‘Clint Eastwood’ by the Gorillaz is one of the most well-known and recognisable songs of all time, and the band has some ancient-looking machine to thank for it.
The track from their 2001, self-titled, debut album is the Gorillaz's second most streamed song on Spotify - it’s been listened to a gigantunormous 629 times.
Rather than it being a moment of musical mastery from the band, Gorillaz co-creator Damon Albarn revealed to Kiwi music journalist Zane Lowe that he found the riff by clicking the “rock 1 preset button” on a machine.
“It just came like that?!” Lowe asks Albarn after he presses the button and the riff plays. “That’s it, that’s the preset. It’s the ‘rock 1 preset’,” Albarn replies before showing Zane that the rest of ‘Clint Eastwood’ is also from that machine.
That machine that gave birth to the timeless groove is a Suzuki Omnichord, which first came out in the 1980s.
Here’s what ol’ reliable Wikipedia says about it:
“It typically features a touch plate known as "Sonic Strings", preset rhythms, auto-bass line functionality, and buttons for major, minor, and 7th chords.”
“The most basic method of playing the instrument is to press the chord buttons and swipe the Sonic Strings with a finger in imitation of strumming a stringed instrument. The Sonic Strings may also be touched in one place to create a single note.”
David Bowie whipped out the Omnichord during his performance at the 9/11 benefit ‘Concert For New York City’ back in 2001. While he’s gloriously singing Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’, you can see the Bowmeister tap, tap, tapping away at the funky-looking instrument.
In what is either a piece of clever, almost subliminal marketing or a wild coincidence, Suzuki just announced they will be re-releasing later this year. They made that announcement just twelve days before Zane Lowe posted that TikTok.
I did not set out for this story to become a revelation that Zane Lowe, Suzuki, and Damon Albarn are in cahoots with each other to increase sales numbers for the Omnichord, but here we are.