Arctic Monkeys biographyArctic Monkeys Lyrics
In 2001, neighbours Alex Turner and Jamie Cook asked for instruments as a Christmas present and both received electric guitars. After teaching themselves to play, the pair formed a band with Turner's school friends Andy Nicholson and Matt Helders later in 2002. Nicholson already played bass, so Matt Helders ended up on drums - "that was all that were left...they all had guitars so I bought a drum kit after a bit". Although reports suggested they named themselves after Helders' uncle's (or even father's) band, Helders later admitted that these reports were untrue - "We made that up ‘cause we got so many people asking us that in the UK, so we just started making stories up", and that he just didn't have the heart to tell the original reporter he'd been lying. According to Helders, it is just a name that Jamie Cook came up with at school before the band existed. "He just always wanted to be in a band called Arctic Monkeys."
They began rehearsing in a warehouse in Neepsend, and their first gig came on 13 June 2003 at The Grapes in Sheffield city-centre. After a few performances, the band began to record demos and burn them onto CDs to give away at gigs. With a limited number of CDs available, fans began to rip the music back onto their computers and share it amongst themselves. The band did not mind, saying "we never made those demos to make money or anything. We were giving them away free anyway — that was a better way for people to hear them. And it made the gigs better, because people knew the words and came and sang along." The band themselves took no responsibility for their music, admitting that they did not even know how to get their songs onto the Internet. When asked about the popularity of the band's MySpace site in an interview with Prefix Magazine, the band pointed out that they did not even know what MySpace was, and that the site had originally been created by their fans. "[When we went number one in England] we were on the news and radio about how Myspace has helped us. But that's just the perfect example of someone who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. We actually had no idea what it was."
Towards the end of 2004, the band began to gain a reputation around an increasing part of the north of England, they began to receive attention from BBC Radio 1 and the British tabloid press. Mark Bull, a local amateur photographer, videoed the band's performances and made the video to "Fake Tales of San Francisco", releasing it on his web-site, alongside the contents of Beneath the Boardwalk – a collection of the band's songs which he named after a local music venue (rather than using the generic "demo" again).
In May 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their first EP, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys, featuring the songs "Fake Tales of San Francisco" and "From the Ritz to the Rubble". This release was limited to 1000 CDs and 500 7" records, but was also available to download from the iTunes Music Store.
Their appearance on the Carling Stage at the 2005 Reading and Leeds Festivals was hyped by much of the music press – NME in particular – and the band was received by an unusually large crowd for the billing they played. The critically acclaimed performance even included spontaneous sing-alongs from the band's most devoted fans. Impressively, this included tracks that were only available as demos on the Internet. It was at this time that vocalist Alex Turner took the opportunity to rebuff claims that his band could not live up to the hype that has followed their emergence, and declared, "It feels like a moment, us playing here."
The band resisted signing to a record deal, refusing to change their songs to suit the industry - "Before the hysteria started, labels would say, 'I like you, but I'm not sure about this bit, and that song could do with this changing...' We never listened." The band's cynicism with the industry went to the extent that record company scouts were refused guaranteed guest list entry for their gigs. The success of their logic - "We've got this far without them - why should we let them in?", was illustrated with a series of sell-out gigs across the UK. October 2005 saw the band sell out the London Astoria, and Turner saw this as proof that they were justified to ignore the record companies, saying "Once it all kicked off, we didn't care anymore. In London, the kids were watching the band, and the record company were at the back watching the kids watching the band." The band's biggest gig so far saw over two thousand fans singing the words to every song despite the band having released a single limited edition EP, and Turner declared their rise to stardom via the internet "amazing", adding "I'm sure one day it will come back and bite us in the arse".
Eventually, the band ended up signing to Domino Records in June 2005. The temptation of money saw the band almost sign for "another label", but the band were attracted by Domino owner Laurence Bell, who ran the label from his flat and only signed bands that he liked personally. The UK's Daily Star tabloid newspaper reported that this was followed in October 2005 by a £1m publishing deal with EMI and a £725,000 contract with Epic for the United States. The band denied this on their website, dubbing the newspaper "The Daily Stir". However, Domino have licensed EMI publishing rights for the band in the Australian and New Zealand markets (where Domino does not have a presence), while independent label Hostess has been licensed publishing in Japan.
