. In most other peoples' worlds, to invite Paul Simonon, of The Clash fame, to play in your band would be a pleasant daydream at most. But Damon made the call, Paul - who lived only a few streets away in London - came round for coffee, they hung out together for a bit, got on, and hel agreed to work on the material.
Finally the band was a complete four-piece, and the addition of Paul gave them new impetus to at last break the ties with the old material (as worked on in Nigeria) and start writing, jamming and rehearsing afresh. For the first time there was a definable unit there and this resulted in productive sessions throughout 2005. Each band member brough their contribution to bear, Damon's exquisite melodies and Paul's contapuntal basslines complimenting Tony's unique drumming and Simon's varied, textured guitar lines. The English lyrics and themes, which Damon had decided to address were developed yet further by him and Paul in their shared fascination for the history, culture and contradictions of their native land. Danger Mouse continued to oversee the sessions, and at the final mixing, completed in Devon in early 2006, was given the utlimate honour of choosing the final running order for the album from the collection of tracks recorded. Such was the trust that he'd earned since the origins of the project two years previously.
With the sessions over, the band begun rehearsing over the summer in preparation for live dates in the autumn and on into 2007, when their debut album, The Good The Bad And The Queen will finally be released on January 22nd by EMI Records.