On Tuesday 13th of December, and for that one night only, ‘Get Better’ a documentary film about Frank Turner is being screened in cinemas around the country. (Watch the trailer here.) It was filmed by the wonderful Ben Morse over the last couple of years and had been kept top secret until a few days ago. The Vue in London’s Leicester Square is going to be host to the official premiere with a Q&A plus Frank performing an acoustic set (show number 1998) – all of which are being live streamed along with showings of the film in other UK cinemas. With all the excitement of managing to get tickets to the Leicester Square premiere, I thought it was only appropriate to share my Top Ten Frank Turner Songs.
Eulogy (England Keep My Bones)
The opening track of Frank Turner’s fourth album is a track like no other. At just 1 minute and 34 seconds long it is his shortest song in his whole back catalogue (the cover of Linoleum doesn’t count, alright). Eulogy serves not only as an introduction to England Keep My Bones but also, for a time, it was the opening song of his live sets. The crescendo of the music is brilliant but the lyrics say it all. ‘Well I haven't always been a perfect person, Well I haven't done what mum and dad had dreamed, But on the day I die, I'll say at least I fucking tried. That's the only eulogy I need.’
Get Better (Positive Songs For Negative People)
There was a theme on Frank’s last album and it’s pretty darn obvious what that is from the title – positive songs for negative people. It’s a simple but great concept and is one that is clearly apparent in Get Better. The song is positively powerful and, I think, invigorating to the listener. It’s loud and it’s punchy but not in your typical angry punk sort of way – most Frank Turner songs aren’t that ‘punk’, at least not musically. The song is uplifting and just what you need if you’re feeling down, for whatever reason. I can see why the film took its title from this song. ‘We can get better, Because we’re not dead yet.’
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous (Love, Ire & Song)
Love, Ire & Song is without a doubt my favourite Frank Turner album (and I know that is the case for many other fans). I can recite every single word of the opening track, I Knew Prufrock Before He Got famous, without even having the music to back me up. It’s not my favourite song on the album but it is a special. The song is about friendship, happiness and living your life regardless of how much money you make or how famous you are. ‘Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings, About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings, And the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering, And help us with remembering that the only thing that's left to do is live.’
The Road (Poetry Of The Deed)
At the time of Poetry Of The Deed’s release in 2009 I went from liking Frank Turner’s music to loving his music. I went to see him live for the first time and never looked back (show number 1998 for Frank will be 14 for me). I liked POTD but really it just made me listen to his previous two albums more as well. Now, I’m sorry to say, it is my least favourite Frank Turner album but there is one song that sticks out above all the rest – The Road. Frank Turner is always on tour because he loves playing music, even if it means sacrificing any kind of normal life. This song perfectly sums up being ‘on the road’. ‘I face the horizon, the horizon is my home.’
Redemption (England Keep My Bones)
Of course, as I mentioned a moment ago, a life on the road does have its negatives and Redemption is a heart-wrenching take on this. Unlike your more typical song of heartbreak, Frank knows that it is he who is the bad person in this relationship. The other person deserves better than he can offer with his life as a travelling musician and the song serves as a way for him to deal with what he can’t undo. Redemption features some urgent piano and vocals so full of emotion. I actually find it difficult to listen to this song at times – it’s like reading about a particularly painful moment in a novel but it is beautiful.
Father’s Day (Sleep Is For The Week)
From one sad song we come to another with a similarly negative and somewhat heartbreaking tone but this time it isn’t Frank who is wholly the bad guy. Father’s Day is another very personal song that forms a sort of letter to Frank’s father. Frank has never been secretive about the fact that he and his father have never really gotten along and that he didn’t believe that music was a viable pathway for his son. I have no idea if Frank has made any kind of peace with his father but as the song, despite being 10 years old, is still a staple part of his live set, I imagine these feelings are not easily brushed under the carpet. ‘For better or for worse, I am turning into you.’
Long Live The Queen (Love, Ire & Song)
I realise now as I’m writing about these Top Ten Songs that I appear to have grouped the ’sad songs’ together here towards the end but this next song is a sad song with a twist. Long Live The Queen is an ode to Lex, a friend of Frank’s who died much too young of cancer. Rather than feeling sad about Lex’s death – which is not at all what she would have wanted – Frank put his feelings for his friend, and the feeling of life in general, into a fast-paced crowd-pleaser of a track. I bet she never would have imagine that she would live on in a song sung by thousands of Frank Turner fans all over the world. ‘You'll live to dance another day, It's just now you'll have to dance for the two of us. So stop looking so damn depressed, And sing with all your heart that the Queen is dead.’
Plain Sailing Weather (Tape Deck Heart)
The next song of my Top Ten isn’t so much a sad song as an intensely angry song – probably the angriest sounding song that Frank Turner has ever written, to date. When 2013’s Tape Deck Heart was released I liked most of the songs well enough but it was Plain Sailing Weather that was an instant hit with me. It starts slowly with some palm-muted acoustic guitar and Frank’s bitter vocals – ‘Just give me one fine day of plain sailing weather, And I can fuck up anything, anything. It was a wonderful life when we were together, And now I've fucked up every little goddamn thing.’ The pace and the volume pick up and this becomes a proper let-all-you-anger-out kind of song. Perfect.
The Ballad Of Me And My Friends (Sleep Is For The Week)
So this brings us to that song, the one that Frank stated he was never going to play again after playing it at his Wembley Arena show in 2012. But of course that was a silly thing for him to say and he’s probably played it at every show I’ve been to since. The Ballad Of Me And My Friends is an acoustic punk rock anthem. I understand why Frank thought that he probably shouldn’t be playing it anymore because the lyrics are about playing gigs in tiny bars where you’re desperate to get anyone to come and watch rather than playing in arenas. That said, to still play the song shows that he acknowledges where his roots are. I sang along to this song at the top of my lungs in Union Chapel last December which was a strange moment given the last lines of the song – ‘And we're definitely going to hell, But we'll have all the best stories to tell.’
Photosynthesis (Love, Ire & Song)
And last but not least we have Photosynthesis, the song that has served as the encore at almost every Frank Turner show I have ever been to – although one time he actually opened with it which was quite frankly (no pun intended) weird. It’s an upbeat and lively track with an undoubtedly feel-good nature – and you sure as hell can’t stand still whilst listening to it. Photosynthesis is the epitome of just going out there and living your life, not backing down from what you believe in and not ‘growing up’. Fun fact: My dad quoted the line ‘All my friends are getting married, mortgages and pension plans.’ when I signed up to my work’s pension scheme – but I’m not getting married or getting mortgage yet. There’s still plenty of time for me to ‘live’…
I know that Frank Turner is a controversial figure in the world of punk rock, and indeed music in general, and that he has quite a marmite effect with people but I will always love his music. If you’re interested in listening to my Top Ten, maybe you don’t really like Frank Turner but are willing to give this a shot, then I have a playlist on Spotify: