The Strokes - Whatever Happened, Conan O’Brien
This track opens Room On Fire, and it is great. When I finally got my hands on this album, the first thing I did when I came up was go straight up to my room and listen to it. I put it in my stereo and sat on the floor, leaning against my bed. It was bliss.
What really grips me is the chorus. “I want to be forgotten, and I don’t want to be reminded” is very much about wanting to shed your past and moving on from who you were. Becoming a new person. Growing up, really. And it’s hard. “I wanna be beside her, she wanna be admired”, aside from being a great little rhyme, is something that probably resonates with many of us - wanting to just be with someone who may not have any real interest in you. It happens.
I cannot tell you how many analyses of this song I have seen, and most of them say the same thing - that “did they offend us and want it all to sound new” is a direct reference to this album being a different shift in tone from Is This It. (And of course, we heard the same thing again when “Under Cover of Darkness” was released). People also debated whether Tennessee of “Oh Tennessee, what did you write?” was about Tennessee Williams or Tennessee Thomas (of The Like). I always assumed Williams, but to be honest, I don’t really care, it’s a cool line no matter which way you cut it.
We still hear strains of Is This It, however. Particularly in the line “oh that’s an ending I can’t write, cause I’ve got you… to let me down”. So much of Is This It is about letting someone else down, at whatever cost, and so much of Room On Fire is about being let down by others. Maybe it’s a cause and effect thing. You’ve spent so much time doing what you want, leaving, heading out the door, that now people are going to start treating you similarly.
I remember staying up late to watch this Conan performance. I think it might have been one of their first talk show performances for the new album, so it was really exciting. I’m pretty sure I still have it on tape somewhere, too. You can also see they’ve changed their appearances a bit - Julian’s cut his hair and Nick’s growing his out. It’s a little bit more of a mellow performance. They’re just a little more put together. They’re growing up too.