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  • Steve Lamacq
  • 20 Nov 08, 02:39 PM


Frank Turner looks nine feet tall, with a grin that must measure a foot wide. Looking out from a cramped stage, the former punk rock drummer turned Bragg-style troubadour beams a 200 Watt smile as the assembled rowdy audience underpin a rousing chorus of his song Reasons Not To Be An Idiot.

This is one of my favourite memories of this year's Reading Festival - watching Turner in the Radio 1 Punk Tent. But what a year he's had. Looking at his live itinerary you start to suspect his agent has been playing some sort of join the dots type game with him and his touring schedule. He's been all over Europe, through America - and even made his debut at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

I love the man. Not only is he more low-fee than lo-fi, his genuine (some might say 'mad') enthusiasm for getting out and communicating with people has led him to play more than 200 gigs in 2008. That's a lot of floors he must have slept on?

"No, I've totally sold out these days. I'm all about Travelodge," he told me on Monday. "Seriously, I've gone over to the dark side. Admittedly we sleep about 19 of us per room but we're not sleeping on student hall floors anymore...mostly because I don't know anyone at uni anymore!"

Turner studied History at the LSE in London before some years drumming in the band Million Dead (who also toured 'enthusiastically' before finally calling it a day).

I only chanced upon him through his first solo EP Campfire Punkrock a couple of years ago but have followed him ever since. This I can prove, because when he recorded one of his London gigs, he took the names of everyone in the crowd and namechecked the entire audience on the sleeve of the CD.

There is a real 'everyman' quality about him: an instinctive inclusiveness which gives his work an empathy and tenderness sometimes missing in angry young men who would cheerfully bring down the government if they had the chance (made more sinister in Turner's case because in a pointy hat he'd be the dead spit of Guy Fawkes).

"Sometimes people come up and giggle and say they've brought their mum and dad down with them to the gigs, but I think that's great. I don't want to be just making music for hip 20-somethings who live in Dalston."

For the most part this year, Turner has been playing songs from his terrific punk-folk album Love Ire & Song, but there have been numerous EP appearances and live sessions along the way - which will be rounded up in a new 23-track compilation The First Three Years released by the Xtra Mile Recordings label on December 1.

And despite a recent bout of gastroenteritis, he is back out on tour, first in Europe supporting his boyhood heroes The Levellers and then back in Blighty. I've got the London show in my diary because I really want to see how he fits all those dates on the back of a T-shirt.

Talking of which, we are on something of a mission on the 6Music show - to celebrate the importance of the good old fashioned 'band' T-shirt. For too long we have stood aside and watched in silence as hobby-horses like Peaches Geldof and Sienna Miller have paraded around LA in Led Zeppelin and Ramones T-shirts - attempting to purchase some credibility but in turn suggesting that the band shirt is nothing more than a fashion accessory.

But no longer! We say dig out your T-shirts and be proud! Show them we care who we wear on our chests; and that we are not going to stand idly by as they undermine the lost art of showing people "we were there at the Brixton Academy in 1998" or "we travelled all the way to Wolverhampton on a Tuesday in November and still have the shirt to prove it."

It is a very silly piece of righteousness I know, but seriously I grew up among a generation of teenagers who could only start conversations with people who wore the right shirts. A time when there was no greater high in life than when someone nodded almost imperceptibly at your T-shirt as you waded to the bar - or spoke to you on a train because you'd identified yourself by your Teenage Fanclub hoodie.

So thanks to the listeners who have already e-mailed in shots of their favourite shirts. Please feel free to join in.

I think I might slope off now and try and find that pale blue Pavement shirt I bought when they supported My Bloody Valentine in New York. How horrifyingly smug is that? I doubt I'll sleep tonight.


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