What Is Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino About?

25 July 2018, 11:15 | Updated: 18 December 2018, 15:02

The title track of the sixth Arctic Monkeys album sees Alex Turner dig deep into a world of references and imagery. But what exactly is he on about?

“Good afternoon / Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino / Mark speaking / Please tell me how may I direct your call?”

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is, as a great man once said, a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Or is it?

Alex Turner has been pretty forthcoming about his influences - he’s been obsessed with the films of the legendary director Stanley Kubrick - particularly The Shining (1980) and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018.

The whole Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino concept seems to have come from a scene in 2001 where the character Dr Heywood Floyd is making a trip to Clavius Base on the moon, where a mysterious black monolith has been found.

Floyd stops over at a space station before making his way to Clavius - and spends the layover in the lobby of Space Station Five’s very own Hilton Hotel. All very futuristic and all very 1960s at the same time.

Alex Turner told Radio X: “The album artwork started from a picture that I saw of someone in the art department of 2001: A Space Odyssey, building the set for the Hilton on the moon. At this point, we’d already decided to call the album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, so we began to think of things that may be in the lobby of this place.

“The thing that I became most obsessed with that there was a model of the place inside the lobby. That’s where I focused most of my attention and time, not figuring out what the place itself looked like, but what the model of the place in the lobby would. I made the model.”

2001: A Space Odyssey - the Hilton space station lobby
2001: A Space Odyssey - the Hilton space station lobby. Picture: YouTube/Warner Bros

“Technological advances / Really bloody get me in the mood / Pull me in close on a crisp eve, baby / Kiss me underneath the moon's side boob.”

Meanwhile, in The Shining, Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) takes on the job of a caretaker for a huge hotel over the winter… and realises there’s something evil hidden in the walls of the building.

Hotels, cosmic travel and trips into inner space - they’re all mixed up into the song and video for Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

Alex Turner in Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Alex Turner in Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Picture: YouTube/Domino Records
Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King, and directed by Stanley Kubrick
Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King, and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Picture: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Alex Turner’s imagination was kick started by wondering who would be on reception.

“First of all, there was a bloke with a phone and he says ‘Mark speaking’ and I’m like, where is he?,” Turner explained to Radio X recently. “I decided that he was there [at the Tranquility Base]. It happened backwards like that.”

Apollo XI Moon Landing, July 1969
Apollo XI Moon Landing, July 1969. Picture: NASA/AFP/Getty Images

Tranquility Base itself is the site where Apollo XI touched down on 21 July 1969, marking the first time mankind had set foot on the moon. But Turner’s inspiration was a little more down to earth.

He told Radio X’s John Kennedy: “I’ve got some cups that are Apollo mission cups and the word tranquility is in reference to the site of the first moon landing, folks.

“There’s a picture of the eagle and I think it says Tranquility Base.”

The frontman explained that it was one small step to naming the album after the song: “When it comes to giving the record its title, there may be something you want to convey and you have a title that does that perfectly, but then something else comes along that fits the bill better.”