There aren’t too many songs whereby you can read the title written down and the riff instantly starts playing in the backyard of your imagination. In truth, when it comes to ‘Last Nite’ by The Strokes, the riff was like a defibrillator shock that revitalised guitar music and saved it from the brink for the 9000th time.
Raucous indie music may have been back again and a thousand sticky carpeted pubs and darkened dingy dancefloors were proving it. However, history had a huge hand in its revival as the band admitted it themselves. The Velvet Underground may well have been the biggest unified influence on them, but it was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers who gave them the lead guitar line on this occasion.
When the song was released back in 2001, people were quick to point out the similarity to the Petty classic ‘American Girl’ from 1977 and Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas was quick to admit it. The iconoclastic singer simply said, “Yeah, we ripped it off.”
However, this influence almost seems fitting. As Nick Cave once said, “The great beauty of contemporary music, and what gives it its edge and vitality, is its devil-may-care attitude toward appropriation — everybody is grabbing stuff from everybody else, all the time. It’s a feeding frenzy of borrowed ideas that goes toward the advancement of rock music — the great artistic experiment of our era.” Thus, the song that kept it alive was bound to have some stealing in its rarefied atmospheric welter.
And the sonic burglars weren’t finished with their indie loot just yet. The bassline on the track, and indeed many others on the record, was partly lifted from The Cure’s back catalogue. As the man with the four strings, Nikolai Fraiture admitted: “There are some bass lines on our first album that were 100% ripped off from The Cure. We were worried about putting out the album, because we thought we’d get busted.”
There is something brilliant about the timeless nature of the track that is propped up by the influences behind it. The band were as present as any in the last 20 years and has inspired the likes of Fontaines D.C. and Arctic Monkeys. That same timelessness stretches to the video too, which was directed by none other than Roman Coppola, the son of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola.
That same sense has influenced a generation of future bands, as Adam Ficek of Babyshambles told us, “The Strokes shook us from the post Britpop lull creeping in from 97. I had slowly moved my attention to the excitement of the London Breakbeat scene, but in 2001 my love of grit and guitars came back with laser-sharp focus. The Strokes, the look, that video! It kickstarted and reinvigorated band culture.” The rest is ancient history.