For all of you unfamiliar with the format of the show, guests have to imagine that they are about to be marooned on a desert island and they have to choose 8 pieces of music to take with them as well as a book and a luxury item (an inanimate object which can’t help them to escape). In addition to this each prospective islander is given the entire works of Shakespeare and an appropriate religious tome. The show is basically the guest explaining their choices whilst playing their 8 favourite pieces of music.
Now my chances of ever being invited onto Desert Island Discs are probably less than winning the lottery but, not being one to let reality stand in my way, I’ve decided to get my choices ready ... just in case.
Out On The Floor by Dobie Gray
This song is definitely a ‘going out’ song. It reminds me of the 1970s and watching my seemingly uber-glamorous aunties getting ready to go out. I would study them as they studied themselves in the mirror, applying make-up and styling their hair. My dad has eight sisters, the youngest of whom is only five years my senior and who go up in age a year at a time, so you can imagine the Saturday night mayhem. Two of them were lovers of soul music and would regularly travel to Wigan to the famous Northern
soul nights and this song was their anthem. I would ache with longing to be old enough to go with them but, by the time I was, punk had come along and Wigan had more or less died a death. Even so, the minute I hear this song, I am back to the glamour and excitement of those bygone Saturday nights.
In Dreams by Roy Orbison
This one is a bit of a weird choice because I’m not particularly a Roy Orbison fan but my dad loved him. The minute he got a few drinks inside him, the Orbison records would come out and the entire street must have heard him singing along with the Big O. On the day that my dad died, my mother, brother and I were mercifully with him. It was a boiling hot July day and, as we staggered out of the hospital reeling with shock and grief, there was a taxi waiting to pick someone up. As it was so hot the driver had all of his doors and windows open and his radio was blasting out In Dreams. I’m sure it was just a coincidence but, at that moment, it felt like a sign and as such was an enormous source of comfort to us in the dark days ahead.
I fought The Law by The Clash
This is, in my opinion, a great song and as such I’ve never heard a bad version. The Clash though are a great motivator for when I am about to step into the jaws of hell, otherwise known as work. My iPod is my best friend when it comes to psyching myself up, to roll with the metaphorical punches which will inevitably come, and there’s no finer song than this one to get the job done.
Ask Me by The Smiths
Obviously no playlist would be complete without the man himself but where do we even begin. The Smiths made so many amazing records, I would be quite happy to listen to any one of them in my final moments. I have chosen this one though because I think it discounts all those naysayers who claim that Morrissey is little more than a misery guts. For me this song is full of youthful joy and hope whilst still being poignant and poetic.
Anchorage by Michelle Shocked
Most songs that are favourites are chosen because they represent something special in your life and this one reminds me of running wild in America. It has sort of become a representation of all the time I spent there both as a student and then later visiting friends for the seemingly endless summer holidays. I think one reason why overseas travel is so appealing is because once you are in another land there is nothing to define you. You have no links or connections to any of the cultural or social codes which lends itself to a sense of complete liberation. This song reminds me of that feeling of total freedom and getting away with behaving badly because I was from overseas.
Today Tomorrow and Forever by Patsy Cline
When I was growing up, I was definitely influenced more by my dad’s family than my mother’s. My granddad was an Irish immigrant, who was to put it politely – a character. He was fond of the drink and his mood could turn on a sixpence. I was mostly terrified of him because he was big, shouty and volatile. He did have a generous side though. If he had a win on the horses he would think nothing of handing out fivers, which back then were like a king’s ransom. He was also incredibly talented musically. He played the concertina and with no training could write music. After he died, hundreds of his secret compositions were unearthed which always strikes me as a bit sad. My grandma was his polar opposite, a nervy, pinched woman, who went to an early grave from a massive stroke, no doubt brought on by a life time of worry. She very rarely laughed or smiled and always made everything seem dark and heavy. On the odd occasion though, usually when she’d had a nip of brandy, she would lighten up and reveal a funny, vibrant woman huddled away inside her careworn exterior. When she was in one of these rare moods, she would sing along as granddad played the concertina and the entire family would bask in the fleeting moments of sheer joy. Today Tomorrow and Forever was one of her favourites and when I hear it now, I mourn the fact that she couldn’t sing every day.
Don’t Sit Down by The Arctic Monkeys
I love the Arctic Monkeys with all of their youthful exuberance. In an age of manufactured blandness, they are intelligent, funny and talented. If ever there was an heir apparent to Morrissey, in terms of song writing, then it surely has to be Alex Turner. This song, for me, represents all of the wit and wordsmithery that I think makes them fantastic. Oh and also they are Sheffield boys.
My Life by Iris DeMent
My final choice is a song that, for me, represents what life is all about. It doesn’t matter about the big stuff like careers, success and achievements. After all, as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you. I believe we are put on this earth to do the best we can and help each other along the way. If, when I am on my deathbed, I can look back and know that I have made even one person’s life a little easier then all I can say is job well done.
This is a tough one but I’m going to take a chance on one I have never read. I have been planning on reading Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak for twenty years, which is the length of time it’s been gathering dust on the various bookshelves as it’s followed me around. Marooned on a desert island with nothing but time, I’d finally get to read it and I’ll just have to hope it’s worth the wait.
That would have to be chocolate. The biggest bar in existence because, the minute it runs out, I’ll probably lose the will to live and fling myself into the sea to drown.
Well there you have it. Should I ever hit the big time, I’ve got my choices ready. Actually it’s harder than you think and no doubt changes every single week. I recommend you give it a go yourselves; it’s given me hours and hours of fun.