On this day in 2006, seminal British indie rockers Arctic Monkeys released their game-changing debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. At the time, the album became the fastest-selling British debut LP of all-time and it won the highly-coveted 2006 Mercury Prize.
What began as a Strokes-obsessed group of angsty, pimple-faced teenagers from Sheffield, U.K. turned into a internationally successful band that would influence an entire generation of guitar bands. It’s hard to imagine bands like The Courteeners or The Streets existing if it weren’t for the Monkeys, and there were also plenty of bands that became cheap imitators of their early sound. Lucky for the Monkeys, their sound continued to morph throughout their career, so they’ve remained in a class of their own. Alongside groups like Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, The Libertines and Interpol, Arctic Monkeys established themselves as one of the defining rock bands of the ’00s and they’ve continued to wow fans and impress critics, most recently with last year’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which clocked in at #20 on our list of 50 Best Albums of 2018.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was a scrappy affair—spring-loaded guitars, rapid-fire drums and frontman Alex Turner’s 100-mile-an-hour, poetic quips about being an awkward English teenager. Cloaked in Turner’s distinct Yorkshire accent, Turner’s hopeless romantic lyrics were whip-smart, darkly funny and incredibly moving and his evocative vignettes of nights out on the town were equally gripping. Tracks like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” “You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights, But You Were Staring Straight at Me” and “When the Sun Goes Down” saw Turner wistfully hoping for a romantic reciprocation and he does so in clever British-isms about dancefloors, taxi ranks, vampires, bouncers, scumbags and “cuddles in the kitchen.”
The album’s juggernaut success (#1 on the U.K. charts and #24 on the U.S. charts) was undeniable and Whatever People Say I Am continues to be reissued to this day. Its monumental success allowed the band to headline Glastonbury Festival, the absolute pinnacle of British music festivals, just a year later. They became one of the youngest acts to headline the festival and with the direction that major music festivals have gone in the past few years, it looks unlikely that a rock band that young would ever be able to headline one of those festivals again, especially at such an early stage in their career. It’s also hard to think of another album that has as many indie rock sing-alongs and karaoke staples as this one. Indie club nights around the world still pump this record and it’s continued to connect with new generations of fans.
Listen to our 2014 podcast interview with Alex Turner, recorded in Nashville at Marathon Music Works below. Click here to read our definitive guide to Arctic Monkeys’ discography.