Arctic Monkeys may well be known as one of the more original bands to emanate from the rock and roll world over the last two decades. However, that hasn’t stopped them covering other people’s work during their time and, might we say, doing a damn fine job of it too. Below, we’ve got 10 of our favourites to get you in better spirits.
Here at Far Out, we’ve always said that the mark of a great artist is being able to use another’s song to express something entirely unique—it’s a paradox that seems to hold true when you consider the greats. By that regard, Arctic Monkeys are one of the best to have ever done, having taken on songs from The Beatles, The Strokes, Lou Reed, and, erm, Girls Aloud.
Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Nick O’Malley have cultivated the Monkeys’ sound over the space of six albums, with their last record Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino rocketing the band out of this world—but their command of other people’s songs is no small feat.
Here, we’re taking a look back at the band’s nine greatest covers as they traverse genres, pay homage to their heroes, and deliver some classic moments in the making. Whether it’s singing The Beatles or Pop Idol sensations Girls Aloud, the Arctic Monkeys always make it their own.
See the list, below.
Arctic Monkeys 9 greatest covers:
9. ‘All My Loving’ – The Beatles
When the Arctic Monkeys took to the illustrious stage of Madison Square Garden in New York it was a mammoth occasion. The band were the first British rock and roll act to truly crack America in the 21st century, so thought they would celebrate the moment with a performance of that other British invasion band, The Beatles.
They duly performed ‘All My Loving’ alongside Miles Kane and provided the audience with a one-off performance that will likely live long in the memory.
8. ‘Take It Or Leave It’ – The Strokes
The Strokes are some of Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys most treasured heroes. It’s a story that we’d bet was true for most teenagers who found the garage rock revivalists’ New York charm too much to bear. Having both been thrown into the limelight shortly after beginning their careers they have travelled similar paths.
It means the Sheffield boys have shared a few Strokes covers in their time, this cover of ‘Take It Or Leave It’ is particularly brilliant and worthy of its place on the list.
7. ‘Is This It’ – The Strokes
The second entry for The Strokes as a few years ago, while touring Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, saw the group perform the title track from the New Yorkers’ seminal debut album. It’s another homage to their heroes—and a tender one at that.
Sometimes bands can get too wrapped up in their own mystique which made Alex Turner’s lyrical revelation “All I wanted to be is one of The Strokes” even more revealing and, by all accounts, welcoming too. The cover itself is high on this list for its passion alone.
6. ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ – Lou Reed
In 2013, Arctic Monkeys were on the road with their fifth record, AM, when the tragic news hit of the sad passing of Velvet Underground’s principal songwriter, and one of the all-time iconic figures of alternative rock and roll, Lou Reed, had died.
The band did what they knew best and transferred their feelings, without a soundbite comment or fancy flourish, into an honest and authentic tribute to the late musician. Reed’s death is one that was felt across to rock ‘n’ roll world and the band did their best to pay tribute to the singer with this brilliant cover.
5. ‘Come Together’ – The Beatles
When you think of ‘the grandest stage’ they don’t get much bigger than this. As Arctic Monkeys were drafted in to represent Britain at the 2012 Olympics.
When the 2012 Olympics landed in London the call was put out to show off the best of British and numerous acts and characters were pulled out of the bag for the huge opening ceremony. The perfect opportunity was afforded to Arctic Monkeys to cover The Beatles once more as Turner and Co. power through a rollicking cover of John Lennon’s classic ‘Come Together.’
5. ‘Red Right Hand’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ is one of those songs that has grown with every single cover. As the theme tune for Peaky Blinders the track has become a dangerous anthem of gunslinging lawlessness and impending bullet-ridden doom—we love it.
While Iggy Pop and Anna Calvi both have produced cracking renditions, this ‘Crying Lightning’ B-side is hands down the best. Imposing and brutish at every turn, what Turner’s vocal can’t do with this track isn’t worth doing. Whiskey-breath leaves condensation on your speakers when the needle drops on this one, it’s a barnstormer.
4. ‘Feel Like We Only Go Backwards’ – Tame Impala
On Australian radio channel Triple J’s ‘Like A Version’, Arctic Monkeys produced one of their most lauded covers of all time, as they took on ‘Feel Like We Only Go Backwards’ from Tame Impala. Forced covers can often feel, well, forced—but this one just melts in your mouth.
With just Alex Turner and Matt Helders on deck, the cover is a sliding and smooth rendition of the original song. It was so good, it has even sparked many a conversation about a Tame Impala and Arctic Monkeys collaboration. Judging by this meeting of the minds we’d like to formally back that petition!
3. ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ – Shirley Bassey
Before Alex Turner greased his hair and went all Bond with The Last Shadow Puppets he, and the rest of the band, made a statement with their debut Glastonbury headline spot.
They took on fellow headliner Shirley Bassey’s iconic Bond theme tune ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. Whether it was just to fill time (they had only released two albums by this point) or to pay homage to the singer, the performance was a statement of their impending dominance. It was the kind of move that only seasoned veterans make and it showed that the Arctic Monkeys weren’t just a flash in the pan.
2. ‘Love Machine’ – Girls Aloud
This, for many of us, is where it all began. This is where Arctic Monkeys performing prowess began to really dawn on everybody. They were welcomed to the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge to cover whichever song they wanted. They picked the Pop Idol stars Girls Aloud and their poptastic hit ‘Love Machine’.
Turner lets rip on rapid-fire, unloading the inane lyrics with the flurry and fury of a middleweight boxer. Despite the giggle in the middle of the track, somehow the band take the song to a new level. It’s irreverent and ultimately a little silly but the joyful giggles only add colour to this already rainbow-rimmed song.
1. ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ – Drake
While the first two covers may well have been in Arctic Monkeys wheelhouse, some straight rock ‘n’ roll bangers, for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, the group made their way over to the R&B charts as they covered Canadian rapper Drake.
The band took on ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ with some smooth guitar lines and Alex Turner’s awkward dancing. It’s one of the finer moments of R&B turned rock and shows the skill that is at play underneath the growing showbiz swagger of the band.
It deserves the top spot not because the song content is particularly brilliant, it isn’t. But because the band truly take this song to somewhere it had never been before.