Revisiting the time Arctic Monkeys sampled the great Ennio Morricone
(Credit: Produzioni Europee Associate)

What’s That Sound? When Arctic Monkeys sampled the great Ennio Morricone

Given the sad news that the great Ennio Morricone has passed away, we’re stepping back into the Far Out archives to revisit specific moments in time that his influence can be heard in popular culture. Here, Sheffield’s finest, the Arctic Monkeys, pay homage during their music.

Morricone, the Oscar-winning and hugely celebrated composer, has passed away at the age of 91. The famed Italian composer, orchestrator and conductor, died in the early hours of Monday morning. It was confirmed that he passed away Rome clinic, a location he was transported to taken following a fall that resulted in a hip fracture.

The composer, who has scored no fewer than 500 films during his prolific and highly impressive career, worked alongside some of the all-time greats in Sergio Leone, Gillo Pontecorvo, Terence Malick, Roman Polanski, Brian De Palma, John Carpenter and, famously, Quentin Tarantino. Given his impact, it should come as little surprise when contemporary musicians take a sample of his work.

Swinging all the way back to 2007 we enter Favourite Worst Nightmare, the second studio album by the Monkeys. The record, taking on that ‘difficult second album’, propelled the band into a brave new direction. Taking on a faster, more ambitious sound from their debut project, Favourite Worst Nightmare also signified their first partnership with Miles Kane and included the band’s first attempt at a ‘love’ song.

‘505’ is the final track of the album, a number inspired directly by the band’s love of classic films and a major moment in lead singer Alex Turner’s songwriting prowess. If you believe everything you read on the internet, you’ll be of the understanding that the lyrics depict Turner’s desire to return to a holiday hotel room (505) in which he frequented with ex-girlfriend Johanna Bennett.

“I’m going back to 505,
If it’s a seven-hour flight or a forty-five-minute drive,
In my imagination, you’re waiting, lying on your side,
With your hands between your thighs.”

Bennett, a former member of the band Totalizer, co-wrote the Arctic Monkeys track ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and previously described the holiday with Turner: “We were on holiday and had cut ourselves off from everything. We were in a really quiet hotel and didn’t watch TV or listen to that much music. So as not to drive each other mad we started messing around with these words like a game, singing them to each other.”

If the lyrics on 505 were directly influenced by Turner’s loving memories, a section of the sound itself was sampled from Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for spaghetti western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, in a scene where Angel Eyes enters before the final standoff.

It was in 1966 while working alongside Leone on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that Morricone would establish himself as one of the all-time greats. His score for the western is still widely considered to be greatest of all time and remains the ever-present example of the perfect collaboration between director and composer.

“The music is indispensable, because my films could practically be silent movies, the dialogue counts for relatively little, and so the music underlines actions and feelings more than the dialogue,” Leone once said. “I’ve had him write the music before shooting, really as a part of the screenplay itself.”

The film itself famously starred the likes of Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè and more, telling the tale of gunslingers and bounty hunters during the American Civil War. “In the Southwest during the Civil War, a mysterious stranger, Joe (Clint Eastwood), and a Mexican outlaw, Tuco (Eli Wallach), form an uneasy partnership—Joe turns in the bandit for the reward money, then rescues him just as he is being hanged,” the official film synopsis reads.” When Joe’s shot at the noose goes awry during one escapade, a furious Tuco tries to have him murdered. The men re-team abruptly, however, to beat out a sadistic criminal and the Union army and find $20,000 that a soldier has buried in the desert.”

The film has established a legacy like no other western in history. While the cinematography, excessive violence and pioneering camerawork remain the focal point of its success, Morricone’s score is an undoubted triumph which successfully elevates the entire picture. In a pivotal part of the decision making, Leone and Morricone opted against scoring the film in the post-production stage as is common practice. Instead, the duo decided to work together before shooting had started, forging out major themes for the film and allow the music to inspire the direction.

Many composers and directors have taken inspiration from the work of Leone and Morricone and, while the score continues to sit atop the perch of most complete soundtracks, samples have prolifically featured in numerous different creative outlooks for decades—and Britain’s finest indie rockstars were no different

The organ at the beginning of ‘505’ is directly influenced by the aforementioned scene featuring Angel Eyes in the final standoff. As can be heard, below:

In the clip below, skip to 53 seconds to find the original and listen out for the sample in the full song further down.

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