I’m a fan of radio. Not music radio, though. Talk radio. Most of which I listen to these days courtesy of podcasts. I like solitude as well as company, and the radio allows me to dip in and out of both at will, without offending anyone. Radio brings greats friends whom I’ve never met into my life at the touch of a button. And the same button can make them disappear just as quickly if they start to bore me. I feel blessed, or at least as blessed as an agnostic infidel can be, to have been brought up with the BBC at my side. They make the best radio programmes in the whole world. In my opinion.
Desert Island Discs is one of the best, although I’m an infrequent listener. The guest has to be someone who interests me. It’s also one of the longest running radio shows in the world. Second only to Grand Ole Opry, I believe. The show has just marked its seventieth anniversary. That’s quite some milestone. The concept is simple. Choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury object. The last of which has to be inanimate, and not something which can aid escape from the island or allow communication beyond its borders. Each guest is provided with the Complete Works of Shakespeare and a bible. Which is handy. Even desert islands can get nippy at night, and a supply of kindling is no bad thing. I loathe Shakespeare.
It’s extremely unlikely that I will ever be invited to regale the Beeb’s listeners with my choices. But I hate being left out. I will enlighten you, my bloggists, with my choices. And please feel free to leave your own in the comments. I am interested. I’ll choice eight singles rather than albums. Singles tend to be more emotive. But maybe I’ll cheat with the book.
The first song is also the most recent. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. It was voted ‘Song of the Noughties’ by one major poll in the UK, and rightfully so. It, like all of my choices, has a timeless quality about it. Good thing too, because I’ll have just these eight songs to listen to till the end of my days on the desert island.
Second up is Cielito Lindo. Having lived in Mexico for all those years, it would be impossible not to have at least one very Mexican song in my collection. This one not only brings so many memories flooding back, but is also the most beautiful. If music can be beautiful, then this is the perfect example. Especially the version I’ve linked to.
Third place is, perhaps, a little cliche. Maybe all eight are. But the Doors filled a large musical void in my life in the late 80’s and early 90’s and shaped many of my musical tastes. They are one of two bands who have a whole bunch of songs I love and could have picked, but I decided only one song per artist or band. And for the Doors, it is The End. It’s a masterpiece. It’s so melancholic, so soulful and so meaningful. It was the soundtrack to many
stoned and otherwise reality altered pleasant afternoons and evenings with my buddies. It’s the soundtrack of a life I had long ago, one that passed into history. I don’t live there any more. It’s a life I miss but have no intention of returning to.
I’d like to visit Jim Morrisons grave in Paris one day. It’d be photogenic. I can leave a momento to his death and the death of my teenage years. While I was flaked out listing to Jim Morrison, there was new music being created. I liked Nirvana, but I never quite got the hype. They were always a distant second to Pearl Jam. Distant. One has mood swings as a teenager, and Alive fulfilled the spots that the Doors couldn’t reach.
Cover songs are rarely a patch on the original. But there is one I think is far, far superior. Gary Jules remake of Mad World. Tears for Fears didn’t do this tune justice. But then they did once fire a girl for not being good enough. A girl who went on to gain fame as Madonna. Jules cover worked. One song which has been covered umpteen times without ever touching the original is the Man Who Sold the World. Along with the Doors, David Bowie is another artist from whom I could pick a bunch of songs. But this was his best. I dig melancholic tunes. But it has to have a tune. Something special. Something unique. Something that you can’t get out of your head, but don’t want it to leave anyway. Where is My Mind by the Pixies fits the bill just perfect.
On to the book. How can you take one book?! I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book twice in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to read, and get through plenty of books. But I’ve never felt the urge to pick up a book I’ve already read. There’s just too many books I haven’t read to get through first. But there’s one title I’d like to take with me, although I’m sure it breaks the rules. The Encylopedia Britannica. It’s very me. Jack of all trades, master of none. I’m interested in a wide variety of subjects, but never interested enough to want more than a 60 minute documentary can provide. Plus, it still uses British English. My native tongue has been corrupted by too much exposure to the American version. I regularly use both British and American spelling in the same paragraph. It must stop.
On to the luxury object. This is the tough one. Picking those songs was surprisingly easy. The book too. But what sort of inanimate luxury object can I take? A musical instrument is tempting. A guitar. It’d have longevity in the entertainment department. But I can’t play, and could see me getting frustrated and placing it on top of the bible and Shakespeare books – aka the kindling. I know this because I did buy a guitar in Oaxaca once. It was a nice ornament, but nothing more.
Here’s my pick. A tennis ball. Or a tube of three, if I may. I’m that sort of person. I can entertain myself for hours on end bouncing a ball against a wall. Or bowling to a wicket. Or playing keepy-ups. Plus, the island is bound to have trees. I can fashion a bat and racquet. Yes, my luxury inanimate object would be a tennis ball. There may also be turtles coming up the beach on my desert island. I can throw the ball for them to fetch. They move slow, but I will have all day.
So that’s my list. Almost. The observant amongst you (or at least those who can count) will have noticed I picked just seven songs. Not eight, as is the rule. Tradition has it that the guest leaves their favourite piece of music till last. Mine is a Pink Floyd track. It had to be. There’s no other band I’ve listened to more. No band I could happily listen to more. And one track stands out above all others. Above even Mother, Wish You Were Here and Comfortably Numb.
My youth had a definitive point at which it ended. Technically, it dragged on a year more. But at a very specific point my wild years were checked. This song doesn’t represent that moment in any way. But it represented my way of life. Whatever your choice of poison, whether it be legal or not, has an effect on you. I was never really a jump up, raving, action type of person. Although I had my moments. I’d consume my poison and enjoy the feeling. Savour it. Make it last. Stare at the stars. Philosophise. Enjoy the wonder. This song brought all those into focus. And in hindsight, the lyrics are fitting when I listen to it today. It’s mellow. It builds up. It explodes. It’s mellow again. It’s wonderful.