‘He’s not from San Francisco, he’s from Hunters Bar.’ How The Arctic Monkeys Gave Sheffield Something Other Than Steel

Sheffield; the Steel City. A northern region particularly known for its seven rolling hills, Henderson’s relish and ultimately steel. However, the past eight years have proven the city to be more than just that and given its younger generation a sense of identity beyond the world of metal.

In 2004 the entirety of Britain was overturned with the sudden arrival of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not and the emergence of a group of teenage boys from Sheffield who had labelled themselves the Arctic Monkeys. I don’t intend to give you a history of the band (although I probably could) and I don’t intend to make you like them, but I do intend to demonstrate how it is that actually this seemingly innocuous indie debut became an important cultural landmark.

Sheffield is a city that has been constantly trying to reinvent itself and find its place in the modern world, after the turmoil of Thatcherism and the collapse of working industry. Turner’s lyrics within the first album offer the listener some form of reinvention whilst continuing to hold onto ideas that are dear to them. The title alone is fantastically caught up in Northern, working class identity as a line from the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in which the main character is desperate to escape the mundane world of factory work.

Alongside paying tribute to a culture that may now be ultimately lost from the city, Turner’s lyrics offer an idea of the place they live in to a younger generation. Their first album has essentially made parts of Sheffield iconic. To come from Sheffield and hear the lyrics “he’s not from San Fransisco, he’s from Hunters Bar” or “it’s High Green, mate, via Hillsborough please” instantly offers a connection to the work and ultimately you then begin to feel as if you belong to something. You may not be able to associate with the steel industry but you can associate with the Arctic Monkeys’ music.

Now when you meet people and you say you’re from Sheffield they probably won’t mention steel, but it’s likely you’ll end up in a conversation about whether you’ve visited Hillsborough or High Green and whether Hunters Bar is actually a real place (it is, by the way.) Through their music the Arctic Monkeys have offered Sheffield a new sense of identity, an iconic sense of identity, performed on a world stage, with fans on the other side of the Atlantic longing to visit such mythical places.

Saffron Rain

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