10 things you didn't know about The Killers' Hot Fuss album

7 June 2024, 15:31

The Killers in February 2005: David Keuning, Brandon Flowers, Ronnie Vannucci, Mark Stoermer
The Killers in February 2005: David Keuning, Brandon Flowers, Ronnie Vannucci, Mark Stoermer. Picture: Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images

Murder, heartbreak, tragic death and PTSD: Radio X delves into the dark stories of The Killers' landmark debut album, 20 years on.

By Martin O'Gorman

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20 years after their debut album first appeared, The Killers enjoy worldwide recognition, with a UK tour taking place this month that includes a week's worth of dates at London's O2 Arena.

The band - fronted by the charismatic Brandon Flowers - hit the ground running with Hot Fuss, first released in the UK on 7th June 2004. To mark the anniversary, the band have announced a Las Vegas residency for Hot Fuss 20th anniversary shows for August of this year.

The music leant heavily on classic British indie bands like The Smiths and New Order, but Hot Fuss in turn created a mystique around the band's native Las Vegas.

Packed with indie floor fillers and heartfelt anthems, Hot Fuss is actually a surprisingly dark album. The story of Mr Brightside's tale of unrequited love is well-known, but there are songs about murder, jealousy, stalking, post-traumatic stress disorder and AIDS.

Radio X looks back at the glory days of Hot Fuss.

The Killers on MTV's Total Request Live in August 2004
The Killers on MTV's Total Request Live in August 2004. Picture: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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  1. Where did The Killers get the name "Hot Fuss" from?

    The band have never officially revealed what the title Hot Fuss means, but there have been many theories over the past two decades. First of all, it's not connected to the Simon Pegg film Hot Fuzz - that came out three years later, in February 2007. Urban Dictionary claims that the phrase can mean either a female orgasm, or an "unnecessary drama". Make you your own mind!

  2. Mr Brightside is based on a true story and only has one verse

    The all-time biggest Killers hit is, of course, Mr Brightside. First released as a single in September 2003, the track was reissued in 2004 and has since been on the UK charts for an astonishing 412 weeks. Brandon Flowers revealed the song's memorable lyric is based on genuine heartache.

    As he told NME in 2012: "It's about an old girlfriend of mine. All the emotions in the song are real. When I was writing the lyrics, my wounds from it were still fresh. I am Mr. Brightside!"

    Flowers also told Q Magazine in 2009, "I was asleep and I knew something was wrong. I have these instincts. I went to the Crown & Anchor and my girlfriend was there with another guy."

    The Killers - Mr. Brightside (Official Music Video)

    There was a second verse to Mr Brightside, but Brandon Flowers hadn't quite finished it when he was in the vocal booth recording the song. He realised he didn't want to commit some underwhelming prose to tape, so he simply repeated the opening stanza. "The second is the same as the first," he told Spin in 2015. "I just didn’t have any other lines and it ended up sticking. We’ve never not played that song live, because it’s stood the test of time and I’m proud of it. I never get bored of singing it."

    The Killers - Mr. Brightside (Alternate Version) (Official Music Video)

  3. The "Murder Trilogy" was inspired by Morrissey

    In the Hot Fuss era, The Killers were working on what they referred to as the aptly-named "Murder Trilogy". However, the third song - ironically the first part of the trilogy - wasn't completed by the time Hot Fuss was released. The trilogy, and its story, therefore goes as follows:

    Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf: Flowers told the NME in 2004 that this song is about a couple breaking up; all the boy cares about is keeping the whiskey they bought". The songs lyrics relate: "Jennifer, tell me where I stand, and who's that other boy holdin' your hand?" This track remained unreleased until November 2007, when it finally appeared on the compilation Sawdust.

    Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf

    Midnight Show: The Hot Fuss track tells of the murder itself, with the protagonist driving his girlfriend to the seafront, claiming "A crashing tide can't hide a guilty girl."

    Midnight Show

    Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine: the final song of the trilogy is set as the protagonist is questioned by the police. "There ain't no motive for this crime," insists the narrator in the chorus. "Jenny was a friend of mine." The story goes unresolved, as the police continue the interrogation.

    Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine

    Brandon Flowers noted that the "Murder Trilogy" had its roots in a track by the former Smiths man Morrissey, titled Sister I'm a Poet. The line "I love the romance of crime, and I wonder: Does anybody feel the same way I do?" from the song, which is the b-side to Everyday Is Like Sunday, fascinated the Killers singer. "I studied that line a lot," he told The Guardian in 2006. "And it's kind of embedded in me."

