I heard today that Desert Island Disks is about to celebrate its seventieth birthday; the anniversary episode will be with David Attenborough, presumably as a tribute to his equally awesome sixty years at the BBC. I find that pretty incredible: I suppose the programme is so successful because music itself is so potent. It is everpresent, supplying a sound track to our lives. There is something about music that is hard wired directly to the soul: more than any other art form, it taps directly into emotion, raising you up to the heights of bliss or crashing you down to the depths of despair. That’s why it’s such powerful medium for allowing people to talk about themselves.
Thinking about this earlier, I began to think, as I’m sure most other people do, about the pieces of music I would choose were I ever famous enough to be asked on to desert island disks. It’s an intriguing question to ask yourself. As with my list of my favourite meals, you can only decide such things in retrospect. And, as with Cinephiliac Moments, the pieces one chooses are all deeply personal, so your choices say a lot about yourself.
Which disks, then, would I take on to my dessert island? As soon as I started to think about it, I realised that my list would probably longer than the usual eight. I suppose I better start at the beginning, with my first ever favourite song: I must only have been two or three when my parents first sat me down and put a tape of the Frog Song into the video player. They probably regretted it, as I instantly fell in love with it and cried my head off when the video finished. My crying would only stop when they had rewound the tape and pressed play again, a situation which repeated itself for hours. I don’t know why, but there was something I found in that song which I found as comforting as a cuddle from my parents; even today there’s something in it which tugs at my heart every time I hear it. It’s a similar story with the snowman, another of those song-based childhood cartoons which still holds sway over me.
If I am going to mention those two, embarrassing though it is I must say that I would take A whole new World from Aladdin onto my island. It is a song I once adored: My brother mark played the piano, and I remember forcing the poor boy to play it again and again as a child. The last few times I’ve heard it, it has seemed rather cheesy, but even as a teenager there would be nothing I would rather hear.
The times I spent listening to mark play the piano, in the dining room of my old family home, now seem a lifetime ago. It seems like so much has happened since then, so many other pieces of music have acquired so much personal resonance for me. Maybe the next track I should mention is He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by the Hollies. That piece means a lot to me too, but for not such happy reasons. It was the first song played at Andrew Fox’s funeral, eleven years ago. Andy was one of my school friends; he had muscular dystrophy, and passed away when we were eighteen. I vividly remember his coffin being carried in as the first notes of that song struck up, so much so that even today every time I hear them my mind flies back and my heart fills with the rage I still feel at the injustice of his death. After the funeral it was a long time until I could bear to hear that song again, for it was a piece of music which captured Andy’s fortitude perfectly.
Andy, like me, was a trekkie. Star trek has been a big part of my life, and I find the theme songs to Star trek inspiring. Of them, I love none more than the theme to First Contact. It is a film that inspires me, allowing me to hope hat one day humankind will overcome it’s petty differences and work together to build a better future. Mind you, it’s a film which also predicts that before that happens we will go through a third world war, in which six hundred million people die, so perhaps it isn’t such an optimistic film after all. Nevertheless, the theme from first contact is still a piece of music which fills me with hope.
I suppose you could say that I find the James Bond series just as inspirational. Through him, one can live one’s fantasies: to me, he is a figure in full control of his world. I’m not sure why, but something in this misogynistic, anachronistic character appeals to me, even though in many respects he is my antithesis. I remember, lying in bed one night in my late teens, watching TV. The Alan Partridge show was on. I didn’t usually watch it, but I caught the episode where Alan decides to reenact The spy Who Loved Me. Something that night caught my attention, and ever since then I’ve been into bond, and especially the theme to that film. Charlie used to sing it to me when she was Pushing me home after a night out, so I have fond memories of bellowing out the words ”Nobody does it /quite the way you do / baby you’re the best.” into the dark of a Cheshire evening.
But I have many such memories concerning charlotte. She is quite a musical person, and I remember her singing constantly. Another song I associate with her is ”When the Night Feels my song’‘ by Bedouin Soundclash, which she taught to the University Gospel Choir; it was also charlotte who introduced me to the Cat Empire, so she would be the reason why I would take Days Like These to my desert island. Most of all, the song I will forever associate with my friendship with Charlie is You’ve Got A Friend in me by Randy Newman. As I describe here and here, it was a song that I heard being played at Disneyland; it is thus a song I associate with kindness, friendship and warmth.
Given that there are songs I associate with my friend charlotte, the question is raised about what songs I associate with Lyn. After all, she is dearer to me than anyone has been before. I was thinking about this before, and was worried to realise that, despite the fact she is a musician, there is no single song I associate with Lyn. But then it occurred to me that such things can only be discovered in retrospect: songs can only resonate with times when such times are over, and since my time with Lyn will not come to an end for a long, long time, I cannot pinpoint any one song I associate with Lyn. Mind you, this one might be a candidate; Our house by crosby, Stills and nash holds within its lyrics the feelings of warmth and tenderness I feel when with lyn.
That is the list of songs I’d take to my island. I may have missed something – I probably couldn’t go without some Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, and how could I leave Sweet Home Alabama behind? But it’s getting late, and were I to try to list all the songs that had ever touched me, I’d be typing till dawn.