Alex Turner’s ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ playlist is an education in obscure music

This eclectic bunch of tunes helped form the sound of Arctic Monkeys' hotly-anticipated sixth album

So, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is now just a mere nine days away from release – who else is excited?

Our grand reunion with Arctic Monkeys is imminent, with the four-piece kicking off a month of Monkeys madness tonight (May 2) with their long-awaited live return in San Diego. But, let’s face it: we’re all a bit tired of waiting for LP number six now, aren’t we?

Don’t fret too much though, as we’ve got something for you to pass the time until May 11. Alex Turner has shared a handwritten list of 26 songs which were hurtling around the frontman’s noggin during the writing sessions for ‘Tranquility Base Hotel’ – behold:

Speaking to MOJO, Alex explained that an old jukebox at La Frette Studios just outside of Paris – one of four studio set-ups used by the Monkeys to craft their latest opus – often set the tone during full-band sessions.

“The jukebox felt like the centre of the La Frette universe,” he said. “We was always hanging out at the bottom of them stairs [of the studio where the jukebox was located], because the main living room was full of tackle. There wasn’t anywhere else to hang out.”

That jukebox evidently played a part in informing the end product that is ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, but what can we glean from the playlist of eclectic gems that Alex has so kindly shared with us ahead of release day? Well, here’s a rough guide to some of its more, er, obscure inclusions.

Nino Rota – ‘Toby Dammit’

Who’s that, then?

The Milanese pianist was a prolific composer of film scores. As well as his celebrated contributions to the films of Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti, Rota – who died in 1979 – also won the Oscar for Best Original Score in 1974 for his work on The Godfather Part II.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

Alex told MOJO that it was Richard Ayoade who recommended the 1968 film Spirits Of The Dead – which Rota contributed ‘Toby Dammit’ to – to the band, and the so-called “organ movie stuff” that will feature on ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ will no doubt be inspired by Rota’s quirky use of the instrument here.

The Electric Prunes – ‘General Confessional’

Who’s that, then?

A Californian band with an excellent name, for one. Formed in 1965, the psych-rock outfit are still going to this day – though they’re probably best known for the output they delivered during their first period of time together (1965-1970), such as their highest-charting single ‘I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)’.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

Again, that organs will most likely play a major role on the new record – with a possible sprinkling of some uplifting strings and even a wig-out guitar solo or two, as well.

The Jones Girls – ‘Nights Over Egypt’

Who’s that, then?

A singing sibling trio out of Detroit, The Jones Girls – which consisted of sisters Shirley, Brenda and Valorie – released a steady string of albums from 1979 to 1984, with their biggest commercial success arriving with one of their first singles, ‘You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else’.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

That there could be some soul-driven, girl group-style backing vocals? Now that’d be something…

Ennio Morricone – ‘Una spiaggia a mezzogiorno’

Who’s that, then?

Now you may know Morricone’s music from such films as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, The Untouchables and The Hateful Eight – the Rome-born composer even won an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 lengthy western.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

A soaring, award-winning piece of Mediterranean orchestral symphony – yes, that’s what we think ‘The Ultracheese’ will sound like.

Nino Ferrer – ‘Looking For You’

Who’s that, then?

The horse-breeding and world-travelling enigma lived a fascinating life, releasing a ton of albums – including the excellently-titled ‘Rock n’Roll Cow-Boy’ – which showcased his willingness to dive into an array of genres. To give you an idea of the man behind the music, The Independent‘s 1998 obituary of Ferrer claimed that, upon first achieving success in the early 1960s, he “bought a grand house in Paris and filled it with treasures. He led a life of wine, women and song while giving endless provocative performances in theatres, on television and on tour.” Quite the role model, then.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

Ferrer’s filmic track has a steady tempo, cooing vocals and – yes – an organ solo. Of course there’s an organ solo if Alex has co-signed it.

Lô Borges – ‘Aos Barões’

Who’s that, then?

The Brazilian singer/songwriter helped co-found the Minas Gerais-based collective Clube da Esquina – and, judging by the relatively-recent comments under the above YouTube rip of ‘Aos Barões’, Brazilian AM fans are especially happy to see that Alex is a fan of Borges’ work.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

Samba! No, not really – but Alex’s public admiration of the guitarist suggests that the Monkeys’ guitar days won’t be over just yet with ‘Tranquility Base Hotel’.

François de Roubaix – ‘Operation FR1’

Opération FR1

Opération FR1, a song by François de Roubaix on Spotify

Who’s that, then?

Roubaix was a prolific film composer right up until his death in 1975. His penchant for the synthesiser was also pretty forward-thinking, with his work paving the way for the subsequent development of electronica.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

Speaking to MOJO, Alex revealed that the ‘Tranquility Base Hotel’ track ‘American Sports’ was heavily influenced by Roubaix’s sound. “There’s this organ arpeggio in [Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film] Le Samouraï that I definitely was thinking of when I wrote those parts on ‘American Sports’,” he said about Roubaix’s score for the movie. “I went a bid mad on those arpeggios for a bit.”

Evelyn “Champagne” King – ‘Love Come Down’

Who’s that, then?

The Bronx singer was a smash hit in the late ’70s and early ’80s, releasing gold and platinum-selling albums left, right and centre. Her debut single ‘Shame’ – a shimmering piece of disco – was also her best-performing.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

The fact that ‘Love Comes Down’ is arguably one of the best pop songs ever written is very encouraging stuff indeed when it comes to ascertaining its significance on Alex’s playlist. Could a sparkling, poppy detour be on the cards on the likes of ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’?

Jean-Claude Vannier – ‘Katmandou 8’

Who’s that, then?

A hero of Alex’s, Vannier has long held cult status among certain music fans. A contemporary of Serge Gainsbourg (his work on Gainsbourg’s ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ album is arguably his best-known) Vannier has been called “French music’s unsung hero” thanks to his formidable work as a producer, composer and arranger.

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

That Alex isn’t afraid of trying to emulate his icons on the new record.

David Axelrod – ‘The Smile’

Who’s that, then?

The much-loved musician – and sometime producer of the aforementioned Electric Prunes – may have passed away in 2017 at the age of 85, but his legacy in music will live on for many, many years to come. An esteemed producer and composer in his own right, Axelrod’s work actually had a huge bearing on some of hip-hop’s iconic moments – with his sound being sampled by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, DJ Shadow and Dr Dre (‘The Next Episode’).

What does it tell us about the Monkeys album?

After ‘AM’ was influenced by G-Funk, Axelrod’s influence on ‘Tranquility Base Hotel’ may be as close as we get to a repeat of ‘Why’d You Always Call Me When You’re High?’.

Here are the other tracks which made the cut on Alex’s playlist:

Nina Simone – ‘Baltimore’
The Three Degrees – ‘Collage’
Marvin Gaye – ‘”T” Plays It Cool’
Terry Reid – ‘Superlungs My Supergirl’
The Rolling Stones – ‘Moonlight Mile’
Max Berlin – ‘Elle Et Moi’
Alan Hull – ‘Blue Murder’
Mina – ‘Un bacio e troppo poco’
The Stills-Young Band – ‘Midnight On The Bay’
Veronique Sanson – ‘Tout est casse, tout est mort’
Dr. John – ‘Did She Mention My Name’
The Walker Brothers – ‘Nite Fights’
The Gap Band – ‘Outstanding’
Joe Cocker – ‘Sandpaper Cadillac’
Leon Russell – ‘A Song for You’