As Damon Albarn hints at yet another ream of songs for both Blur and Gorillaz, two of his projects which have gone on to define popular culture in Britain, we thought we’d take a look through some of the defining moments of culture that have inspired Albarn, namely, his most cherished books.
An avid reader and a frequent supporter of the arts, Albarn has always been vocal about the music, art or, indeed, literature that has given him artistic nourishment throughout the years. The Blur singer has never given a definitive list of his favourite books; being such a lover of literature, we’d imagine it changes with the seasons. However, across an array of interviews, Albarn has given out some of the titles that have influenced him, including books from Irvine Welsh to Hermann Hesse and so many more.
Thanks to a Damon Albarn Tumblr account, we’re able to bring you a list of the singer’s favourite books and how they’ve gone on to influence his work or teach him new things about himself. As part of the southern division of the Britpop movement, Blur and Albarn were often pitched as London’s answer to the Mancunian Oasis, even if they weren’t from the capital.
One book, London Fields by Martin Amis, would end up inspiring Albarn to make the leap to London: ”It’s one of the reasons why I moved here [just off the Portobello Road]. It gave me a key to a language that I was interested in, but didn’t know how to focus on. It’s a sort of dirty, speedy London dialect which he uses, and that’s sort of what I use in my songs now. I also liked the way he’s able to flip between low and high culture, as that’s what I’m sort of about as well.”
Another well-loved title comes from Hermann Hesse and his revolutionary self-discover novel Siddhartha, about which Albarn once said: “Hermann Hesse was the first writer who actually had any effect on me. All his books seemed totally at odds with the 20th Century, he never had any pretence of trying to be a futurist, there was never an agenda. All his books were good, but I suppose the key ones were Steppenwolf and Siddhartha. He was always trying to define a spirituality but at the same time, he stayed clear of any sex or dogma. He was just there. One of the first urban pagans.”
It’s not all novels though and the Gorillaz singer has shared his love for some loftier titles too, including Immanuel Kant’s Moral Law, a book on the philosopher’s defining theory. Albarn, like the rest of us, was knocked back by the tome’s sheer size: “It did take a long time. I was having to get up about 5 o’clock in the morning and read for an hour, because it was the only time I had the attention and my brain was alert enough to be able to work out what the fuck was going on. But I got through it! I got the gist of it, I think. [Laughs.]“
The reading list from Albarn provides an accurate reflection of the man he is. Not only is the list permeated with potent moments of pop culture (London Fields, Trainspotting etc.) but also moments of deep reflection and artistic revelry.
If you can’t judge a book by its cover, you may well be able to judge a man by the books he reads.
Damon Albarn favourite books:
- London Fields by Martin Amis
- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
- The Boarding House by William Trevor.
- The Buddha Of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi.
- Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson
- Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
- The Blind Owl by Sadeg Heavat
- Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke.
- When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan
- Ping-pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game
- The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg.
- Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; And, Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
- Immanuel Kant’s Moral Law
- Broken Greek by Pete Paphides