Brandon Flowers was a bellman at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in late 2001 when he picked up a copy of the Las Vegas Weekly and saw an ad that caught his eye: “Seeking musicians for all original band. Influences: Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, Bowie, Radiohead.” It was placed by guitarist Dave Keuning, who was paying his bills at the time by working at Banana Republic. “I liked his influences,” Flowers said. “I liked the bands that he liked, so I gave him a call.”
Flowers then hopped into his 1992 Geo Metro and headed over to Keuning’s house to get acquainted. They hit it off instantly and before Flowers left, Keuning handed him a cassette tape of five song ideas. The very first one caught his attention immediately and he fleshed it out with lyrics about a jealous guy convinced his girlfriend is cheating on him.
“Now I’m falling asleep and she’s calling a cab,” he wrote. “While he’s having a smoke and she’s taking a drag/Now they’re going to bed and my stomach is sick.” Unable to come up with a second verse, he merely repeated the first one again after the chorus. He called it “Mr. Brightside.”
Over the next few months, the group – who named themselves the Killers after the fake band in New Order’s “Crystal” video – would recruit drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and bassist Mark Stoermer and play club gigs all over Las Vegas. They signed with British indie label Lizard King in 2003 and laid down a version of “Mr. Brightside” that you can hear right here. The Strokes influence is very clear, but when they cut it again in 2004 after signing to Def Jam it had morphed into a more unique, bombastic sound that became their signature.
As much success as they’ve had since those early days, “Mr. Brightside” remains their most beloved song and they’ve played it in concert well over 700 times. “It just keeps snowballing and getting bigger,” Flowers told Rolling Stone late last year. “I just hope it doesn’t eclipse anything else we’re doing, but anybody that starts a band or ever picked up a guitar or bought a 58 Microphone envisions something like that happening. It’s incredible. I can’t complain.”