Frank Turner is a stellar musician and songwriter with an appeal that attracts folk fans just as much as punk rockers. But on the surface, despite an increasingly higher profile with each new record, he seems like an unlikely candidate for a traditional rock memoir. Just shy of a decade into his solo career, all indications are that he’s still a long way off from putting the guitar in the back of the closet, usually the impetus for most rockers to finally put their memoirs on paper.
But oddly enough, “The Road Beneath My Feet” works. And it works, mainly because it’s not written like a standard rock bio, but much more like a tour diary, complete with tales from the road of late night drinking, great shows, awful shows, and run-ins with strangers and peers along the way. (Particularly interesting is a one night set where Turner opened for one of his musical heroes, Evan Dando. The Lemonheads frontman was clearly not at his best, as Turner describes how he upset his hero by not being able to score drugs for him that night.)
Starting with a September 2005 entry describing the last show from Turner’s hardcore band Million Dead, he writes with an equal mix of honesty and humor about his decision to take a different path, heading out first as a solo artist (eventually building up a regular backing band, the Sleeping Souls) and switching musical genres entirely, opting for an acoustic guitar, updating a style Billy Bragg made popular years ago.
Just before the epilogue, he closes the book with an April 2012 entry, after playing a triumph set at Wembley Arena. In between is an intimate and surprisingly frank look at a musician starting over, playing tiny venues across the globe, getting stiffed by promoters and sleeping on strangers’ floors. The anecdotes are touching at times, often laugh-out-loud funny, and almost always self-effacing (Turner is pretty humble considering how talented he is and how much he has accomplished over the past decade).
A thoroughly enjoyable book, even if you’re not familiar with Turner’s music. But you really should be.