Desert Island Discs, for those not familiar, is a long running radio show listened to by large audiences in the UK. The idea is that each show has one guest who has the task of selecting eight pieces of music they would take with them to a desert island. They are also allowed to identify one ‘luxury item’ they would also pack, with the strict understanding that it can’t be something that would assist, in any way, with an escape from the island. One book can also be selected to go alongside a bible and the complete works of Shakespeare.
For the purposes of the radio show the guest is then interviewed about their choices and the reasons for them. As Kirsty Young (presenter of Desert Island Discs) has not responded to my emails, calls, telegrams, late night knocks on her front door etc.. I have had to amend the flow slightly and detail my own selections without the prompting of an interviewer.
It would be really stupendous, if after reading this post, you could let me know at least one of the pieces of music you would select should you find yourself stranded on your own desert island. Feel free to share all eight and the luxury item if you wish but something is always better than nothing. Unless the ‘something’ causes me pain, costs me money or gets me thrown in prison but that’s for another post once the scars have healed.
Before I let you in on my final choices I thought I’d list some of those that didn’t quite make the cut. Selecting eight records for this is difficult as the ones that made it aren’t necessarily my favourite songs but they do remind me of significant events, places, people in my life that are part the story I’d like to tell, although one small part might be a slight exaggeration but I’ll leave it to you to see if you can guess which bit.
The ones that aren’t on the list include:
Let it Be (The Beatles)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Graceland (Paul Simon)
Life on Mars (David Bowie)
Seven Wonders (Fleetwood Mac)
For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
Fools Gold (The Stone Roses)
In terms of the ‘luxury item’ I discounted Sky Q, my electric blanket and the toaster. Even writing this last sentence has made me think very carefully about ever putting myself in a position where I end up on a Desert Island that isn’t well served by shopping centres and a satellite television platform.
I don’t want to joke about books, they’re too important. From Here to Eternity was close to being my choice. If only because I actually stole it from the Waterstones book shop as a teenager. I got away with it but I still think that one day I’ll get a tap on the shoulder and be made to pay for my crime.
Anyway without further delay…..
- My Life (The Beatles)
I was brought up on the Beatles. A car journey anywhere without a mix tape containing many of the Fab Four’s finest was a rare event indeed. There are several other Beatles tracks I could have chosen, certainly ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is my favourite of theirs, but I’ve included this one because it reminds me of my unfortunate attempt at karaoke in Benidorm.
It’s possible I could be the worst singer the world has ever seen. Combine this with crippling shyness and a marked lack of stage presence and you can probably understand why I’ve avoided such evenings of ‘fun and frivolity’ for most of my life.
A couple of days non stop drinking, in the salubrious sunshine resort of Benidorm, changed this though. Sitting in a very quiet bar with the DJ desperately trying to recruit volunteers for the karaoke I was suddenly struck with the notion that this was exactly what I should be getting myself involved in so put my name down, selecting ‘My Life’ as the song I would make the first I would ever perform live in public.
As the time grew closer to my stage debut I remained relatively calm about the impending embarrassment I was about to heap on myself. The bar was very quiet so hardly anybody would bare witness to my self inflicted humiliation.
After two or three very decent singers had taken their turn the DJ announced the next volunteer and also indicated that I would be next up. Almost as soon as he said my name the door to the bar was flung open and about ten thousand people entered all at once, word must have got around.
By now I’d sobered up completely and the nerves were tingling. It was too late to backdown though so I had no choice to climb on the stage and do my best. As it turned out my ‘best’ was horrific with the audience laughing uproariously throughout. I’d like to be able to write that they were laughing with me but it was very much a case that they were laughing at me.
I believe a video of my performance exists somewhere. I’d pay good money to make sure it never sees the light of day.
2. You’ll Never Walk Alone (Gerry and the Pacemakers)
I actually don’t think that this, when heard just as the version originally recorded by Gerry Marsden and his band, is a great song. It’s a decent song, but nothing more than that.
When it’s sung by a football crowd, however, there’s nothing can compare. It can make you cry, it can make you feel like you’re part of something bigger than all of us, it can inspire, it can frighten and it will make you sing.
I’m a Liverpool fan, it’s our club anthem and I’ve been involved in some memorable renditions down the years. For the purposes of this though, I’ve chosen to include a version from the friendly game Liverpool played away at Celtic in the aftermath of the Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 Liverpool supporters tragically lost their lives. I had broken my leg eleven days previously so had been unable to attend, although I’m certain I wouldn’t have been in the pen where lives were lost. I’d been at the Semi Final at the same venue, twelve months previously so would have headed to the same place I’d stood then, I’ve since made it my habit, when at Anfield (although it has been a while) to pay my respects at the memorial. In particular I always seek out the names of those who were the same age as me in 1989. I am thankful for the life I’ve had since that they weren’t so fortunate to achieve. I remind myself that I owe it to them to keep moving forward and to be the best person I can be. Of course, I don’t always (often) succeed and when I don’t there is always the sense that I am letting them down.
3. Round Are Way (Oasis)
This was a B side, I think, but I love the lyrics. It reminds me so much of my childhood. Twenty a side football games that seemed to go on for hours, hanging with friends on street corners and deliberately getting up to mischief just to get a chase.
I have a million stories from my childhood, I’m sure we all do, but the one that springs to mind happened one mischief night (Nov 4th in parts of the UK where the kids run riot) when my friends and I were planning to fire a firework rocket through a piece of broken drainpipe and at a shop door. We weren’t bad lads really so when the shopkeeper chose that very moment to come outside our homemade rocket launcher was quickly turned round and fired down the road instead. Unfortunately, at that very moment, a police car came round the corner and was struck by the firework smack in the middle of its windscreen. I was 23 before I was allowed to leave the house again.
