What is Arctic Monkeys' Mardy Bum about?

23 January 2024, 10:00

Arctic Monkeys in 2006: Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Andy Nicholson
Arctic Monkeys in 2006: Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Andy Nicholson. Picture: Andy Willsher/Redferns/Getty Images
Radio X

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We discuss one of the Sheffield band's most-loved songs, and ponder whether it's one of the best album tracks ever.

As Arctic Monkeys' debut album turns 15, we're looking back at one of its best-loved tracks.

Mardy Bum featured on Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not, which was released on 23 January 2006.

But the song initially appeared alongside the likes of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor and Fake Tales Of San Francisco on Beneath The Boardwalk - their unofficial collection of demos which were handed out at gigs and shared on the internet between fans. This meant the infectious track was already a favourite amongst hardcore fans before their album hit the shelves.

With the use of Northern vernacular in its title, you might think the track would struggle to achieve universal appeal. But boy would you be wrong!

Mardy Bum

Mardy Bum, which in the North and the band's native Sheffield refers to someone who's moody or moans a lot, tells the story of a long-term relationship on the rocks.

The track, which sees Alex Turner addressing his subject head on, describes the moment he realises he's about to get it with both guns blazing.

"Now then Mardy Bum / I see your frown / And it's like looking down the barrel of a gun / And it goes off"

However before we can even get to heat the barrage of insults he's about to face, the frontman tries to evoke the glory days of the past in attempt for them to forget their troubles.

Arctic Monkeys live at the Carling Acadamy Glasgow, 14th April 2006
Arctic Monkeys live at the Carling Acadamy Glasgow, 14th April 2006. Picture: Alamy

Despite his memories of her good side and "cuddles in the kitchen," he's forever pulled back to the present day where things aren't so warm and fuzzy:

"...Oh, but it's right hard to remember that on a day like today/When you're all argumentative / And you've got the face on".

As their arguments seem to reoccur, as do Alex Turner's pleas for his other half to "laugh and joke around" and remember how things used to be.

Unfortunately his wishes fall on deaf ears, as he concludes: "Still it's right hard to remember/ That on a day like today when you're all argumentative / And you've got the face on".

Arctic Monkeys in 2006: Alex Turner, vocals, Matt Helders, drums, Jamie Cook, guitar and Andy Nicholson, bass,
Arctic Monkeys in 2006: Alex Turner, vocals, Matt Helders, drums, Jamie Cook, guitar and Andy Nicholson, bass,. Picture: Alamy

When you listen to the track and read its lyrics, it's easy to see why it's so popular. The universality of its message matched with Alex Turner's injection of Northern dialect gives it that classic Arctic Monkeys quality which the fans first fell in love with.

That, added to the fact it featured extensively on the radio when the album was released and still gets airplay today helped turned it into the perfect indie ear-worm.

It's impossible to know if "Mardy Bum" was a real person, but it almost doesn't matter anyway.

The track is a brutally honest love song, which tells the story the ups and downs of a relationship that may be coming to an end.

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