June 28, 2013


One of the things that I find most interesting about listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 is how people approach their musical selections. I’m pretty sure everyone who has listened to the programme has come up with their own list, and my sitting down to write this is prompted by an overlap in my choices with one of Hugh Laurie’s on today’s edition.

There seem to be two general approaches to choosing music:

  1. Throw yourself into the whole fantasy of being marooned on a desert island and choose music that suits that life or reminds of you of loved ones and better times.
  2. Simply choose your favourite music.

There’s another approach to making the final selection but that’s only adopted by politicians:

  1. Have your advisors choose music to represent the widest possible demographic of voters (especially in key marginals) but also show that you have time for your family and can get down with the young people’s music.

Listening to Hugh Laurie’s selection, I was left with the impression that he went for option 2. He’s clearly someone who enjoys music, has his favourites and enjoys listening to them. I’m without doubt in the option 1 camp. I want to choose music that would sound great playing across the lagoon at night and remind me of family and better times. My taste in music tends towards the maudlin end of the spectrum so I need to balance this with other music to lift my mood at the end of a long day after a tasty supper of seaweed and insects.

What would I choose?

O Mio O Mio Babbino Caro - Montserrat Caballé

This song will sound beautiful played across the lagoon at maximum volume.

Wond’ring Aloud - Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull was one of the first bands I ever listened to and bought nearly every record (yes records!) from their earlier recordings. At the time I was listening to them they were already an old-fashioned band, but I enjoyed the early works that were more clearly blues-influenced.

This song is from the not-a-concept-album Aqualung and I always smile whenever I hear the wonderful lyric…

As she floats in the kitchen,
I’m tasting the smell
of toast as the butter runs
then she comes,
spilling crumbs, on the bed,
and I shake my head.

Blinking Lights (For Me) - Eels

A song about redemption and being alright one day.

Don’t Smoke In Bed - Nina Simone

I couldn’t imagine not having at least one Nina Simone song and this is the most perfect love/break-up sung ever.

What a Beautiful Day - The Levellers

This was the music I used as background to our first family holiday home movie. I can’t listen to it without thinking of all those great holidays together.

Brief Encounters - Ashley Hutchings

Unfortunately Ashley Hutchings’ brilliant album By Gloucester Docks I Sat Down and Wept seems to be almost unavailable now. Like the book it’s based upon it’s a a hymn to love and its supremacy above all other emotions and worldly practicalities. The whole album is perfect but if I had to take one track it would be this one. Probably.

Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison

I’m lucky enough to have three brown-eyed girls in my life. This will remind me of them all.

Besame Mucho - Michel Petrucciani

Apparently it means kiss me a lot’. Redolent of smoke-filled deserted night clubs, it’s the perfect music to end the evening.


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