Arctic Monkeys charged out of the traps in an unprecedented fashion when they first released their chart-topping debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ in late 2005. The four-piece was quickly praised as being the ‘voice of a generation’ and, unlike the large majority who get tagged with that moniker, they actually lived up to the expectation.
The band’s debut single is one that made millions of people across Britain prick their ears up and take notice to what these four rapscallions from Sheffield were doing but, even back then, Alex Turner wasn’t a fan of the song that made Arctic Monkeys household names. This track alone set off a tangible excitement across the nation that would culminate with their debut album, Whatever People Say That I Am, That’s What I’m Not, becoming the highest-selling debut album in UK chart history. The album notched up 365,735 sales in the first week alone, which meant that it sold more than the rest of the top 20 combined and announced to the country that there were four new kings who had arrived in town.
Even before the track was released, Turner had already been critical of the material in one of the band’s first-ever feature interviews. Speaking to The Guardian in September 2005, Arctic Monkeys had an open goal to declare themselves as being the best band since The Beatles or channel their inner Liam Gallagher’s and boldly state that ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ is the greatest thing since sliced bread — but that’s never been Alex Turner’s style. They’ve never had to sell themselves or create hype and, instead, it’s always been organic and never something that they’ve deliberately chased.
Turner took the unconventional approach of downplaying their talent, his lyricism and seemed embarrassed of ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ when the conversation meandered to the track. “It’s a bit shit,” the singer apologetically told the publication. “The words are rubbish. I scraped the bottom of the barrel. It could be a big song, like. But I’d hate to be just known for that song because it’s a bit…crap.”
The singer doesn’t seem to have softened up to that early material in the years that have followed, even though it must hold a momentous place in his heart — it’s also a cringeworthy catalogue of scribbles he had as a teenager that he’d rather not be confronted with. “Sometimes it’s tough to get through one of the old ones live. You know, you don’t feel like that any more,” he told the Daily Star in 2014 about tracks from their seminal debut album.
Turner then added: “When you tell the same joke 600 times, you won’t hear what it is any more, but then sometimes, like, the 601st time you might see something in it you didn’t before.”
Then, four years later, Turner returned to this topic after BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac asked him if he ever revisits the band’s old material. “Like YouTubing meself?” Turner said before adding. “I think sometimes that can be helpful. In preparation for going on tour, we flicked through some of our old records,” he said. “There were a few lyrics that went by where I thought [wincing noise], ‘Don’t know what you were thinking there. Probably leave that one out now.’”
‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ epitomises the early days of Arctic Monkeys and kickstarted the journey that’s still going strong 15 years later. There are thousands holding onto fond memories that come flying back whenever they hear the song in question, transcending momentarily back to life as an adolescent. However, Turner has never carried that same weight of love towards the track. It’s not the most profound song in the world, as the singer alluded to but, to many, that only adds to its frivolous charm. Not every song has to be technically bulletproof and the beauty of ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ comes from the wave of the elation that it makes people feel.