Album: Room On Fire (2003)
Charted: 7


  • This song is about the moments just before sex, and how you lose some innocence in that brief time. The title reflects a typical time on a clock during a sexual encounter because many people check the time just as lovemaking begins. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Nick Valensi managed to painstakingly create the sound of a synthesized keyboard with his guitar for this song. However when a friend heard it, he responded with crushing logic, "Why didn't he just play a keyboard?"
  • Valensi reportedly blew out multiple amplifiers while trying to achieve the keyboard-like guitar tone on this song.
  • Valensi told Guitar Player in 2003 how he constructed the unique guitar sound: "I was playing these silly little jazz things using my neck pickup with the guitar's tone control rolled all the way down, and I accidentally stepped on the DeVille's channel-switching footpedal. The gain on that channel was on 12, and all of a sudden the tone sounded like an analog-synth sound - or a weird heavy-metal, Joe Satriani tone. Julian was the one who really saw the possibilities of that tone for '12:51.' So I played along with the vocal melody, doubled the part, and that was it. It was all a bit of an accident - I was just trying to get a nice jazz tone - but it sounded cool. The DeVilles didn't really like that tone, though. I blew up three of them."
  • This was influenced by Sonic Youth's 1994 hit "Bull In The Heather" - so much so that it made Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas nervous. He told Spin in 2003: "When we were recording it, I said to Gordon [Raphael, producer], 'Do you think it sounds too much like that Sonic Youth song? Because I'm totally ripping it off.'"

Comments: 4

  • Layton from Paris, TxI thought Room on fire was amazing, even better than Is This It...and that's saying something! Both awesome albums.
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaI know girls who are Julian Casablancas fans who think the line "Friday nights have been lonely" could never be true for Julian Casablancas!
  • Jed Humanoid from Lake Oswego, OrCouldn't possibly disagree with you more, Jonathan. I think that this song is great, and Room on Fire stands as the Strokes' best album.
  • Jonathan from Thame, EnglandI wasn't too keen on this when it came out, or indeed the Room on Fire album (excluding Reptilia).
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Danny Clinch: The Art of Rock PhotographySong Writing

One of rock's top photographers talks about artistry in photography, raising funds for a documentary, and enjoying a County Fair with Tom Waits.

Gavin Rossdale of BushSongwriter Interviews

On the "schizoid element" of his lyrics, and a famous line from "Everything Zen."

Gary Brooker of Procol HarumSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer and pianist for Procol Harum, Gary talks about finding the musical ideas to match the words.

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

The 10 Bands Most Like Spinal TapSong Writing

Based on criteria like girlfriend tension, stage mishaps and drummer turnover, these are the 10 bands most like Spinal Tap.

Carol KayeSongwriter Interviews

A top session musician, Carol played on hundreds of hits by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra and many others.