Frank Turner’s Lyrical History of Mankind : FTHC (Deluxe) Edition

You didn’t really think my album review was the end of my ramblings about the new Frank Turner record, did you? Because months ago I already found some historical references in the songs which were already out. So I had a proper look at all the lyrics now. Yes, Big #NerdAlert. Again. The following will be – or in part already has been – added to my overall compilation “Frank Turner’s Lyrical History of Mankind” from 2020. But I thought I’d do a extra post for the FTHC (Deluxe CD) songs. If you think I missed a reference, leave a comment or get in touch via mail, twitter etc…

Non Serviam

In 1667 John Milton publishes his epic poem “Paradise Lost” about the biblical story of Adam and Eve, the Fall of Men, but also the Fallen Angel Lucifer. In this poem Lucifer states

Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven.

which is considered the origin of another quote in the work of another famous writer: James Joyce. In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (1916) the main character Stephan Dedalus hears the following in a priest’s sermon:

Theologians consider that it was the sin of pride, the sinful thought conceived in an instant: non serviam: I will not serve. That instant was his ruin.

Which Stephan Dedalus states once more in Joyce “Ullyseus” (1922)

The intellectual imagination! With me all or not at all. Non serviam!

I found a good article which explains a bit more here.

There is more than the title though.

Wiping the blood of your friends on your lintels.
Banish me and sentence me to drink the hemlock,
But I will not bow down, I will not tug on my forelock

The blood on lintels expression goes back to Moses (I already wrote about him here), who according to the bible was told by God that

“they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it” (Exodus 12:7)

for God to recognize the homes of the good Israelites and not kill their firstborn child.

Hemlock was used as poison in ancient Greece. Most people might remember it because Socrates died by drinking hemlock. I wrote about Socrates here.

Tugging the forelock as a sign of respect or rather deference originates from the 19th century, probably Nelson’s Navy. [One Word A Day]

The Gathering

So sound the alarms and the sirens, the bells in the churches

This might a bit of a leap from me here. But considering “The Gathering” as a victorious song to end a period of not being able to have gathering (aka lockdown and the like), I think we can safely assume the church bells here don’t ring for liturgical reasons. Though… There is the preacher / sermon bit later on. Anyway, having church bell ring to announce a victory goes back to the siege of Belgrade in 1453.

During both World Wars the church bells in the UK were silenced, partly because they were melted down to use the material to build canons and such. Partly to not give away location of settlements. In both wars the bells were rung to signal the victorious end of the war. [HistoryHit]

Haven’t Been Doing So Well

If self loathing was a sport, I’d be Muhammad Ali,
Because I can sting like a butterfly and sink like a bee.

Muhammad Ali is known not just for his boxing success or his politics, but also for quite a few memorable quotes. In 1964 early in his career he answered the question about his strategy / tactics as the underdog with

 Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Because I’m not Joe Strummer, not Muhammed Ali,

The mention of punkrock legend Joe Strummer (1952 – 2002), singer of “The Clash” is a historical reference as well, at least accoring to my “rules” 🙂

Untainted Love

I sure do miss them drugs

This line can be attributed to Johnny Cash, who said those words to Bono from U2, after having said grace before having dinner. I found a few sources for that in Google Books. And of course Frank himself gave that explanation in an interview recently.


Have you heard the news?
I finally found Jesus.
And I said, “I can see what you mean, JC,
But at least he’s paying some kind of attention
To his miraculously spawned conception.

Jesus. I wrote about him in the original post too. Whether or not you believe in Christian theology and immaculate conception, I think it is indisputable, that this man lived at that time. We’ve based our calendars on this for ages, for Christ’s sake. A lot of exclamations too, obviously 😉

The Ressurectionists

I absolutely loved this song from the first moment, but the choice of title/lyrics puzzled me a bit. “Ressurrectionists” were those strange people in the 19th century who stole dead human bodies from morgues or even dug them out of their graves. [Wikipedia] So it felt like a weird choice for a title / lyric in the context of this song. I’m glad I don’t have to puzzle it out for myself, as Frank explained it in an interview / podcast a few days ago. Can’t remember which at the moment, or I’d link to it. It’s basically a throwback to the writer Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870), who at some point mischievously left a calling card which stated “Charles Dickens – Ressurectionist – in search of a subject”.

