I recently listened to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4:
Desert Island Discs is a biographical and factual radio programme, broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast on 29 January 1942 and celebrated its 70th anniversary in early 2012.
Each week a distinguished guest ("castaway") is asked to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be castaway on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices. It was devised and originally presented by Roy Plomley. Since 2006, the show has been presented by Kirsty Young. (info from Wikipedia).
Russell Brand was the ‘castaway’ on the programme I listened to. It was very interesting. Russell was probably more honest and open about himself than I have heard him before. Listening to him made me think how challenging it must be to rummage inside yourself and come up with a list of songs that mean most, and that you treasure and would not want to lose.
So, I decided it would be a good idea to do a bit of rummaging myself and compile my own list, and evaluate the reason for my choices.
It would be quite easy for me to choose a list of my eight favourite songs, but it's not that simple. If you are going to take eight discs with you, and that's all you will have, you need to choose songs which have meaning for you, and that invoke memories, which stir, comfort, and inspire you. The list becomes a very personal thing, only important to the person who compiles it, with no real value to others, who may scratch their heads and wonder why some tunes have been included.
I've put Youtube videos for all the songs below, but I realise that they are probably not available on most mobile devices (iPads, iPhones etc), So I have now added a link for each of the songs. If you click on the link it should take you to the video on Youtube.
Those who know me well will know that I am quite an emotional person. Most of the songs I’ve chosen are quite emotional and stir my emotions.
So here goes: The first song I have chosen is the aria La Mamma Morta sung by Maria Callas. I first heard it the film Philadelphia. This film, and this song particularly, touched me deeply and helped me sort out some of my ingrained prejudices. So every time I hear it now it stirs something within me.
Secondly, I’ve chosen Sæglópur by Sigur Rós. This song represents a boy of work which I have come to love. I play Sigur Rós music regularly, especially when I’m driving. Again their music is very emotional. Consistent with my obsessive personality I have collected almost everything they have ever recorded.
I became interested in Sigur Rós several years ago when Davina and I went to Camden Town and bought the album Takk, which Davina found reduced in a shop and, thought it would appeal to me. She was right (she knows me very well). They mostly sing in Icelandic so I can’t understand what the songs are about but the beauty of the music and language never fail to touch me.
We were very fortunate to see them live last month, at the Eden Project, here in Cornwall. I never imagined we would see them perform live, but the dream came true and it was an incredible evening.
My next choice is Cold, haily, rainy night by The Imagined Village. We saw this band live at the St Ives Festival in 2010. They art a multicultural group of musicians who take traditional English folk tunes and give them a new twist. This song will always remind me of the time when we first moved to Cornwall, something we dreamt of, but never thought would happen.
Dance the Night Away by The Mavericks became special to Davina and I when we first got together, and it has been special ever since. Whenever we hear it, it makes us smile and want to dance (although, you wouldn’t want to see me dance).
On the Street Where You Live sung by Mario Lanza will always remind me of my brother John, who died in a car accident in 1970. In our mid teens John and I both thought we had brilliant voices and used to try singing this song in our bedroom, in competition with each other. His voice was much better than mine, but I would never have admitted that then. The strange thing is that I always thought it came from West Side Story, maybe because we also used to sing ‘Maria’ together, but I have just discovered it comes from the My Fair Lady!!!
There was a time in my life, as some of my friends will remember, when I mostly listened to music by Willie Nelson. I became obsessed with him and talked about him a lot. So I’ve chosen ‘I'd have to be Crazy’, which I still think is brilliant, to remind me of those days.
Caruso by Julio Iglesias is another song where I cannot understand the words, but the raw emotion in Julio’s voice never fails to make the hairs on my arms stand up!
Finally I have picked We Are Young by Fun just because I love it and because it is fun, it makes me want to sing and always puts a smile on my face.
So those are my eight ‘Desert Island Discs’. You may ask, “Where are the songs that remind of your children and other family members?” Well, the memories of my family are so real, vivid, lively, and lovely, that I will never need reminders of them.
Now I have to choose a book and a luxury item.
I am spoilt for choice with books. I narrowed it down to three:
An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan, which probably touched me and changed me like no other book has.
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, which helped me so much when I was having to make big decisions about the direction of my life.
But, I have chosen The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster. A book, which is so well crafted that, I could read it time and time again and never get bored with it. It’s my favourite book and the one I took with me to get signed when I met Paul Auster at The Cheltenham Literary Festival last year.
Now I have to choose a luxury item. I would take my Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler. It’s an amazing razor. It easily trims my ugly eyebrows and helps me get rid of the awkward little hairs that grow in funny places when you get to me age. I'm not sure what I'd do when the battery ran out!