This was the Arctic Monkeys' first single. Whatever People Say That I Am, That's What I'm Not sold more copies in the UK during its first week of release than any other debut album. It also sold more than the rest of the Top 20 combined. It sold over 120,000 UK copies on its first day of release. It sold 365,735 UK copies during its first week of release, easily beating the previous record of 306,631 held by Hear'Say.
In November 2007 The X Factor winner Leona Lewis' debut album Spirit sold 375,872 copies in its first week, beating Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not's record.
The album won the prestigious 2006 Mercury Prize for Album of the Year. The NME, Time magazine and the Q Awards all honored it as album of the year.
The lyrics "Dancing like a robot from 1984" refer to John McClure who in 2001 formed the band Judan Suki, which included Alex Turner, whom he'd met on a bus. Not long after, Turner formed The Arctic Monkeys. The two later became flatmates and John McClure later achieved his own chart success in the UK with his band Reverend And The Makers. John McClure is known for his questionable dance moves.
In an interview with Prefix magazine, the Arctic Monkeys explained the story behind their video for this song: "We had a program in England called The Old Grey Whistle Test, from the '70s and '80s. It was a live show that a lot of great bands played on. We all liked watching the program from DVD and then we just tried to recreate that. We were going to do it full-on and get the guy who used to introduce bands in the beginning, and go for that sort of thing - so that it looked like a British, '70s music show - use the same cameras they used to use and whatnot, go for an old look."
In this song, our hero is trying to impress a female club-goer with his pickup lines, including the title (which is reminiscent of a line in the disco movie classic Saturday Night Fever
: "Are you as good in bed as you are on the dancefloor?"). The lyrics, "Your name isn't Rio, but I don't care for sand" are a reference to the Duran Duran song "Rio
," where Rio "dances in the sand," and another attempt to win her affections that apparently fails.
Guitarist Jamie Cook spoke to Q magazine March 2008 about the album title: "I think it's a lot about (the band's home city) Sheffield - right honest people and that. And I think people respect that. But the funny thing is we got a bit of hammering on our internet forums about the title."
Arctic Monkeys performed the song during the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. As a result, it returned to the UK singles chart in the week after the event.
Alex Turner recalled the genesis of the song to NME: "It all came from that drum thing at the beginning," he said. "I guess it was some exercise that (Matt Helder's) seen somewhere."
Arctic Monkeys recorded a single in 2018 titled "Four Out of Five
." During an interview with BBC Radio 2 following that song's release, vocalist Alex Turner and drummer Matt Helders were asked to use their out of five rating system on their own songs.
" got a five out of five rating due to its popularity with the band's friends, this song earned four out of five rating with Helders criticizing the track's snare drum sound as too "cranked."