Frank Turner. Image via BBC
Over the last week on Upside Down Shark, I’ve been counting down my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs (previous parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Across the list, there’ve been some seemingly controversial inclusions, some fan-favourites appearing earlier than you may typically expect, a couple of notable omissions and above all else, 40 chunks of Frank Turner goodness. But hey, a personal list is always going to be just that – personal! The aim was never to present a list to please everybody, the aim was to start a discussion about everyone else’s favourites and hopefully get an idea of what other’s people’s lists would look like. We’re all unique and all have different tastes, and that should be celebrated!
So here we are at my Top 10. These are the songs I am calling my favourite Frank Turner tracks. Not necessarily the greatest Frank Turner songs, not the definitive best Frank Turner songs. These are the 10 Frank Turner song that resonate with me the most and that I just so happen to call my absolute favourites. Let’s go!
10. Good & Gone – Tape Deck Heart
‘Sometimes the things you need are right back where you started from’
‘Good & Gone’ is a song I hold very dear to my heart for a good number of reasons, the main of which is, of course, the lyrics. Taking centre stage here, they deal with missing and yearning for a time or relationship which you are no longer in, and how the things you think you absolutely need in life, are sometimes only fleetingly there for you. Also touched on are Hollywood and the band Motley Crue (albeit here more likely used as a stand-in for a scene of bands whose excess will have been tantalising to many), and the trouble they cause in allowing people to fall in love with the make-believe worlds they present to us, and leaving out the downsides of them.
These lyrics are sung over the top of a canvas that is reflective, seemingly nostalgic and on the whole, pretty cheerful. The mellotron and bass lines are both incredibly uplifting, perhaps intending to bring a sense of ‘rose-tinted glasses’ to the whole effort. There’s even some accordion buried in there, most noticeable during the bridge and in the very final moment of the song. For a song that may seem quite simple upon first listen, there’s a good amount actually going on here, an array of instruments all coming together to create the soundscape that underscores the main drive of the song – the aforementioned lyrics.
9. Try This at Home – Poetry of The Deed
‘Because we write love songs in C and we do politics in G, we sing songs about our friends in E minor’
The highest-ranking song from ‘Poetry of The Deed’ on my list. 1 minute and 53 seconds of pure Folk-Punk energy, ‘Try This at Home’ is a highlight in Frank’s catalogue simply because it’s a song I will never tire of. Its short length means it comes and goes in a flash that will never fail to get me revved up. The song truly comes alive, though, in the live show, where it’s an injection of life into the room regardless of where it’s played in the set – this song doesn’t care if you’re tired and need a rest, you’re gonna dance and sing at the top of your lungs regardless!
Lyrically, it’s a song about how we can all pick up instruments and play, write songs and just have a whale of a time playing music with and for each other. The song also serves to remind us that the people on the stage we may pay to see are, at the end of the day, just like us and were once in the crowd with the same hopes and dreams we may have.
8. To Take You Home – Love Ire & Song
‘Who’d have thought that a French kiss from a Parisian girl could capture and English boy?’
‘To Take You Home’ once again sees Frank Turner focussing far more into his Folky/Earthy side, singing about a relationship he had with a French girl he met at a Metal concert. Regarding this particular relationship, Frank recounts in his first book, ‘The Road Beneath My Feet’, that after finishing this song and returning to France to play it for her, she broke up with him. Still, if nothing else, he got a good song out of the relationship!
I really love the production on this track, giving the overall feel, and guitars especially, a sound that feels enveloping, as if you were out in a valley hearing the music played from afar. There’s also something of a stomp to the track which I really love, and also adds to that far-off feel the production brings.
7. Get Better – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘We can get better because we’re not dead yet’
An incredibly defiant song on the subject of picking yourself up, dusting yourself down and just saying ‘no, actually I’m not going to let this beat me’. It fits into every possible scenario in which you might find yourself having had a rough time, and perhaps it’s a little on-the-nose in its message, but who cares? Sometimes you need a song that reminds you not to just lay down and take the shit that’s been thrown at you. A reminder that all the while you are still a live, there’s a chance for you to get better, as long as you’re willing to take it.
There really isn’t a lot more to say about this song; it wears its heart on its sleeve in an incredibly refreshing way, and is very much the benchmark tone that the rest of the songs on PS4NP strive to keep.
6. I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous – Love Ire & Song
‘Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings, about fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings’
The highest-ranking song from ‘Love Ire & Song’ on my list, ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ is an anthem for everyone down the pub with their mates and attempting to settle into the role they play in society. It also serves the listener a reminder that life isn’t about big goals and achievements, but is really about the seemingly small moments we spend with our friends, the on-the-fly trips we take and the things that really make us who we are. In short, it’s a song about remembering who you are and to live your life instead of focussing on the big things that you hope to achieve but may never happen.
