Damon Albarn: What’s in a name?
Television’s Stewart Lee has gone on record, in the Sunday Observer this very week, opining that there is some kind of occult machination behind Damon Albarn’s opera Doctor Dee, which apparently includes a pantomime cow dancing about whilst sand is thrown on someone’s head. Meanwhile, Damon sings some songs in his whingeing indie-wuss voice. But I think there is a simpler explanation.
Imagine, if you will, being Damon Albarn. Born in 1968. That date is most significant. Imagine being a kid with a cool name… spending your formative early ’70s years running about thinking ‘Aren’t I a lucky little boy! What a great name I have. It is really unique, suave, and sophisticated, unlike the Nigels and Ruperts at my prep school.’ And very likely, “A”Â being first letter of the British alphabet, he could sit there of a morn as the register was called, a cheeky grin plastered all over his face, knowing no other chap’s name could hold a candle to his.
Then, WHAM! In 1976, the movie ‘The Omen’ comes out, and – DOUBLE WHAM! – also, sometime in the 1970s, the hitherto obscure breakfast serial All Bran (having languished in obscurity since 1916) receives a mass-marketing TV campaign artfully circumlocuting the beneficial effects of its fibrous properties upon the bowels of the consumer. Imagine being Damon, having a hitherto consummately cool name,suddenly finding yourself stuck with one that so effortlessly lends itself to pun. A pun,what’s more, based on a combination of two quite different media creations – each associated inexorably in the minds of the public with the nether regions.. A name so very easy to take the piss out of, in fact, that it rolls off the tongue:- it becomes difficult not to say or write “Damian Allbran“ accidentally.
Like the aforementioned Mr. Lee, I am a fan of The Fall. I was dismayed, as I am sure were many fellow The Fall fans, when Mark E Smith chose to associate himself with Albarn’s Gorillaz (a kind of cross between the Residents and The Archies, with neither the homely all-American cosiness of the former nor the sinister undertones of the latter). It was as if Albarn had, in a very real sense, come to my house and pissed through my letterbox..
But now I understand. It came to me in a blinding flash, like Archimedes farting in the bath…
Damon Albarn is rich and famous. He has groupies and roadies at his beck and call. But once, for a brief shining moment that was Camelot, he had a cool name. Which coolness vanished, by will of the accident, lost to the summer wind. Had the spawn of Lucifer in The Omen been called “Ralph”Â, had that curiously bland yet durable brand of wheaties been called “Branbits”Â, had Damon not had the coolness of his nomenclature cruelly snatched out from under him, would he ever have formed the boy band “Blur”Â?
Would he then have subsequently spent an inordinate amount of time desperately trying to buddy up to persons far more effortlessly cool than he will ever be? Would he then be crying out into the tender night “please be my friend, Alan Moore”, “look – I like African music. I am not just an indie pop wuss,”Â and so forth? Would we have had to read the five most terrifying words in the English language: “an opera by Damon Albarn”Â, if he were not on a perpetual quest to regain the immense coolth fate had removed in two fell swoopettes?