A Commentary On Arctic Monkeys' Cornerstone...

7 March 2018, 14:12

Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone (Official Video)


We take a look at one of the Sheffield band’s most-loved tracks, and one of the biggest misconceptions about it.

Cornerstone was the second single to be taken from Arctic Monkeys' Humbug album. 

Released on 16 November 2009 and made available in vinyl at Oxfam stores, the 3:20 long track tells a story of love lost and the desire to re-live the past.

Watch its Richard Ayoyade-directed video above.

With their Josh Homme-produced Humbug album packing a serious punch, Alex Turner sought to bring something different to the album in the form of Cornerstone, and boy did he deliver. 

 Arctic Monkeys Cornerstone artwork

True to form, Alex Turner keeps things very real as he speaks in the first person, while seemingly invoking the sights of his hometown.

The opening lyrics "I thought I saw you in the battleship/But it was only a look-a-like," sees the narrator spot what he thinks is an ex in town before he realises it isn't her.

As we move through the song we see him come across more apparitions of his former lover, all "close enough to be (her) ghost," before realising they were just simple tricks of the light or vision tricks.

The cheeky narrator gives it a fair crack though, approaching each woman and getting further with each one until he asks if he can call them by his ex's name... Which as you can imagine, goes down like a ton of bricks. 

See the full lyrics to the track below: 

"I thought I saw you in the battleship
But it was only a look a like
She was nothing but a vision trick
Under the warning light

She was close, close enough to be your ghost
But my chances turned to toast
When I asked her if I could call her your name

I thought I saw you in the rusty hook
Huddled up in wicker chair
I wandered up for a closer look
And kissed who ever was sitting there

She was close, and she held me very tightly
'Til I asked awfully politely, please
Can I call you her name

And I elongated my lift home,
Yeah I let him go the long way round
I smelt your scent on the seat belt
And kept my shortcuts to myself

I thought I saw you in the parrots beak
Messing with the smoke alarm
It was too loud for me to hear her speak
And she had a broken arm

It was close, so close that the walls were wet
And she wrote it out in letraset
No you can't call me her name

Tell me where's your hiding place
I'm worried I'll forget your face
And I've asked everyone
I'm beginning to think I imagined you all along

I elongated my lift home
Yeah I let him go the long way 'round
I smelt your scent on the seat belt
And kept my shortcuts to myself

I saw your sister in the cornerstone
On the phone to the middle man
When I saw that she was on her own
I thought she might understand

She was close, well you couldn't get much closer
She said I'm really not supposed to but yes,
You can call me anything you want

The last two verses turn things up a notch- seeing the narrator bumping into his ex's sister, and getting as close to her as he possibly can. 

And, although he's been unsuccessful throughout the track, it's of course at this moment that he turns the song completely on its head, seeing his ex's sister agree to take part in his sad fantasy.

But what about the title of the track? It's often thought that the Cornerstone, Battleship, The Rusty Hook and The Parrot's Beak are real-life pubs in Sheffield, and evidence of Turner's real-life pub crawl...

However, a quick search confirms there are no pubs in his hometown with these names. 

Though some forums try to make links between his verses and real watering holes, such as the Ship Inn, The Milestone and The Frog & Parrot, it's probably just easier to afford the frontman with some poetic license here. 

With the pub names being fictional, we might assume that the story itself was simply a figment of Alex Turner's imagination.

However, it wouldn't be a stretch to think the lyrics drew in some way from his romantic life.

Speaking to Uncut about the track in 2009, he said: I wrote Cornerstone one morning, quite quickly. There’s something to be said for writing in the morning. At other points in the day you’re a bit more defensive. I saw it as a challenge to write something in a major key, but that wasn’t cheesy."

So was the track simply a challenge for Mr. Turner, or was it a genuine tale of the morning after the night before? And did he ever get with an ex's sister?

While we'll probably never know the answer to these questions, one thing's for certain. The Humbug classic is one of the most-loved and revered tracks from the band's back catalogue.

Is Arctic Monkeys' Cornerstone one of your best British track's of all time?