The Pink Phantom
by Gorillaz (featuring Elton John)

Album: Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (2020)
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Songfacts®:

  • Damon Albarn's 2-D character starts off this piano-led ballad lamenting a lost love.

    Atlanta singer and rapper 6lack steps in with a melancholy Auto-Tuned verse where he questions whether their relationship was real, while recalling happy memories of their time together.

    Elton John croons the mildly psychedelic chorus and outro where he continues to reflect on the dead romance.
  • The titular Pink Phantom has a double meaning, referring to:

    A pink 1960 Rolls Royce Phantom V that Elton John once owned.

    The ghost (phantom) of the dead relationship. (The color pink is typically associated with love and romance).
  • A childhood ride in Elton John's Rolls Royce Phantom V that thrilled the young Damon Albarn inspired the song. Albarn recalled to Mojo magazine: "When I was about 7 or 8 - and this initially sounds very weird - I got picked up from school in Elton John's pink Phantom by his percussionist Ray Cooper, who was a friend of my parents. I was going to his nephew's party, who was my friend. It was very, very, very exciting."

    Many years later, Albarn told Gorillaz animator Jamie Hewlett about this vivid childhood memory. "He said, 'Well why don't do you write a song about it and do it with Elton?'" Albarn recalled. "And that's how 'Pink Phantom' came into being."
  • Jamie Hewlett told The Sun newspaper that he suggested the collaboration to Albarn one night when the two were up late talking and drinking. "I started playing Elton John songs at four in the morning," he recalled. "Damon was quite moved and said how much he loved them. I just slipped in the idea that we should do a Gorillaz thing with him."
  • Elton John recorded his vocals remotely in a London studio while Albarn was at the other end in Devon.
  • Damon Albarn and 6LACK wrote the song with Gorillaz drummer Remi Kabaka Jr. Elton John didn't contribute to the writing.
  • The song's music video features a cartoon version of Elton John. Hewlett told The Sun: "He said he didn't want to be in the video because he'd done enough of them and was tired of all that s--t. I said I should animate him and he sent me an email saying, 'I love this idea.'"
  • Elton John also included the song on his 2021 The Lockdown Sessions album. The record groups together a collection of one-off projects with different musicians.

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