I’m 14 years old and my uncle has just purchased a subscription to “Rolling Stone” magazine for my birthday. Leaning back in my computer chair, I flip through the pages – avoiding long-form articles and instead skimming the pictures and blurbs of familiar celebrities. My teenage brain, at the time, is mostly accustomed to rap. If you had asked, I would probably have said my favorite album is 2003’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” by 50 Cent (still possibly true) and my favorite band is Outkast (also still possibly accurate). As I turn the pages though, an album artwork catches my eye. I’m not sure why exactly, it’s a black and white photo of a man smoking a cigarette. I continue to read the article, interestingly and perhaps with a slight bit of foreshadowing, the reviewer gave the project a 4 out of 5 star rating (fellow fans will know what I mean). The album is “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not,” the debut from a young British band called Arctic Monkeys. I fire up Limewire on my Dell PC and begin to download…
We all look back on moments that profoundly changed the path of our lives. Cosmic interventions that set the course of our years to come. For me, this was one of those moments. Arctic Monkeys, specifically the mercurial frontman, Alex Turner, was the foundation for what has become my path as a musician. When the 15-year-old version of myself pressed play on their first CD, I immediately became infatuated with a style of music I previously had never heard. Call it post-punk, indie rock, whatever – it just made sense to me. The beats were hard, the lyrics were excellent, and the melodies were approaches I had never heard in rock n’ roll. It had the grit of hip hop and the sensitivity of poetry. For a suburban white kid who secretly always wanted to be a rapper, this was much more of a realistic inspiration. The wheels started turning.
At the time, Arctic Monkeys were the biggest band in Britain. But this is before the era of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter when essentially everything culturally relevant wasn’t so readily accessible internationally. So, this was my little secret. “Have you heard of Arctic Monkeys?” was a question I would frequently ask, to which the answer, “no,” both stirred feelings of disappointment and pride because I was the one to introduce them to my friends. Immediately, I had their music on repeat. Songs like “Dancing Shoes” were the pump-up tracks on my way to early morning indoor soccer games in my mom’s Honda Odyssey. Songs like “Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend” were the sexy ones that I would listen to and fantasize about my teenage crushes. And songs like “Mardi Bum” inspired me to write (and copy) compositions with my own high school band. I scoured the early days of YouTube for videos, watching everything I could get my eyes on. Alex Turner was my Michael Jordan. Cool, smart, and calculated – everything he did, I ate up. I wanted to be him. I even bought a white Fender Stratocaster to harness his power.
A decade later and I’m still the biggest Monkeys fan I know. I’ve heard every one of their songs, can recite lyrics like the Pledge of Allegiance, and still fanboy over Mr. Turner occasionally. That far-off moment in my bedroom, rocking on my computer chair, listening to their first album set the tone my high school days and beyond. Dreams of a soccer career slowly changed and morphed into aspirations of rock stardom. In addition to setting the stage for my career path and inspiring me to funnel my creativity into musical outlets, they also indirectly helped forge some of the most meaningful relationships in my life, and lose some along the way. Last winter I was fortunate enough to be invited to a star-studded post-Grammy party. All the A-listers were there: Gaga, Katy Perry, Adele. However, despite all these musical gods & goddesses, my heart dropped when I noticed the Arctic Monkey’s drummer, Matt Helders, at the edge of the dance floor. I was star-struck. I was nervous but I had to say something, so I walked over and stammered “Hey dude, you’re Matt Helders. You’re my favorite drummer.” After some pleasantries and a quickly snapped selfie, the conversation ended and that was it. I couldn’t stop smiling though, probably like a little kid. But it made my night and you can bet your sweet ass I sent the pic to my group thread with my high school band.
Chance run-ins aside, it’s an understatement to say that Arctic Monkeys have profoundly shaped my life. From fanning to idolizing, to just plain old appreciation, they’ve been that one band that stuck with me through the years. I’ve listened to all of their albums countless times and have been to their shows an embarrassing number of occasions (the number currently stands at 10). When Green Room Stories hit me up about doing a piece, Arctic Monkeys was the immediate answer. I think secretly I’ve always wanted to pen an article on how much Turner and the boys mean to me, and here it is. So, if you STILL haven’t heard of them, let me be the annoying grandstander to invite you with pride onto the bandwagon of Sheffield’s finest. And if you HAVE heard of them, then please join me in listening to the lads after reading this heartfelt rant.
So consider this my open love letter. Arctic Monkeys, THANK YOU for being you and giving us the very best for over a decade. We appreciate it all <3
Ps. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is their best album… FIGHT ME
Listen to Aaron’s new single “Closure”
Photos courtesy of Aaron Taos