Very few performing artists can take pride in having a precise and unique stage personality like Alex Turner. The vocalist of The Arctic Monkeys and leader of The Last Shadow Puppets is not only a flamboyant representative of the indie movement, he is also a writer at heart and a secretive filmmaker.
Turner’s lyrics are ingenious, with keen insight into scenarios and situations we all appear to go through at some time or another. His songs resemble narratives worthy of any film script, and he weaves himself as a protagonist in these stories that would best be suited to the silver screen. His perspective is humorous and at times introspective, which reflects a deep literary influence. Where does the man from Sheffield draw inspiration from? Project after project, he showcases impressive lyrics and heartfelt music, proving to the world that he is more than a run-of-the-mill creative. In an interview with Tom Wolfe, Alex Turner opened up about the books and stories that have influenced him the most. These are some of the works that helped Turner hash out those songs that were crucial during our sweet, sweet teenage years.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), Alan Sillitoe
The first album of The Arctic Monkeys was inspired by Sillitoe’s first novel, and the CD’s name Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is a direct quote from the book. The story revolves around 21 year old Arthur Seaton, who fashions himself as a warrior of the bottle and the bedroom, and his slogan is “if it’s going, it’s for me.” His aim in life is to cheat the world before it can cheat him. And never is the battle more fierce than on Saturday night.
Romeo and Juliet (1597), William Shakespeare
The lyrics in ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ pay homage to the great English playwright. “No love, no Montagues or Capulets… Just banging tunes and DJ sets,” Turner sings.
A Study in Scarlet (1887), Arthur Conan Doyle
Turner showcased his literary acumen with “A Certain Romance.” This particular song describes a night out of a group of boys who don’t know the meaning of romance and are likely to “scrap with pool cues in their hands.” He stresses that it doesn’t take a detective to figure out that with time things become a little bit different.
“And over there, there’s broken bones
There’s only music, so that there’s new ringtones
And it don’t take no Sherlock Holmes
To see it’s a little different around here.”
The Book of Prophecies (1504), Christopher Columbus
“And there’s a couple of hundred/ Think they’re Christopher Columbus” Turner mocks in a highly vitriolic song called “Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?” His mockery and disdain is hurled at bands that think they are spearheading a new movement, but actually that path has already been ransacked and explored by other artists. No one and nothing is new in the world of art. “(…) the settlers had already settled/ Yeah, long before you.”
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1919) H.P. Lovecraft
On the B side of “You’re So Dark,” Turner is speaking to a goth girl he likes, and he compares her to truly dark and macabre things that he comes up with. The first stanza pays homage to the most famous writers of the thriller and horror genre, H.P Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, and also to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Further on, he refers to the American horror sitcom from the 1960s The Munsters, with his car called Munster Koach.
Alex Turner has garnered a reputation for his witty lyrics and profound narratives, and we see how popular culture has deeply influenced his perspective and ultimately his songs.
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