When I first heard "Monkey Magic", I thought that this was one of the more interesting songs I'd ever heard on either side of the Pacific. And at that time, I didn't know of its use as the opening theme for "Saiyuki"（西遊記....Journey to the West), one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature that has been retold several times in Japan over the decades, the most recent re-telling being broadcast as a Fuji-TV Monday night drama in 2006 starring one of the members of SMAP, Shingo Katori（香取信吾）, as the Monkey King. However, the most famous version was the 6-month 1978 television serial on NTV starring Masaaki Sakai（堺正章） as the Monkey King, the late actress Masako Natsume（夏目雅子） as Buddhist monk Tripitaka, and Toshiyuki Nishida（西田敏行） as the Pig Monk.
I think "Monkey Magic"was a pretty darn bold musical move for the dramatization of a classic Chinese novel. Starting off with a progressive rock riff, the song goes into a funky disco rendition of the story in a way that would've made the band Wild Cherry proud. It also seems to be one of the first original Japanese pop songs to have been performed totally in English. The single was released on Xmas Day 1978 and peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies. Godiego's 8th single was the 17th-ranking song for 1979 (entamedata.web.fc2.com/music/music_a1979.html).
The band Godiego（ゴダイゴ）, consisting of Mickie Yoshino, Yukihide Takekawa, Takami Asano, Steve Fox and Tommy Snyder, first started in 1976. But it was 1979 which was the big year for the band as four songs, including "Monkey Magic", ended up in the Top 20 for the year (rankings 6, 14, 17, 19).
As for the name of the band itself, leader Mickie Yoshino derived it from the name of the 96th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Go-Daigo (1288-1339). But it was bandmate Steve Fox who suggested that the spelling should be altered to "Godiego". One reason was that dividing the name into its 3 syllables (go, die, go) meant "live-die-rebirth"which referred to the proverbial phoenix. In addition, when the name is split another way, (god, I , ego), the words referred to "the ego of God", otherwise known as "truth".
The above video contains the album version of the song, officially titled as "The Birth of the Odyssey/Monkey Magic" from the No. 1 album of 1979, "Saiyuki" by Godiego. Below is the band performing the tune. When the TV series was imported to the UK, simply titled "Monkey", the single went as high as No. 56 on the charts there.