12:51

Album: Room On Fire (2003)
Charted: 7
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Songfacts®:

  • 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).
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