4. Stay I Missed You (Lisa Loeb)
For some reason this has always been my default ‘heartbreak’ song. I think it’s because it was a big hit around the time I first experienced what it’s like to be rejected by someone you feel strongly about. It’s never been something I’ve been able to deal with very well and the impact it’s had, on the relatively few times it’s happened, on my life for years afterwards has been significant.
Although, due to my general uselessness with the opposite sex, I’ve been dumped several times, if I reflect back on it now though I think I’ve only had my heart properly broken twice.
One was with a girl I met at work. She had eyes like chocolate drops and was very funny. For a while we were inseparable and used to talk for hours on the phone, something of a miracle as I hate talking in the phone. She called me her soul mate and I loved her with all my heart.
When she ended it I was crushed but not half as much as I was a few weeks later when I found out she’d been seeing a very close friend of mine. It was one of those times in life where you slide so far and so fast that you’re at the bottom before you even process what’s just happened. The climb back has never quite been completed, it’s probably right to say I was never the same again. To be fair, they are happily married now so I get that I was probably just a bridge in the great scheme of things to bring them together. It hurt like hell though, it still does sometimes.
The other time was worse. I loved her more…
5. Honey, Honey (ABBA)
Bjorn, Benny, Anni-Frid and Agnetha, collectively remembered as Swedish super group, ABBA. Their legend is well documented but there is one amazing story they’ve spent millions airbrushing from their history, the night I replaced Bjorn on stage and performed in front of thousands of adoring fans as part of ABBA.
It was during their sell out Australian Tour of 1976 that I came to the rescue after Bjorn had mysteriously disappeared. It later transpired that he’d been locked in a wardrobe in the hotel room of glam rocker, Suzy Quattro. To this day the perpetrator has never been caught!
I’m fairly sure that I’d been on the bands radar for some time. Two of them had been behind me at a breakfast buffet in a hotel a few weeks earlier and overheard me asking for two portions of honey on my porridge (Honey, Honey) and the blonde one lost all her matchsticks to me during a friendly game of cards later that evening (Winner Takes it All). The clincher came on the day of the fateful concert though when they saw me with my mother, Mia (Mamma Mia) so it was no surprise that when Bjorn failed to show up at the venue I was asked to step in.
The concert was a great success, the audience didn’t notice and to this day I am known in Sweden as the fifth member of a group affectionately known as PABBA.
6. What the World is Waiting For (The Stone Roses)
I love the Stone Roses. They’re probably my favourite band and I play them in the car to my children as frequently as my Dad used to play his The Beatles. I’m pleased to report that it’s having the desired effect with both boys being able to sing along to most of their songs with great enthusiasm.
Like a lot of people around my vintage I’ve enjoyed reliving my youth by going to see the band at Heaton Park and the City of Manchester stadium. My story for this one took place prior to the City of Manchester gig and is not for the squeamish. If that’s you, I suggest jumping straight to the next song……
We were standing outside a very crowded pub that happened to have a very small toilet. It was a fairly sunny early afternoon and much alcohol had already been consumed. Spirits were good, obviously every single person there was claiming they’d been at Spike Island when the reality is none of them will of been anywhere near.
All of a sudden somebody noticed something beginning to seep out of the drain and into the car park. What started as a trickle became a steady flow and the whole area, very quickly, become awash with human faeces. It was disgusting but if ever the terrace chant; ‘Manchester is full of shit, oh Manchester is full of shit…’ was accurate, it was then (I don’t think this).
7. Sit Down (James)
Nowhere near my favourite song but it does remind me of the great time I had, one summer, working at the Butlins Holiday Camp in Minehead, Somerset.
My daytime job was to monitor the queue at the climbing wall which basically meant sitting on a chair with my leg blocking the entrance to the wall area. Every few minutes I’d put my leg down and let a few people through. I did this six days a week for ten weeks.
It was fortunate that my job required so little…what’s the word…..effort….as most of the evenings were spent drinking and trying to get cosy with one of the female Redcoats.
Towards the end of each evening in the staff bar there was always a bit of a disco. The song ‘Sit Down’ by James was out at that time and we all used to ‘sit down’ in a line and wave our arms about.
One of the guys I was with was in a relationship at the time and regularly told us how much he was missing his girlfriend and how much he loved her. It was something of a surprise then one evening to find him in a passionate embrace with one of the, much sought after, female Redcoats.
It’s worth saying at this point that he was quite a highly strung personality so when, under the influence of a couple of shandies he retreated to a tree by a road to have a sit down and a little cry I assumed it was the guilt of his misdemeanour eating away at him.
Always willing to try and help someone in distress I went over and informed him that he shouldn’t worry as after the Butlins job was over her never see the girl from earlier in the evening again. How was I to know that the reason for the tears was because he’d fallen for his beautiful Redcoat! Upon hearing my ‘guidance’ he quickly stood up and threw himself in-front of an oncoming car. Fortunately it was an on-site road and the car was obeying the 5 mph limit so he was unhurt.
Since this incident I’ve always been reticent to give anybody relationship advice. I can’t think why.
8. Imagine (John Lennon)
As I’ve already written, my Dad was a huge Beatles fan and virtually every car journey anywhere included a mix tape of their music. I was only eight when John Lennon was murdered but I remember clearly my Dad being really upset. When he died a little over a year ago we played it at his funeral. I didn’t cry because I knew my Dad would be listening somewhere and enjoying what is a beautiful song about peace and hope.
Corby Trouser Press. No matter how hard things get,or how unlikely it is that you’ll run into other people on the Island, there is never any excuse for not having a smart crease in ones trousers.
Read it, if you haven’t already. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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