As we patiently await the next chapter in his ever-evolving journey, what better time to take pause and marvel at the diversity of the brilliant music that inspires Alex Turner as a new album seems to loom large on the horizon.
His back catalogue may seem starkly disparate on the surface as he and his cohorts in his main vehicle, Arctic Monkeys, have staunchly stuck to the David Bowie ethos of “never play to the gallery. Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society.”
It would seem that his record collection is equally desperate. However, as with his mercurial songwriting, there are a few binding ties. If you put Turner’s oeuvre into a blender and brought it to life like a sonic Dr Frankenstein then you may well end up with some rogue bastard offspring of an interstellar Sylvia Plath and a particularly drunken Coen Brothers character. Then it would seem that this mutant human cannonball of wit and benevolent intent staggered into a barber’s for a bowl cut met John Cooper Clarke while waiting and, afterwards, was erroneously given a microphone instead of a lollipop for being a good boy and his four best pals followed suit. Then, in front of their instruments, the mutant gang somehow stumbled its way to offering up beatific rhapsody for the masses. If that’s not too mad a thing to say?
His selection of cinematic, classy, comedic and crunching tunes for Matt Wilkinson’s Beats 1 Radio feature ‘Five Best Songs’, (in which artists pick their current five favourite tracks available on Apple Music), his choices may well be put in the same blender and when poured out over ice, the snap crackle and pop would sound like an Arctic Monkeys song. The first ingredient of which was The Nude Party’s ‘Chevrolet Van’.
“We had the Nude Party on the road with us,” Turner explains, “They come and did a couple of shows with us and they just put a big smile on our faces every night.” The track ‘Chevrolet Van’ is from the garage rock outfits 2018 self-titled debut and it captures the trials and tribulations of touring in a riotously carefree fashion akin to the Arctic Monkeys early work, dubbed with an American accent and a Nashville slide guitar twang.
Another key element of the music that inspires Alex Turner is the soaring symphonies of movie soundtracks. As he said himself in the lyrics to ‘One Point Perspective’: “Such beautiful photography / It’s worth it for the opening scene / I’ve been driving ’round listening to the score…” Thus, it was no surprise to hear Ennio Morricone, the modern king of composing, make his way onto the list with ‘Una Spiaggia a Mezzogiorno’. The scintillating beachside score is very reminiscent of tracks like ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ from The Last Shadow Puppets record of the same name and it’s easy to see how the cinematic stylings have bled into his work.
Throughout Turner’s career, his wordplay has often been as steeped in Yorkshire as a pot of tea at a Test match. In the early days of the Arctic’s when they were breaking British records, there was always a discussion whether they were just ‘too British’ to make it in the states (or perhaps more aptly put, ‘too working class’). Fortunately, they have since gone on to ridicule such assertions amassing an ever-growing following on the far side of the pond. And, in actual fact, it is the very use of colloquial language that first posed a concern that has since gone on to colour Turner’s lyrics with an endearing charm that has broken down defences the world over.
In short, his heart has always stayed close to home and his music choices reflect that. Fellow Sheffield crooner Joe Cocker has a voice that could rattle a filling loose and you’d be strangely thankful for it. Turner champions Cockers vocals as some of the best in the business. His last pick of the five was his version of Bob Dylan’s passive-aggressive break-up classic ‘Just Like a Woman’. “Joe Cocker’s ‘Just Like a Woman’ is probably my favourite version of that tune. You can really hear his accent come across in his singing.”
You can check out the full list below and the interview during which they were picked.
Alex Turner’s favourite songs:
- ‘Chevrolet Van’ by The Nude Party
- ‘A la plage’ by Juniore
- ‘Una Spiaggia a Mezzogiorno’ by Ennio Morriccone
- ‘Shoutout at the Plantation’ by Leon Russell
- ‘Just Like a Woman’ by Joe Cocker