We’re motherfuckers and pharisees

Is apparently a quote from Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977). If there is context needed: the pharisees were a group of Jews, who adhered to a certain sets of beliefs, tradition, rules. Jesus criticized them for a few behaviours in the “Woes of the Pharisees”. And as history (aka the bible) favours Jesus of course, the Pharisees became a synonym for hypocrites and the likes.

and no longer all of a company

refers back to a speech Francis Drake made during his circumnavigation of the globe: In 1578 before leaving the port of St. Julian (Argentina) to cross over into the Pacific – after he had his co-commander Doughty executed for treason! [Historical account of all voyages…]

But, my Masters, I must have it cease; for I must have the gentlemen to haul and draw with the mariners, and the mariners with the gentlemen: and let us shew ourselves to be all of a company; and let us not give occasion to the enemy to rejoice at our decay and overthrow.

Justin left Southampton and got famous like I said,
And Adam, he got married, and now he’s happy down in Plumstead.
Jay’s a dad and Tre’s out back with Dave, and Tommy, who knows?
They say he disappeared like Harps and Zo,
But then I saw him this one time in Mexico.

I guess all of us, who remember the songs from the early records had a “OMG, how cool” reaction to these lines. Which of course are an update on the people from the early 2000s mentioned in “I Knew Prufrock Before I Got Famous” (2008) .

Justin is the last of the great romantic poets,
And he’s the only one among us who is ever going to make it.
Jay is our St George, and he’s standing on a wooden chair,
And he sings songs and he slays dragons, and he’s losing all his hair.
Adam is the resurrected spirit of Gram Parsons,
In plaid instead of rhinestone and living in South London.
And no one’s really clear about Tommy’s job description,
But it’s pretty clear he’s vital to the whole damn operation.
Dave Danger smiles at strangers, Tre’s the safest girl I know,
Zo and Harps will skamper up to victory in the city we call home.

There is one last quote in this song:

Trying to find us some kind of food in toyshops and gunsmiths,

which is a quote from the novel “Anna Karenina” (1878) by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

“He was in the position of a man seeking for food in a toyshop or a gunsmith.”

Little Life

Where I heard the mermaids singing,
Each to each and to you and me.

Mythology is part of history, right? In this context I was interested to find out, when the myth of mermaids and their song actually started. It goes way back to ancient Greece (3.000 – 1.000 BC), where it was told, that sea people were luring humans with their beautiful singing. [History of Yesteryears]

Farewell To My City

London Skyline, View from Alexandra Palace, 2019
London Skyline, View from Alexandra Palace, 2019

I got tired of London, not tired of life.

Frank referenced Samuel Johnson in songs before. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) was a writer, biographer and a Londoner and is among other things know for this quote from 1777:

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

London, you can keep my bones

is of course, another variation of the well know (to the Frank audience) Shakespeare quote:

Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones! (King John, Act 4, Scene 3)

Read more on Frank and Shakespeare here

The Zeitbeast

What a great song in general, but als for nerdy me, dropping references by the truckload…

Some say he’s from the Delta, or that he belonged to Frank Sinatra
Or maybe Miles Davis, though he was into cats
All I know for certain is that he ended up with Elvis
And that wherever that beast lays, that’s where it’s at

It starts with the Mississippi Delta, where Blues music and culture have it’s roots [Visit the Delta].

I don’t think the following men need any context, but just for the record:

Singer and actor Frank Sinatra (1915 – 1998), who is considered to be one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century. [Website].

Jazz musician (trumpeter), bandleader, composer Miles Davis (1926 – 1991) [Website].

And of course the “King of Rock’n’Roll” Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977) [Website]

So he was snuffling ’round Sunset in the sixties
Until the scenesters scared him off to London Town

The Sunset Strip in LA was the place to be for young and upcoming musicians in the 1960: Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, The Monkeys, Sonny and Cher… [City of West Hollywood]

He hung out at the Marquee with Hendrix and the Yardbirds
While all that heavy shit was going down

The Marquee Club in Soho, London was one of the most important venue for the British music scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s. [History of the Marquee]

Another artist who doesn’t really need any more context: Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970) [Website].

The Yardbirds do need some context, at least I thought I’d never heard of them before. When I did some research, I thought, I probably did hear the name at some point, but it obviously slipped my mind. An english rock band in the late 1960s, their lead guitarist from 1963 – 1965 was … Eric Clapton! [Yardbirds at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]

The seventies found him stuck in CBGBs
Until he snuck uptown to Studio 54

CBGB in New York is considered to be the birthplace of punk. From the Ramones in the 1970s to Green Day in the 1990, everybody played there. It closed it’s doors in October 2016, with the legendary Patti Smith playing the final gig. [CBGB Website]

Studio 54 was a legendary New York nightclub of the disco era in the late 1970s [History of Yesteryears].

And later, back up in Manchester
In the midst of that loving second summer
Folks said they saw him sniffing around the Hacienda’s back door

The Hacienda was another legendary, notorious nightclub, this one in Manchester. Open from 1982 to 1997 it was home for the house and rave scene of that time [ Oral History of Hacienda].

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