I quite enjoy writing about Arctic Monkeys.
I’m kind of kicking myself for not homing in on them for the Sunday singles series as it would have taken care of around six months of postings and featured quite a different range of sounds as the band have been really keen to develop and expand since the early material saw light of day in 2005.
The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala was released, on 15 August 2011, as the second single from the fourth album Suck It And See.
The album itself had been built up in advance as the band making a return to a more indie-pop orientated sound after the harder edge product of 2009’s Humbug which had seen Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age assume production duties. The problem with making such statements is that many expected a record that would be as instant and catchy as the debut and parts of the sophomore efforts when in fact it turned out to be something of a hybrid with the occasional piece of pure pop alongside some harder and edgier numbers as well as songs which bordered on glam or psychedelia. It was a broad and ambitious effort which, for the most part, was warmly received by the critics, even if most of them were just grateful that it wasn’t akin to Humbug.
The lead single had been Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, released about a month before the album. I’m not really sure if hopes were high as it was an unusual choice for a 45, lacking any real chorus or hook, and it certainly didn’t have the urge or youthful energy of the 45s and the songs that had rocketed the group to stardom in the UK and many other parts of Europe. It was certainly packed with clever wordplay which is something Alex Turner has consistently excelled all his career, but the sneering delivery of the title was a bit unnerving and it wasn’t tailor made for radio, so no real surprises that it had stalled at #28 in the charts, getting no higher than its first week position and dropping out of the Top 40 immediately afterwards.
The follow-up was one of the most favoured tracks on the album, if you judged things by on-line views and opinions. The accompanying video was put up on line in early July 2011, and again, there were all sorts of positive comments.
Things were set for a 45 which would likely go Top 20, until disaster struck.
Just before the release date, the warehouse in which the 7” singles were being stored in advance of distribution was hit by arsonists during the rioting which accompanied riots in parts of London between 6-11 August. Most of the stock was destroyed and decision was taken to sell what was left exclusively through the band’s website. No product in the shops meant there was little enthusiasm to promote the release and no product in the shops meant it had no chance of troubling the charts. Most fans consoled themselves that the single version, including swear word (which presumably would have been bleeped or distorted for radio play) was the same as that on the album and that the b-side was widely available as a digital download.
Ah…that b-side. Miles Kane is probably best known as being Alex Turner’s sidekick in The Last Shadow Puppets whose debut album had been a huge success in 2008. The Death Ramps was the name adopted by Arctic Monkeys when they were using guest singers for b-side tracks. In this instance, Kane not only sung lead vocal but co-wrote the song with the band. It’s one of those songs which was wasted as a b-side.
Given how few copies made it out into the public domain, this 7” single is one of the most sought after among fans. And no, I don’t own a copy!
PS : Advance warning…..more from this lot tomorrow, courtesy of a guest contribution.