Their first single after signing to Domino, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", was released on 17 October 2005 and went straight to #1 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 38,962 copies and beating McFly and Robbie Williams in the process. Three days later, the band made their first appearance on the cover of NME. Their second single, "When the Sun Goes Down" (having been renamed from its original guise as "Scummy"), was released on 16 January 2006 and also went straight to #1 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 38,922 copies and dethroning Shayne Ward. The band's success in reaching the number 1 spot has led some to suggest that it could signal a change in how new bands achieve recognition.
The band finished recording their debut album at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire during September 2005. Its name was confirmed as Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not in early December, with release originally intended for 30 January 2006. Although early versions of many tracks were already freely available to download from the band's pre-label demo CDs, it was widely expected to be one of the biggest releases of 2006 with thousands of copies pre-ordered, . On 5 January 2006, Domino announced the album's release would be brought forward one week to the 23 January apparently "due to high demand". While the same thing was done with the release of Franz Ferdinand, there has been continued speculation that the move came as a result of the album's leak and the impact of file sharing - a controversial suggestion given file-sharing's part in establishing the band's fanbase.
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not became the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history, selling 363,735 copies in the first week. This smashed the previous record of 306,631 copies held by Hear'say with their debut Popstars, and sold more copies on its first day sales alone - 118,501 - than the rest of the Top 20 albums combined.
The record was released a month later in the United States and sold 34,000 units in its first week, making it the second fastest selling for a debut indie album in America and debuting at #24 on the Billboard album chart. US critics were more reserved about the band than their UK counterparts, and appeared unwilling to be drawn into the possibility of "yet another example of the UK's press over-hyping new bands". However, the band's June 2006 tour of North America has received critical acclaim at each stop - the hype surrounding them "proven to exist for good reason."
In a similar fashion to bands like Oasis and The Smiths, the band wasted no time in recording new material, and released a 5-track EP on 24 April 2006, entitled Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys. Seen as a swipe back at the snowballing hype surrounding the band, the EP was ineligible to chart as a UK single or album. Furthermore, the record's bad language has resulted in much less radio airplay than experienced by their previous records, although this is unlikely to be of concern - "since they made their name on the internet - and that got them a No.1 single and album - they don't care if they don't get radio play".
The band released another new song, Leave Before the Lights Come On, on 14 August 2006. Turner has said that it feels very much like it could be on the album and was one of the last songs he wrote before their fame. The single was another top five hit.
The band have also revealed that they are well on their way to recording their second full album, having already penned at least 10 tracks. The band have been writing new material since May 2005, and have stated their reluctance to "live off old records" for a long period of time. Guitarist Jamie Cook suggested that their new album will be recorded in August 2006, adding "I couldn’t see us being like Coldplay... You tour your album for three years and play the same fucking gig night after night... Some people might enjoy doing that, but we couldn’t."
In May 2006 it was announced that bassist Andy Nicholson would not take part in the band's forthcoming North America tour due to "fatigue following an intensive period of touring". However, on 19 June it was confirmed on the band's official website that Nicholson had indeed left the band. The statement, "We are sad to tell everyone that Andy is no longer with the band,", also confirmed that Nick O'Malley would continue as bassist for the rest of the band's summer tour schedule.
The band have received some criticism, based largely around the media circus that has surrounded their rise. Critics have said that they are one in a long line of largely overhyped "NME bands". On top of this, the release of the EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys just three months after their record-breaking debut album has also been criticised by some, who have seen it as "money-grabbing" and "cashing in on their success". However, the band have stated their reluctance to "live off old records", and countered that they regularly release new music not to make money, but to avoid the "boredom" of "spending three years touring on one album".
The cover sleeve of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not caused some controversy for the band when the head of the NHS in Scotland criticised it for "reinforcing the idea that smoking is OK". The band's product manager denied the accusation, and in fact suggested the opposite - "You can see from the image smoking is not doing him the world of good". Further criticism came when the band collected their award for Best British Band at the NME Awards 2006, when Turner said, directing his comments at the NME, "We did the triple, but in all honesty...who else was going to be the best British band at the moment, you know? You can't write about something that much and not give us best British band . . . know what I mean"