Desert Island Playlist.

Even people who don’t listen to BBC Radio 4 know about ‘Desert Island Discs’. Eleven o’clock of a Sunday. After the ‘Archers’ and before something else. Every Sunday at 11.45 I get a phone call from a woman living in Goudhurst, then I get a call from a woman living in Medway. We pick apart the contributor, discuss their choice of records/discs and then decide whether they were entertaining, boring or deeply offensive. To date Helen McCrory has been top of our list. But there have been loads who have prompted sighs over the sink, or even a grumble of irritation. Dame Floella Benjamin prompted a deeply intense discussion on entitlement, Colonialism and Play School.
When Sophia Loren was on each piece of music was more gut wrenching than the last. I loved it and her. She set me thinking. I cannot be the only person who has wondered about their eight recordings were they to be chosen for solitary confinement. When once it was a rare honour to be dumped on Roy Plumley’s strange little island, now we have extraordinary castaways from all over everywhere interviewed by Miss Lauren Laverne.
Since the show started in 1942, 3,227 castaways have been tossed onto Aunty Beebs’ sleepy lagoon. Of course we assume they all got rescued, although the old git is convinced they are hiding in the palm trees or sheltering in caves. But whilst I haven’t heard all of the programmes I have heard many hosted by the resplendent Michael Parkinson, the profoundly poash Sue Lawley, the charismatic Kirsty Young and now the fragrant Lauren L.
When the astronaut Tim Peake revealed his choice of music to accompany him on the empty atoll I realised what a total fucking musical snob I was/am. Not that I’ve got anything against ‘Aerosmith’ or ‘Monty Python’, but I wanted the only British geezer to be floating around in space, to have perhaps a more reflective choice. Coming as I do from the Ashkenazy tribe which is all doom, gloom and culture, I was brought up on Rachmaninoff, Verdi, and a heavy dose of Bruch’s violins. If my mother wasn’t sobbing into her apron then the music was deemed shallow and colourless. So bearing in mind I’ve only got eight discs and that I’ve been drowned in music since birth leaving stuff out is harder than putting stuff in. But here goes:
I would take one of my dawters songs, so I could hear her lovely voice. Of course it would make me cry but I told you I am all doom and gloom and if nows not the time for indulging the Jewish Mother then when is?
I started learning the piano aged five, then continued to study classical music until I was seventeen. So my second choice for the islet would be Jaques Loussier’s version of ‘Gymnopedie’ by Sartie. If only to piss off Miss Spottiswood, my purist piano teacher, who thought that adulterated, jazzy music of any kind was a crime against humanity.
I’d take the Chilean protest song ‘El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido’ , to remind me of my many youthful years fighting to change the world with song, political theatre and interpretive dance. How naive I was. Those South Americans would make me howl but I could march round the Island still believing that people united will never be defeated.
For twenty eight years I listened to music with a classical ear, then into my life walked the Northern Git who played guitar, bass and drums and taught me to listen to a song from the bass line up and so Steely Dan’s ‘Kid Charlemaine’ would be wailing out into the palms reminding me of my family’s ability to sing the sublime guitar solo in unison.
And where would I be without Stevie Wonder. It would have to be ‘I’ll be loving you Always’ because that is what the ‘oosbind melted my heart to and cos it’s over seven minutes long and because Stevie has been the backdrop to our lives for over forty years, why even as the mourners laid sunflowers on my mothers casket Mr. Wonder sung her over to the other side.
I would take Bob James ‘Terpsichore’ – dinner jazz – because it’s one of our go to albums when we sit down to eat and because it has become our comfort blanket when things get sticky. During the pandemic Bob has been played relentlessly.
I would take Chopin’s ‘First Ballade’ because I played it and so did Mr. Rangely on the school halls piano, and because Mr. R changed my life by getting me to drama school, and because it was played when I visited my first acupuncturist who got me off drugs in the 70’s, and because when we ran out of money in Valldemossa, Majorca, instead of going into Chopin’s museum we stood underneath an open window and listened to a pianist playing on Chopin’s very own piano – so good old Freddie Chopin would have to accompany me to my archipelago.
Number six would be the overture to ‘Tannhauser’, I know he had questionable politics but what better way to get rid of all that frustration whilst waiting for your lift home than belting out a bit of Wagner, I told you I was a snob.
The criteria for picking the music is different for all us castaways. All my musical choices are about family and me, so here’s one that’s work related. I used Edmundo Ross’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ on my radio show – is there anything better than dancing to a latin beat, whilst wearing a homemade grass skirt accompanied by a band of swinging musicians shaking their maracas.
But my final choice would have to be Bach. J.S. and all six of his Brandenburg concertos, not one but all six of them. I’ll plead with Ms Laverne and call her a mealy mouthed meany if she doesn’t let me take them all.
So which one disc would I save from the salty waves? Well it would have to be Stevie because however much of a snob I am none of those classical dudes know how to rub my feet, clean my windows or generally make my life worth living, so the old git wins hands down every time.
They’d give me the Bible, but I may ask to change it for ‘The Tripitaka’ the earliest collection of Buddhist teachings, they’ll give me Shakespeare which would take me an eternity to get through, and my book of choice would be a colouring book of a map of the stars so I could lie on my back and work out the constellations. My luxury would have to be an endless supply of paper and colourful pens so I could scribble and draw, dribble and weep, because however lovely the island may be, I would be totally useless without him and her and all of the others that I love in my life.
This coming Sunday actor Mark strong is sharing the soundtrack to his life, he was born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia to an Austrian mother and an Italian father. I’ll be listening in the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand, three dates for sweetness and a big box of tissues at the ready, because with that heritage I have high hopes.

1 thought on “Desert Island Playlist.”

  1. Ah – Gymnopedie. Something that I tried to pick through in my fledgling attempt at piano lessons as Aidan learned. Among my choices are Elvis Costello – Shipbuilding – I love the horns. Snow Patrol – Open Your Eyes; Nina Simone – Ne me quitte pas. Regina Spektor – Apres Moi. Dancing to: Amr Diab – Habibi (remix); Luis Fonsi – Despacito (with Daddy Yankee). Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Beethoven – Ninth Symphony. Think I would save Open Your Eyes.

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