Elbowing his way back into the headlines by declaring he will not be present at The Libertines reunion, Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell has never been shy and retiring. Over the years, he became the obnoxious, quote-a-minute mouthpiece of a band who are now something of a parody, boasting a revolving door of a line-up that would give even the Sugababes manager a headache. But before all the white jeans and dodgy headgear, there was the music. Snarkiness aside, the band’s debut ‘Up All Night’ was a triumph, receiving an 8/10 score in NME and described by writer Tim Jonze as “packing more tunes than Franz, more spirit than Strokes and more balls than nearly every band out there right now.” Having announced a one-off London show to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its release on June 4, ‘Up All Night’ reminds us why we fell in love with them in the first place. To mark the occasion, here are 10 facts about the record you may not know.
1) Tracks ‘Stumble And Fall’ and ‘To The Sea’ were the only ones not written solely by Borrell; guitarist Björn Ågren also got a look in. Ågren was appointed to the band after responding to an advert Borrell placed in NME in 2002, which specifically asked for guitarists who could play the pentatonic scale. Allegedly, he was the only person to respond to the advert.
2) Track 10 on the album, ‘Get It And Go’, was omitted from the North American/European release of the record because the lyrics were apparently deemed too controversial by the record label, (“We talked all night about suicide/And she said if this is living/How come I never feel alive?”) They needn’t have been bothered being so cautious: when promoting the record at a Colorado gig to widespread indifference, Borrell gloomily ranted ‘I’m going to kill myself now’, storming off after just five songs.
3) In the video for ‘Vice’, the telephone digits were a real live number, which the band set up in order to communicate directly with fans. “It’s hard to express this without being cheesy but it’s like the Razorlight hotline and you can phone it up, leave a message, ask us anything and we’ll call you right back – any problem, no matter how big or small,” the frontman explained. Reports show that the number was Johnny’s personal mobile at the time, although it was quickly disconnected after receiving 50 calls a day.
4) Despite it’s raucous indie bravado, ‘Up All Night’ is a record born out of a melancholy that would have made My Chemical Romance proud. Borrell told NME in 2004 that it is a record dedicated to “anyone that has ever longed for a lover but couldn’t have her. Anyone that has spent hours of making love in sadness. Anybody that’s ever cheated on their lover and told their secrets to nobody but the wind.”
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5) Noticed the lack of wild guitar twiddling solos on the record? This was an intentional decision by Johnny who wanted to make sure that his vocals remained the centre of attention. “If you listen to the first record there are virtually no instrumental sections on it, because it’s just this kid screaming, just trying to make everybody in the world listen.” He explained. “And I’ve kind of realised since the first album that what the singer does is only half of the end result.”
6) Johnny considers ‘Up All Night’ to be his ‘first solo record’, and even insisted on conducting all press at the time alone. He told NME in 2004 “There are bits of the record that aren’t what I wanted because they weren’t capable of making them that way.” He went on to dismiss his need to do interviews solo by saying “the last thing you need is them winding you up, saying that the songs are about certain things when they’re not at all.”
7) ‘Up All Night’ was initially produced by Steve Lillywhite, who actually signed the band himself whilst he was Managing Director of Mercury records. Sessions with Razorlight were turbulent and he ended up only producing half of the record, with Borrell stating that their working relationship ‘just wasn’t right.’ He was replaced by John Cornfield, but he too departed after his father fell ill, leaving Borrell to produce ‘To The Sea’ and ‘Fall, Fall, Fall’ himself.
8) The television screen on the album artwork features a still of Johnny from the ‘Golden Touch’ video and the key marked ‘Fowey, Cornwall’ is a nod to the location of Sawmill studios, where the album was recorded.
9) Remember in 2004 when you couldn’t move for hearing Jet’s ‘Are you gonna be my GIIIIIRRRLLLL!” booming out of the telly on that Vodafone advert? Well, that was a fate that almost befell Razorlight; allegedly the Jet track was Vodafone’s second choice after Johnny’s wouldn’t let them have ‘Rip It Up.’ ‘Someone’s gonna fall in love to that song, gonna get married, gonna put it on at their mate’s funeral. How could we sell it?’ he asked NME at the time.
10) ‘Up All Night’ wasn’t an easy record to make. “Making a record isn’t how you imagine it to be. You think you’ll be on a Learjet snorting coke but it’s actually just…really hard. It’s full of imperfections,” mulled Johnny.