Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner changed a generation with his band’s seminal debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Ever since, he and the Sheffield group have made continually era-defining albums — the kind that changes the way you look, talk and conduct yourself. But what was the album that had the same effect on him as a youngster?
Any true Arctic Monkeys fan will be unsurprised to know that it was The Strokes’ 2001 masterpiece Is This It. The record is the album that metaphorically walked so that the Sheffield band could run amok. In the years that followed their success, Turner hasn’t been shy about sharing his admiration of the New Yorkers, and he even devoted a lyric to them on 2018’s ‘Star Treatment’ in which he swooned: ‘I always wanted to be one of The Strokes’.
The Strokes were a breath of fresh air when they arrived on to the music scene at the turn of the millennium, with swathes of Britain’s youth immediately adopting the band as one of their own. For thousands of adolescents like Turner, there was something about these five guys from New York, which somehow instantly connected with the unadulterated, honest brand of rock ‘n’ roll they had created.
Turner picked the album out as his lifechanging album to Q a few years ago and explained why hearing this album as a 16-year-old budding musician was a life-affirming moment for him.
“I used to play that first album in college all the time when our band was starting,” recalled Turner wistfully. “Loads of people were into them, so loads of bands coming out sounded exactly like them,” Turner said. “I remember consciously trying not to sound like The Strokes, but I still loved that album.”
He added: “They were the band that encouraged me to rip the knees of my jeans and write on them in marker pen. I wrote on them in red ink, ‘I’ve got soul and I’m superbad!’ Have you ever heard the Monkeys’ version of ‘Take It Or Leave It’? We did it on French TV when they asked us to do a cover, it was terrible, but I enjoyed it!
“I saw them live on the tour for the second album when they played Alexandra Palace [in 2003]. Me, [Matt] Helders and Andy [Nicholson, ex-Arctic Monkeys bassist] got the National Express coach down to London to see them. We met Pete Doherty in the crowd that day. It was an amazing gig.”
That cover of ‘Take It Or Leave It’ that Turner mentioned was far from terrible and actually a fantastically enthusiastic effort. However, his finest cover of the band, which inspired him so greatly, came when the Monkeys played a huge gig at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium in 2018 when they delivered a wonderous rendition of title track ‘Is This It’ —it was the perfect tribute to The Strokes in their hometown.
Turner managed to toe the line of being influenced by The Strokes without forgetting that he was a teenager from Sheffield, not New York and the greatest way of making an album like Is This It would be to stay true to himself.
This is exactly what he did rather than trying to be like the protagonist from ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’.