The gun-fire drum flip. The introductory ascending guitar riff that sounds like a cannon going off. Musically it was already a track which made you sit up and take immediate notice.
But it was Alex Turner’s spitfire lyrics that raised the bar. A sideways look at a cheesy pulling technique, this wasn’t your usual, “Ooh baby I love you,” fare. Instead, Turner unpacked his nightclub bound tale with tongue firmly planted in cheek. His lyrics planted our lothario in the past.
You could almost see the cheap suit and smell the overpowering aftershave on lines which referenced Duran Duran (“Your name isn’t ‘Rio’, but I don’t care for sand”) and the hook-like “Dancing like a robot from 1984”. Turner distances us from the romantic myths of Romeo And Juliet . “Oh there ain’t no love, no Montagues and Capulets.”
In fact the inspiration was not that far from home. John “Reverend” McClure is said to have been the influence for that particular line. Turner had been in the band Judan Suki with McClure (his brother Chris, even made it to the cover of the debut album ‘Whatever People Say That I Am That’s What I’m Not’).
The song was recorded three times before they got it right. As Turner told us earlier this year: “We recorded it for the first time with (producer) Alan Smyth. Then we recorded another version with James Ford and Rich Costey.”
Turner said that version was part of a frantic session. “We recorded like 10 songs in a week, we recorded them on tape at like 300 miles an hour.” But the end product wasn’t right. The third time they re-recorded it with Jim Abbiss was odd because “there was another version being used in the video which was already on telly.” In keeping with the Old Grey Whistle Test theme, the band had played the track live for the clip. The version with Abbiss was the keeper.
It was finally released in October 2005. In our review of the track we compared it to The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’. “Cocky it may sound, but underneath lies a tale of being useless while out on the pull,” we said. ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ cemented the popularity of the band, making good on the explosion of hype. It hurtled to Number One in the UK chart.
Arctic Monkeys also went on to nab Best Track at the NME Awards in 2006. The track made Number 10 on our list of greatest indie anthems ever. And last year the song was named by NME.COM as the 11th best song of the last 15 years.
Turner later said that he’d “fallen out” with the song for a while, but as of earlier this year he was back in love with it. “It’s more fun than ever to play now,” he said. And revisiting the song now, considering all the swoops and turns in the band’s career, ‘Dancefloor…’ is still a surprising, coiled spring of youthful exhilaration and pure joy.
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The first time I heard ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’
It would have been on thelibertines.org forum, as someone called ‘The Sheriff Of Sheffield’ used to post their demos up there. He was a mate of theirs or something and kept banging on about them to the point where no-one could really ignore him anymore. I was at uni then, and this was quite a while before they’d been picked up by NME or any other mainstream press, and I was instantly taken aback by the quality and cleverness of their songs. Not just ‘…Dancefloor’, but ‘Mardy Bum’ and all the other demos too. They seemed to have an endless supply of great, great songs that no-one outside of this small group of internet music geeks and the band’s hometown mates really knew about. I went to see them live as soon as I could after this, and then realised they were going to blow every other British band of the mid-00s to smithereens very, very quickly.
I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it. I’ve listened to It like a thousand times since and still love it.
Jens Van Patterson
I was 12 years old when I first heard it. My music teacher wanted me to learn how to play it on the guitar. It became the soundtrack of my youth. I’m always wondering how I’ll feel when I hear it when I’m 50 or so.
I was 21 and had just returned to Manchester after living in Germany for 6 months. I was moving back into halls for my final year of Uni and I had the radio on while unpacking – that was when I first heard it. I’d read some of the build-up around the band, but I remember thinking, ‘Really? Is this it? Am I out of touch with music now? It sounds like a right racket.’ About a week later I was dancing like crazy to it in 42nd Street.
I just remember listening to it on my shitty phone in school when I was like 13, and felt so proud to be from Sheffield.
Madeline Jane Haines
I remember I was in my first year of Uni, sitting in my hall of residence when I first saw it on TV. I thought it was the best thing I had seen/heard in a long time. Every time I listen to it now it takes me back. I had heard the hype about them beforehand, but it wasn’t until this song came out that I believed it. I think I listened to it a million times that year.
I downloaded the song off the internet after hearing people talking about it, and immediately fell in love with the band. That first album sums up a period of my childhood I will never forget. I can identify with the content of this more than any other album i have listened too ever – I really thinks it sums up the youth of my generation perfectly.
I remember sitting on my school field during my lunch break it must have been in my last year of secondary school, we’d sit right at the back sneeking a cheeky cigarette in whilst listening to songs on my mate’s mobile… then everything changed! He dropped a ripped version of the track from Steve Lamacq’s show. Piracy is a crime but for sometimes it’s worth breaking the law.
It was in the Carling Tent at Leeds Festival. I had the ‘From The Ritz to the Rubble’ EP, and quite liked it so I thought I’d check them out. We got there quite early, but it was absolutely jam-packed. It was my first festival so I assumed this was normal, but it later transpired that this sort of crowd for a band on the carling tent was beyond ludicrous. It seemed like the entire crowd knew all the words to every song, even thought their debut album was half a year away from being released!
I remember hearing what transpired to be ‘I Bet You Look Good…’, with the crowd going batshit, and for the part of the last chorus where the first line is sung a capella, Turner let the crowd sing it. I remember thinking how incredible it was that thousands of people knew the words to a song that hadn’t been released. It was both surreal and incredible, and it occurred to me much later that I’d witnessed seminal moment for British music.
Early 2005, 16 years old, sat in my mate’s four-speed lightning blue Citroen Saxo in Barnsley College car park with a CD of the old demos – we didn’t bother with Politics that afternoon and just sat and listened to them on repeat. I was hooked – I’ve seen them play in five different countries since.
I was about 12 at the time i think. On a dark gloomy winter night they popped onto to Jools Holland and blew me away. The energy in the song is the best bit about it and its relevance. Got the album as soon as it was out and sang into a broom handle in my spare room for many weeks after that.