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Desert Island Discs

record playerIn 1942, the BBC first aired a radio programme on the Home Service which is still running today.

Desert Island Discs’ was originally conceived and presented by Roy Plumley.
The current presenter is Kirsty Young.

The format of the programme is an interview with a guest who chooses eight tracks that they would wish to take with them, if they were marooned on a desert island.  They also get to take a book, and a luxury item.

As a bit of fun, I thought I’d see if I could actually pick just 8 tracks.  It was so hard to leave out so many of my ‘essential’ tracks, but here goes...

To play clips from my 8 selections,
use this mini-player ->

1. ‘Rip It Up’ by Orange Juice

I guess the song that provided the background to your first love will always be a favourite.

It hit the Top 10 in the spring of 1983, when I was falling for a guy at college.  Like most teenagers I had lots of crushes, but like most gay folk back then, I was in the closet.  My crushes were unrequited, and even if they were not, nothing ever came of them.

On first hearing, ‘Rip It Up’ is not your typical love song, but when you look at the lyrics...

    When I first saw you
    Something stirred within me
    You were standing sultry in the rain
    If I could've held you
    I would've held you
    Rip it up and start again

    And when I next saw you
    My heart reached out for you
    But my arms stuck like glue to my sides
    If I could've held you
    I would've held you
    But I'd choke rather than swallow my pride

It summed up my predicament entirely!  Well, in those days a bloke couldn't simply tell another bloke he had fallen in love with him!

Fortunately for me, the object of my affections finally got it, not long after I told him this was my song for him.  We had a wonderful year, and I could've filled this whole list with songs from that time.   As with most teenage romances, it didn’t last, and although it took me a long time to get over the split, everything turned out all right in the end.


2. ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie

Bowie is my favourite artist, and picking just one track was a nightmare.

The track that really got me into Bowie was 1980s ‘Ashes to Ashes’.  I adore his live version of Jacques Brel’s ‘My Death’, and cried when I heard him sing it in Aberdeen. Mike Garson’s piano on ‘Aladdin Sane’ is an aural delectation.

But I’ve settled on ‘Heroes’.  It flopped on its release, making only No24 in the UK chart.  History has proved the 1977 record buying public to be a bunch of numpties.  Now it is universally acclaimed as a classic.  I will always remember the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, when the Team GB athletes entered the stadium to ‘Heroes’.

3. ‘This Time the Dream’s On Me’ by Ella Fitzgerald

Ella has the most beautiful female voice I have ever heard, and this song is very special to me.

I’ve been a fan of the Jazz Torch Song for many a year, but I came to really appreciate this song when I heard it played over the closing scenes of the film ‘Torch Song Trilogy’.

The music of Harold Arlen coupled with the lyrics of Johnny Mercer are divine.  Ella’s interpretation is flawless.  It is another love song, and one that I associate with the love of my life, my husband John.


4. ‘How Soon Is Now?’ by The Smiths

I spent 9 months in Swansea in 1984, and was separated from my record collection for the first time.  I was so devastated that I resorted to cassettes, and even bought a few pre-recorded ones, even though I knew that they ‘didn’t count’.

I had a limited number of cassettes when I arrived in Swansea in the January of 1984, and the one I remember most fondly is a C90 with The Smiths debut album on one side, and Prefab Sprout’s ‘Swoon’ on the other.

When I moved to Aberdeen in October ‘84, still separated from anything I could play vinyl on, I bought The Smith’s ‘Hatful of Hollow’ on cassette.

It was also about this time that I would frequent (Crazy) Daisy’s, which on a Friday night became the city’s only gay venue.

There's a club if you'd like to go, you could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry, and you want to die”

5. ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead

I’d rather take the whole ‘OK Computer’ Album, but if I can have only one track from it, it has to be this one.

Some people collect photos, but I’m not a very visual person, so I use music in much the same way as other people use photos.  Many tracks or albums remind me of a time, place, person or event, whilst others put me into certain moods or frames of mind.

Radiohead are a band that work for me in this second category, along with Iggy Pop, Bauhaus, and the songs of Brel, Brecht & Weill. This music is for me.  I associate it with my inner thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes, when there’s no-one else around, I play this, and play it very loud.


6. ‘I Scare Myself’ by Thomas Dolby (or Dan Hicks)

This is a cover version, but it was many years before I found that out.  When I first heard the original, I heard it live by the man who wrote it, Dan Hicks.

I associate this record with Cala Ferrera in Mallorca, where I made four visits between 1979 and 1983.  It goes to show how our minds and memories work, because the track wasn’t actually released until February 1984.  I guess when I first heard it, I must have been pining to go back to the Hotel Ponent Playa, where I had so many fantastic experiences.  I think I knew then that I would never go back.

I heard the original in The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen in the mid-2000s.  I’d been persuaded to go to the Dan Hicks gig by a fellow Director of the venue.  I wasn’t familiar with the artist, and the gig was pleasant, if unmemorable, until the encore.  After the first few bars, it was clear to me that I was hearing ‘I Scare Myself’’.  It was only afterwards, when I did my research, that I found it was Dolby that did the cover, staying relatively faithful to the original.  I’d take the Dolby version to my desert island, but that island hadn’t better be Mallorca.  You should never go back..

7. Borodin’s String Quartet No2 in D Major, 3rd Movement, Nocturne

My youth had a lot of classical music in it.  I played the recorder, piano (badly), and flute, and also sang in the choirs at school and church.

I first heard this played on a piano by my Middle School Music Teacher, Mrs. Sterland.  I must’ve been about 9 years old.  Before she played it, she asked us to close our eyes when listening to it, and afterwards describe what it made us think of.

I was transfixed by the music, which took me to a soft, warm, safe Summer’s night.

I persuaded my Dad to take me to Tunstall the next weekend, and he bought me an LP with two Borodin String Quartets.  When he heard it, it reminded him of the musical ‘Kismet’, which adds its own lyrics to Borodin’s music.

Try closing your eyes when you listen to this, and see where it takes you...


8. ‘How We Love’ by Beth Nielsen Chapman

I could do a lot worse than have this as my funeral song.

Strangely, I first heard this on the radio on the way to the funeral of a colleague.

I was instantly drawn the the lyric, which sums up for me what this life is all about.

Life has taught me this
Every day is new
And if anything is true
All that matters
When we're through
Is how we love

Faced with what we lack
Some things fall apart
But from the ashes new dreams start
All that matters to the heart
Is how we love

How we love
How we love
From the smallest act of kindness
In a word, a smile, a touch

In spite of our mistakes
Chances come again
If we lose or if we win
All that matters in the end
Is how we love

How we love
How we love
I will not forget your kindness
When I needed it so much

Sometimes we forget
Trying to be so strong
In this world of right and wrong
All that matters when we've gone

All that mattered all along
All we have that carries on
Is how we love

That was really hard!  No room for any Soul, Funk, Dance, Kate Bush, George Michael or China Crisis in there.
I guess I’d have to be on the real Desert Island Discs at least twice!

Only one book is another hard choice. It’s unoriginal, but I’ll pick Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.  I would swap the Bible for André Gide’s ‘Corydon’, and ask very nicely to replace the Complete Works of Shakespeare with those of Oscar Wilde.

As for the luxury item, I’d take a piano.  Given enough time, I might even be able to play it!

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