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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 00:52 GMT 01:52 UK
Mercury shocks by honouring favourites
By Stephen Robb
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Arctic Monkeys' Jamie Cook, Alex Turner and Matt Helders
The band are said to be already working on their second album
For an award ceremony that has frequently thrown up shock winners, it was bizarrely somewhat surprising to see the 2006 Mercury Prize go to firm favourites Arctic Monkeys.

Ceremony host Jools Holland affected shock after opening the envelope containing the winning act's name, before making the announcement to a delighted audience at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

The Sheffield band had been favourites to win the prize for their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not since the 12 nominees were announced in July.

But the Mercury judges have often bypassed favourites to honour less obvious candidates, notably Antony and the Johnsons and Dizzee Rascal in recent years.

Accepting the prize, Arctic Monkeys' frontman Alex Turner acknowledged: "Normally it doesn't go to a band that has sold as many albums as we have.

"But we are very pleased with it."

He added: "It's just good tunes, that's what we try to do."

Unconventional

The Mercury win follows a stratospheric rise that has garnered NME and Brit awards and achieved the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It was only ever really between Muse or the Monkeys
James Ashwin, Oxford

But an unconventional and irreverent attitude has seen them resist signing to a major record label, make few television appearances and also decline to appear at this year's Brit Awards, for which they filmed a hoax acceptance speech.

Their reaction to beating the likes of Thom Yorke and Guillemots to the Mercury Prize seemed entirely characteristic.

"Somebody call 999 - Richard Hawley's been robbed," Turner immediately joked.

Fellow Sheffield musician Hawley had been nominated for his collection of guitar-led ballads, Coles Corner.

Reticence

Arctic Monkeys' reticence towards the media led to speculation they would refuse to attend the post-ceremony press conference.

When they did briefly show up, they were in somewhat argumentative mood.

People can still take the pop song and use it to write about their lives in ways that are creative, funny, touching, angry
Simon Frith
Chairman of judges
An opening question about what the prize meant to them earned the sarcastic reply: "That's a right original question."

When asked why they had not performed at the event, they snapped back that the reporter should find out why fellow nominees Muse also did not play.

And they later refused to respond to questions they felt they had already answered.

Increasingly disgruntled reporters eventually asked why the band shied away from giving interviews.

"Because we haven't had to - we do other things right," said Turner.

'Fantastic'

Drummer Matt Helders joked that they had been carrying out a "social experiment" that had shown they could succeed without giving interviews.

In a rare forthcoming moment, Turner admitted that winning the award felt "fantastic".

"We deserved it because we had the best record," he said.

The chairman of the Mercury judges, Simon Frith, told the BBC that the album combined "fantastic musical energy and... fantastic songs".

HAVE YOUR SAY
The Arctic Monkeys, while talented, are the most overrated band I think I've ever heard
Graham Longlands, Bolton, UK

"It makes you realise that people can still take the pop song and use it to write about their lives in ways that are creative, funny, touching, angry - the sort of things we'd normally apply to a novelist or whatever - and these people can do it with a pop song.

"What more can you ask?"


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