To celebrate the release of the platinum Las Vegas rockers' greatest-hits compilation, ''Direct Hits'' (out now), frontman Brandon Flowers, 32, tells the tales behind some of their best-known anthems

”Mr. Brightside” (2003)
“This was literally the first song that me and Dave [Keuning], our guitar player, wrote. He gave me a cassette that basically had the guitar part worked out. I slapped a chorus on, and it was written pretty quickly. We wrote a lot of songs after that, and then the Strokes’ first record came out and we ditched everything we wrote except for that song and started again. [Laughs] Because that record’s so good, you know? Whether the Strokes know it or not, they really changed our path.”

”Somebody Told Me” (2004)
“We were going out to clubs a lot at the time. I think it speaks to a young man’s frustration, the difficulty of picking up girls. [Laughs]”

”All These Things That I’ve Done” (2005)
“I worked at a casino called the Gold Coast as a bellman. This was back when there weren’t cell phones yet, so I used to call the guys and tell them I was gonna leave an idea on their answering machines. I was very heavily into glam rock at the time, and I felt like [Lou Reed’s] Transformer and [David Bowie’s] Ziggy Stardust — the delivery of those records, sometimes it was almost talking to you, especially Lou. The lines ‘Help me out, yeah yeah, you gotta help me out/Don’t you put me on the back burner, you gotta help me out’? I was just trying to be Lou Reed, but funneled through the Las Vegas Strip. And the bass line is a direct rip-off of a Bowie track called ‘Slow Burn.’ I can say it now because I don’t think he’s gonna come after us.”

”When We Were Young” (2006)
“It was an important song for us, maybe the most important song, because a lot of bands come and go. We knew that Hot Fuss put us all over the world and it was a great ride, but who knows what’s gonna happen next? ‘He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus/But he talks like a gentleman,’ that came instantly to me. I remember driving home, and this load just lifted off my shoulders. I knew everything was gonna be all right.”

”Read My Mind” (2007)
“It was originally called ‘Little Angela,’ but we changed that because it didn’t feel right. Thank heavens [producer] Alan Moulder had the courage to tell me he didn’t love it. He thought it was too much like the Simon & Garfunkel song ‘Mrs. Robinson.’ So we changed it, and once I had the lyrics, I started to get a story about my [own] life.”

”Human” (2008)
“I didn’t know the line ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’ was going to be so controversial! [Laughs] I had seen a Hunter S. Thompson interview where he talks about America and says he fears that we’re raising a generation of dancers. And I adapted that, basically. The verse is about the decline in our values and our morals, but everyone just picked up on the chorus. I still love it.”