    Morrissey - Sister I'm a Poet [Everyday Is Like Sunday B Side]

  4. Somebody Told Me is about clubbing

    Many theories have been formed about the sexual politics of The Killers' second single, particularly the line "Well somebody told me you had a boyfriend, Who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year."

    Flowers explained to the NME in March 2004: "It's really just a play on words, but it gets people confused. That's good. The androgyny means we appeal to boys and girls. That's really important to us."

    In 2013, Brandon expanded on the theme, telling Entertainment Weekly: "We were going out to clubs a lot at the time. I think it speaks to a young man’s frustration, the difficulty of picking up girls."

    The Killers - Somebody Told Me (Official Music Video)

  5. All These Things That I've Done was inspired by U2

    Written about their TV presenter friend Matt Pinfield and his work with soldiers battling with PTSD, this anthemic song also tipped its hat to the Irish superstars. "I was heavily into U2 at the time," Flowers told Spin in 2015, "and the way that they incorporated gospel to their music.

    "That was something that had a huge effect on me, and you really hear it in this song… everything from the chord progression to the actual gospel choir we recorded with. I think it’s got such a strong sense of identity. That’s kind of the Holy Grail for rock music.

    The Killers - All These Things That I've Done (Official Music Video)

  6. Andy, You're a Star is about a schoolmate of Brandon Flowers

    Another tale of small town America takes place in this Hot Fuss track, which is based on a football player from Brandon Flowers' high school days. He told the NME in 2004, with some bitterness: "Teachers favour the football players and wrestlers. It's made known: these guys are special. In fact, the teachers encouraged the hierarchy, as a lot of them were coaches too.

    "The longhairs and the musicians would get treated the worst by the sportsmen and coaches. They were always bullied." The songs is written from the point of view of a stalker, who admires the football star from afar.

    Andy, You're A Star

  7. Everything Will Be Alright was recorded in Dave Keuning's apartment

    Hot Fuss was mainly made at two Californian studios - producer Jeff Saltzman's facility in Berkeley called The Hearse and Cornerstone in Los Angeles. But the final track, Everything Will Be Alright was recorded by a friend of the band, Corlene Byrd, at guitarist Dave Keuning's home in Las Vegas. The Brandon Flowers-penned song was one of the tracks on the album that essentially remained the original demo version.

    Everything Will Be Alright

  8. Believe Me Natalie is a story about the AIDS epidemic

    The glittering tune masks a sad lyric - the titular Natalie is a New York scenester who catches HIV from a dirty needle. Flowers was evoking the tragic era of AIDS in the 1980s in the song, telling the NME in 2004: "It's about the last days of disco, how AIDS brought it crashing down."

    He added: "I guess it's the tragedy that draws us to this subject matter. It makes for a good song, a different song."

    Believe Me Natalie

  9. What's on the cover of Hot Fuss by The Killers?

    Photographer Matthias Clamer posted the image on Instagram, revealing: "I took this picture in the suburbs of Beijing in 2000. An unknown band called The Killers asked if they could use it for their album cover, projecting to sell 5,000 copies. They sold 7 million." The neon signs on the buildings apparently read: "Construction, Material, Development”.

  10. Hot Fuss had different track listngs in different territories

    What's the definitive running order of Hot Fuss, we wonder? That's because different countries had slightly different track listings...

    The UK version of Hot Fuss runs to 11 tracks:

    1. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
    2. Mr Brightside
    3. Smile Like You Mean It
    4. Somebody Told Me
    5. All These Things That I've Done
    6. Andy You're A Star
    7. On Top
    8. Glamorous Indie Rock 'N' Roll
    9. Believe Me Natalie
    10. Midnight Show
    11. Everything Will Be Alright

    The American version swaps Glamorous Indie Rock 'N' Roll for Change Your Mind, which first appeared as a b-side of the 2004 reissue of Mr Brightside.

    The US vinyl edition had Glamorous Indie Rock 'N' Roll as a bonus track after Everything Will Be Alright, while the Japanese edition includes Indie Rock 'N' Roll at the end, plus The Ballad of Michael Valentine and Under The Gun, both former b-sides of Somebody Told Me.

    Change Your Mind

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