Frank’s travelling music festival, now in its third year, of course takes its name from the lyrics to this song. And just as an aside, if you haven’t managed to get along to Lost Evenings yet, the moment you get the chance to go, you should take it!
5. If Ever I Stray – England Keep My Bones
‘The path I chose isn’t straight and narrow, it wanders around like a drunken fellow. Some days it’s hard for me to follow, but if you’ve got my back I’ll go on’
‘If Ever I Stray’ is a song focussing on the trials and tribulations you will likely come across on your way through life. More importantly, however, it’s a song about being happy with the path you’ve chosen, in spite of these road bumps, and wanting to be reminded of this fact if you ever find yourself questioning this path. Not quite as prominent is the message that as long as someone has your back, you’ve got the support and belief you need to continue. A song with a genuine sense of camaraderie behind it, and even a great deal of self-belief and confidence in what you are doing.
4. Recovery – Tape Deck Heart
‘It’s a long road up to recovery from here, a long way back to the light’
The highest-ranking song from ‘Tape Deck Heart’ on my list, in many respects I see ‘Recovery’ as the prequel to ‘Get Better. Whereas the latter song is the act of getting yourself out of a funk, ‘Recovery’ is very much the moment wherein you realise you have a problem that you really ought to fix. By Frank’s own admission, the lyrics are autobiographical. The opening line of the song makes reference to waking up in a stranger’s flat, Frank saying it was that moment in which he finally found the clarity to admit to his problems.
In typical Frank fashion, these lyrics that score a dark time in your life are sung over the top of a considerably joyous musical canvas, and it’s that dichotomy that I think propels this song to really excel in the way it does.
3. Glory Hallelujah – England Keep My Bones
‘There is no God, so clap your hands together. There is no God. No Heaven and no Hell’
It should obviously be stated straight off the bat that this song is not anti-religion, but is in fact an attempt to write a song in the vein of the countless theistic anthems out there whilst putting forward the opposing view. Frankly, even without hearing the song, it’s a solid idea, so many songs with a clearly defined atheist’s perspective tend to stray into very hate-filled and bitter territory, and are often played by Black or Death Metal bands, meaning they aren’t necessarily that palatable.
The organ and the choir singing in the background are brilliant touches which add an ironic twist to the song, in reference to the songs that inspired this one. Perhaps it’s just my atheistic bias showing, but the chorus to this song is my favourite sing-along in the entirety of Frank’s catalogue; being in an arena singing these words out loud with thousands of people is something that gives me butterflies, and I genuinely don’t think I will ever tire of it.
2. Peggy Sang the Blues – England Keep My Bones
‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go. No one gets remembered for the things they didn’t do’
The highest-ranking song from ‘England Keep My Bones’ on my list, ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’ is just a wonderfully uplifting song. The music, the lyrics, everything about this song is just designed to make you feel good inside, and it does so in heaps.
The song’s lyrics see Frank chatting with his Grandmother, Peggy, in a dream, and her imparting the wisdom of the lyrics quoted above to him. As such, it’s a song about life being what you make of it as an individual, and that your background should really have little to do with what you go on to do and achieve in life.
1. Demons – Positive Songs for Negative People
‘Life gave me demons, but I made friends with the devil so I’m invincible’
Honestly, there are so many different lines from this song I’d have loved to quote above this paragraph, but the one I’ve gone with felt the most apt. The highest-ranking song from ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’, and my favourite Frank Turner song, ‘Demons’ may be something of a surprise to many. From the moment I first heard it back in 2015, appearing midway through the track list of an album I now call one of my favourites of all time, I knew this was a song that I would hold close to my heart for the rest of my time on this planet.
The song is something of a love letter to the mere fact that you are alive, and in my darkest moments, it’s a song that has always gotten me through. On top of that, it’s an ambassador for living life well and to its fullest extent, because ‘you’re not delivering a perfect body to the grave’ and ‘time is not there to be saved’. Life may throw some genuinely difficult moments at you, but getting through them will make you stronger. You may miss out on some things, but you will still be able to stand tall and say you’re alive.
And there we have it, my Top 10 favourite Frank Turner songs, and the final part of my personal Top 50 favourite Frank Turner songs. Putting this list together has been enormous fun, and my main hope now is to go and converse and discuss with any potential readers their own personal lists, find any crossovers we may have in taste, and also hear why I’m a complete moron for including some songs over other songs!
At the end of the day, Frank Turner is one of my favourite artists, his catalogue is filled to the brim with brilliance and barely an off-moment to be found (still looking at you, ‘English Curse’). On top of that, the community that follows Frank and his work is honestly the best one I’ve ever felt a part of, with the general majority being nothing but brilliantly positive people who are an absolute joy to talk to and feel connected to via our love of Frank. Whether you’ve enjoyed my list or not, thank you very much for reading, and I hope to see you all down the front.