The Arctic Monkeys in 2010.
Deep Dives

A Look at the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘505’

Arctic Monkeys’ song ‘505’ seems to have found a new lease of life in the year 2023. How has it managed that? The same way any song makes it these days, TikTok. I mean it’s a good song but how has it caught on with Gen Z so easily?

Well, with its slower pop sensibility and simplistic descending melodic lead lines, it’s an excellent option to just vibe along to. But is there more to it than that? What I’m going to do is take a look beneath the surface, and cover four main points about the iconic track. We’ll look at its newfound fame, its meaning, the composition behind it, and, of course, the guitar playing. So get a coffee and let’s go back to 505.

The TikTok revival

In 2007 the Arctic Monkeys released the album ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’, which was a follow-up to their debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I Am Not’. It instantaneously hit the ground running, receiving critical acclaim and reached number one in the charts. I know you’re sitting there thinking, ‘well that makes sense, I can see why a single from the album may take off at a later date’. That’s the point though, ‘505’ was never released as a single.

The track, however, did end their set during their 2008 tour. This is why if you search the song on TikTok you will see a young Alex Turner singing the intro to the song in a variety of settings. So why did the song catch on TikTok? Well for starters the song stands out amongst the album in a strange prophetical way. This is largely because the song sounds a lot more in line with modern indie artists, as opposed to the British indie scene they were leading at the time.

Combine that with the nostalgia the song will have for some of the older members of Gen Z (me), it was bound to take off on TikTok. A slower initial tempo makes the song stand out from the others within the album as it is one of the the few tracks on the album that doesn’t double down on the original high-octane Arctic Monkeys sound. Although, of course it goes all Arctic Monkeys at 2:30.


The meaning behind the song

A lot of the meaning of this song (as with any song) is up to how you interpret it. The one thing we do know however is ‘505’ is one of the Arctic Monkeys first shots at a true love song. The title ‘505’ refers to a hotel room in which Alex Turner is recalling an experience with an ex in a melancholic and wondering manner. The rest of the song recounts events that happened with that person, with lines such as ‘If it’s a seven hour flight or a forty-five minute drive‘ eluding to past travels together. This makes the track come across like Alex Turner is yearning for the past.

While a lot of music is open-ended, this track is quite explicit with its meaning. Although again, inference can swap this song from a cherishing love song to a tale of dysfunction highlighted in lyrics such as ‘But I crumble completely‘.

The composition of 505

The composition of ‘505’ is marvellous, with a multitude of instrumentation choices that make the song unique to the Arctic Monkeys.  For starters the track begins completely differently to others on the album. It opens with chords played on an organ, which is unlike a lot of the other tracks. Avoiding the upbeat guitars the band were synonymous with immediately sets the song apart. However, this opening is sampled from the finale of the 1966 classic film ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. If we link this back to the meaning of the song, we can deduce connotations of a stand-off or disagreement.


When it comes to placing the key of the song, I think we can argue for two different options, A minor or D dorian. So let’s look at both. The song starts with a D Minor chord and moves between that and E minor for the rest of the song. So are we dealing with a movement from IV to V or I to II? Let’s look elsewhere for clues.

The next thing is to look at the vocal line which starts on A, moves to G, then lands on an E before moving back. This would suggest A minor initially but the vocal line comes in on beat 2 of the bar, although it too utilises movement from D to E. Okay, so the guitar line in the solo moves from E down to A which to me suggests the key is in A minor. Although I believe the constant move from Dm to Em actually fully plants the song in D dorian with heavy prominence on the tonic.


The Arctic Monkeys 505 is in 4/4 with a tempo of 140bpm. The rhythm section builds over the initial 2 minutes of the track, entering subtlety after the guitar enters the piece, although at this point the snare is absent. The snare comes in the 2nd verse building, on the development of the other instruments in the track. The hi-hat then enters on the 2nd chorus, finally building until the song explodes like the Arctic Monkeys anthem it is.

The drums building, goes alongside the tension in the track. The drums also emphasise the guitar solo with a crash cymbal, allowing the song to reach its climax with euphoric determination.


The track continuously builds from start to finish, making the pay off when all instruments go all in. It starts with the sampled organ, then Alex Turners voice enters for the chorus. This is followed by the guitar, and again closely by the drums. After this point each instrument gets busier, with the guitar developing from two guitar playing chords, to the lead now playing the aforementioned descending lead line.

Alex Turner playing a Jazzmaster
Alex Turner live by Steven Anthony

The guitars


The guitar playing in 505 is relatively simple. For the majority of the track you are looking at a movement between a Dm and Em barre chord every two bars, with the chord being slowly strummed downward. The lead guitar does the same in verse 2 during the bar in-between. In the third verse (the full band verse) the rhythm picks up to striking the chord more often, building a quaver rhythm that closely resembles triplets, although they aren’t exactly, think of it as down, up, down. This rhythm guitar carries on until the end of the song.

The lead guitar line is more intriguing. During the 2nd chorus, every four bars the lead plays a descending from an E all the way to the A. The interlude does the same thing but moves from the high E string, to the D string playing the same descending line. This time though, it moves back up to the C, descending back to the B, before jumping to the initial E. Verse 3 sees the guitar alternate pick the A and D on the bottom two strings, and mixes it with the B and E of the same strings. Simplified this is fret 10 to fret 12 on both bottom strings.

There is quite a bit of vibrato utilised throughout this track. A lot of the chords strikes are accented with the vibrato arm of the guitar, showing this was probably played on his Stratocaster. This takes us onto the next section…

The Tone of ‘505’

To get the correct tone of the Arctic Monkeys ‘505’ we need to see what gear he was using at the time. During the recording of ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ the guitar Alex Turner was primarily using was a Fender Stratocaster.  The Strat was then ran through a Selmer Zodiac Twin 30 guitar amp, which was used during the recording of the album. This combination gives us the foundation of the guitars, but of course, what about the effects?

The drive tone when it comes to ‘505’ is more than likely owed to the Ibanez TS-808. This is because you can hear the calmer vintage vibe of the distortion, as opposed to the roar of the pro-co rat. The other effects you can hear clearly in the guitar is reverb and vibrato. Turner preferred to use his amplifiers reverb and vibrato during this period, although we still need to employ an echo. The echo that is most notable on Turner’s pedalboard is the Boss DSD-3. Although I believe you can get almost all the modulation you need through the right amp.

If you want to look a the timeline for Alex’s gear look here.

These are the things you need to know before learning the guitar.

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