Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album, AM, was the record that changed everything for the group internationally. It was the album that provided the seismic moment the world finally woke up to the drum that Britain had been banging for close to a decade. The Sheffield band were the real deal.
Even though their rise to stardom in Britain happened straight away, and their debut single, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, raced to the top of the charts, which asserted them to the top of the pile. Since then, their position has only been cemented with every following album. However, it took them years of constant gigging to establish themselves in the mainstream across the Atlantic.
While they were headlining Glastonbury and playing stadiums in Britain, they were still sweating it out in clubs in the US. That was until AM changed it all. The success of the lead single ‘Do I Wanna Know’ opened the band up to a whole new audience, and it helped their fifth record become their highest charting in America to date. Surprisingly, however, ‘Do I Wanna Know’ wasn’t Turner’s favourite song on the record. In fact, his highlight wasn’t even elected to be one of the six singles from AM.
Interestingly, he picked ‘Knee Socks’, which featured backing vocals from Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme, who previously co-produced their 2009 album, Humbug, as his favourite. Turner also repaid the favour by appearing on Like Clockwork’s If I Had A Tail as a way to show his gratitude.
“The Josh thing was very much a case of one of us returning a back scratch to the other,” the frontman told Zane Lowe about the recording session that spawned the track. “He came down and sort of got us out of a little rut. It’s just fun, it’s friends, extended family now – [they] came round, had a fun night. His contribution to our record is really exciting, it’s probably my favourite. The 30 seconds that he’s in there is just, I dunno, it’s like something that I’ve never heard before.”
Elaborating on Homme’s contribution to NME, he said: “I think he sounds a bit like Bowie. It’s my favourite bit of the record, that breakdown; that 30 seconds where it all goes weird,” he said. “What’s most interesting about it is how accidental it was – I’d sung on the new Queens record a few weeks previous, and we were kind of in a rut a little bit, in this dark rooms.
“So Josh came down, Nick (O’Malley, bass) made cocktails and we just hung out for the night. We got him to sing on ‘One For The Road’ and then we were playing him ‘Knee Socks,’ because we’d just been working on it. We were thinking about putting someone on that section, possibly to do the bit that the three of us were originally doing, which is this really fast R&B bit. But then he heard it and then he said, ‘I’ve got this really great idea for a counter-melody background thing,’ and he went and did that and it suddenly became this whole other thing that you never excited it to be.”
Without inviting Homme into the studio, ‘Knee Socks’ would have never morphed into the opulent track it became, and Turner is forever grateful for not just his work on this song but also the guiding influence who helped them come of age on Humbug.