Silent Key

Album: Positive Songs For Negative People (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about Christa McAuliffe, the social studies teacher who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster when the rocket exploded less than two minutes after blasting off from Cape Canaveral. "The Challenger space shuttle disaster of 1986 is something I have vague memories of happening," Frank Turner recalled to NME. "Christa McAuliffe was a high school teacher who was put on board to engage children with the programme and then preceded to die on national television."

    "The fact that I found out that really threw me in the loop was that she didn't die when the rocket exploded, she died when the capsule hit the water, two minutes and 45 seconds later."

    Turner appears to have bought into the rumor that McAuliffe survived the explosion and transmitted the words "I'm alive!" as the shuttle fell to earth. The official report about the disaster was not able to establish this with absolute certainty.
  • The song features a guest appearance from singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson. Turner explained: "I wanted the end to be sung by an American woman as Christa. We went through lots of different suggestions and options. The record label were suggesting some of the more famous people that Butch (Walker, producer) has worked with. No contact was ever made but they were like, 'Let's ask Taylor Swift.' It was like, "That's a f--king rubbish idea." So Esme Patterson who is signed to Xtra Mile sang it."
  • When NME spoke to Turner about the song, he expressed concerns over what might happen when Christa McAuliffe's relatives heard it. "It's important that the song is not disrespectful to her or belittling and making light of her and her experience," he said. "It's supposed to be a positive message, because, while it is tragic that she died, it's still something to achieve in your life, to be put in a space shuttle."
  • Singer-songwriter John Denver had entertained ambitions of becoming the first civilian in space, going as far as undertaking a NASA induction program. When news of the Challenger space shuttle tragedy reached him, he wrote and recorded the tribute song "Flying For Me."

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