If I were to be invited on to Desert Island Discs (something that seems unlikely at this fledgling stage in my career as an author), these would be my choices.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Desert Island Discs is a British radio program which (a quick google search tells me), has been running since the 1940s. The format is the same every week, with guests asked to choose eight songs, one book, and one luxury to take with them to a (hypothetical) desert island on which they would be stranded for the rest of their life.
The book is additional to the complete works of Shakespeare, and a bible (or in more recent years, equivalent religious or philosophical text.) The luxury item must be innanimate and no use in attempting to escape the island
My Song Choices
- Gabriel Fauré – Pavane, op 50
I am not a hugely knowledgeable, or interested in classical music. Most of the classical music that I listen to I was exposed to by television/film. In the case of Fauré’s Pavane, op 50, hearing it for the first time represents one of my strongest musical memories. In June 1998 (I was nine at the time) England played Argentina in the football World Cup. This was absolutely huge for me at the time, as a boy I was football mad, and England had not qualified for the 1994 World Cup, which I would have been too young to appreciate anyway. England lost an extraordinary game in heart-breaking circumstances with David Beckham being sent off following significant provocation from Diego Simeone, England defender Sol Campbell having an extra time winner dubiously ruled out, and England ultimately losing a penalty shoot-out.
As I watched the ITV credits rolled over shots of distraught England players, feeling every bit as distraught as the weeping players (football really matters, when you’re nine years old) Pavane Op 50 faded in. It was the saddest, and most beautiful piece of music I’d heard in my short life. To this day, it retains the capacity to move me. To take from my reality, and make me feel emotions unconnected with my present circumstances.
2. Elbow – One Day Like This
Over the years I’ve tried using a number of different songs as alarms to wake up to. One Day Like This is the only one that I didn’t grow to hate due to over-exposure and association with waking up at an unreasonably early hour. Listening to One Day Like This, watching the sun rise over a glistening sea, nibbling on a mango, my tropical seculsion might not feel so bad.
3. Lou Reed – Perfect Day
A beautiful, and uplifing song. And not, as is commonly suggested, an ode to heroin addiction. So states Lou Reed himself, and given that he wrote it, I think we ought to trust him on that. Celebrating the beauty in the simple pleasures in life, I’d hope it might be an affirmative choice to a simpler life on the desert island.
4. New Order – Dream Attack
My favourite song, by my favourite band. Possibly not a great choice, in as much as it would compound a sense of loneliness, given that the song celebrates the importance of, and strength to be drawn from, human connection. But I couldn’t not take it.
5. Randy Newman – In Germany Before The War
Sure, it’s unreletingly depressing. But it’s also beautiful. A perfect song.
6. The B-52s – Rock Lobster
I have to take something a little more fun and upbeat to compliment my thus far rather depressing selection. I’m sure I could get several hundred enjoyabe listens to this disco/punk fusion while sipping water from a halved coconut husk or gutting a fish.
7. Destiny’s Child – Survivor
Despite having loved this song for ages, it was only very recently that I discovered that the inspiration for the song came from my favourite reality TV show (Survivor, obviously). Fun, inspirational with regards to toughing it out while stranded, and evocative (retrospectively) of a TV series I’ve gotten a huge amount of enjoyment out of.
8. Eminem – Stan
Probably the best story ever told in song format. Almost like cheating and taking an extra (short) story with me. Plus it has an awesome beat.
My Book Choice
I came very, very close to choosing Solzhintsyn’s “One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich”, an amazing book, highly re-readable, and a source of inspiration concerning the capacity of the human spirit for endurance in the face of adversity. But in the end I plumped for escapism, and decided to go with R Scott Bakker’s “The Darkness That Comes Before.” As one of the most ambitious and immersive fantasy novels ever written, it would be like taking a second reality with me, to disrupt the mononty of a life of solitude.
My luxury item choice
Easy. A stationary set comprised of a very large notebook and pens. The ability to write, to create characters, and other worlds, would be absolutely crucial for my mental fortitutde!