THIS week marks 10 years since Sheffield indie band Arctic Monkeys released their debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.
Released on January 23rd 2006, it became the fastest-selling debut album in UK music history, selling over 120,000 copies. By the end of that week sales had topped 350,000. Last year it was certified 5x Platinum, a status reserved for albums having sold more than 1.5M units.
The band’s initial success has been attributed to the quartet’s social media presence – or, more accurately, the online actions of their fans. The band’s first two singles, ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ and ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ topped the singles charts, despite being previously ‘released’ by the band on CDRs distributed at gigs and made available on the internet by fans, who even left copies to be found on buses.
The release was brought forward by a week, due to “high demand”. This was read by many as being to prevent leaked copies circulating on the internet, despite eight tracks already having appeared on the web and even grouped together as an ‘unofficial’ bootleg, ‘Under The Boardwalk’. Indie label Domino had the same problem with their previously largest act, Franz Ferdinand, whose self-titled debut also also had its release date advanced at the last minute.
As well as the massive sales figures, ‘Whatever People Say...’ received accolades aplenty, including the Mercury Prize as well as being named as the NME’s Album of The Year. And, truly entering the mainstream, the band were reported as being then-Chancellor Gordon Brown’s favourite band (this claim being rather overblown by the media, the PM-to-be having merely stated that ‘...Dancefloor’ “would certainly wake you up in the morning ”.
Despite its world-conquering success, the album is very much rooted in the band’s Yorkshire roots. The title comes from by Alan Sillitoe’s novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. And thanks to the tracks being narratives in the first person, it’s even considered by some a concept album since, as Rolling Stone put it, it documents “the lives of young Northern England clubbers.”
The album’s cover featured a friend of the band – Chris McClure, frontman of local act The Violet May and also brother of Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers. The image provoked controversy given that it showed McClure – who received £70 “for a night out” as payment – smoking a cigarette.