My Desert Island Discs

Woman on island listening to music

For those who don’t know, Desert Island Discs is a British institution. It’s a programme on Radio 4 which has been running since 1942. Each episode features an interview with a celebrity/public figure where they are asked to select eight pieces of music they would take with them if they were a castaway on a desert island, along with one book and one luxury item.

Rather like we have all planned how we will spend the money when we win the lottery, and we have all prepared our speech for when we win an Oscar (you have all prepared an Oscar acceptance speech right? If not, then I was just kidding), similarly, a lot of us Brits like to select our pieces of music ready for when we get invited on to Desert Island Discs. I hadn’t made my choices before, so I’m doing it now, just so that I’m ready when the call comes.

These aren’t necessarily my all-time favourite pieces of music, some are selected more because of the memories that go with them…

Cheer Down, George Harrison – My Neil and I often have quite different tastes in music, but we both love this song. This is a definite one for me to take…

Maria, Blondie – I love Blondie and I love that when they came back with this song in 1999, Debbie Harry, aged 53, proved that she was still every bit the cool rock chick. This one always gives me a real buzz if it comes on the radio.

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (I haven’t decided which recording yet) – When I was much younger I wanted to be a ballet dancer, and this is the ultimate in ballet music. I want the complete Swan Lake here; you could argue that the complete thing is actually several pieces of music rather than just one, but you can argue all you like, I won’t hear you, I will be on my island being a ballerina.

Happy Hour, Ted Hawkins – I saw Ted Hawkins play live at a club in Camden in the late 80s. It was a great night. I’d never heard him before, but I straight away took to this song, and remembered it over the years. Recently Neil and I sang it together (some of you have seen the video of that!).

Band of Gold, Freda Payne – I’ve chosen this one because not only is it a fabulous 70s classic, but it was number one in the UK charts on the day I was born in September 1970.

Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, from Bugsy Malone – When I wasn’t wanting to be a ballet dancer, I was wanting to be one of the dancing and singing girls from Bugsy Malone. I totally could have been one of these girls…


We will Rock You, Queen – This one is a great memory for me of my trip to Corfu with the kids last year, and the three of us standing on bar stools in the evenings clapping and singing along to this. I intend to blast this one out really loud on the island.

And finally…

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from Monty Python – I’ve chosen this one simply because I might need it to help me get through any tough days on the island.

Oh dear, I’m showing my age, there’s nothing up-to-date in that lot at all!

For the book, they give you the Complete Works of Shakespeare and a bible (or other holy book), you don’t have to accept them though if you don’t want them. You then choose one more book. After much consideration, I think I would choose a large encyclopedia.

For the luxury item, it has to be inanimate and it can’t be anything that enables you to escape or to have communication with the outside world. You can however have things that start with “Endless supply of…” I would therefore have to pick an endless supply of paper and pens. That has been chosen by quite a few guests on the programme, but I’m not seeking to be original in my choice. Other popular choices have been large supplies of favourite alcoholic drinks or food, musical instruments, or comfort items such as a bed or pillows. I did consider a lighter or a Swiss Army Knife, however I decided that I would be able to make fire myself, and I would be able to make cutting tools by smashing up pieces of rock (don’t laugh, I’m pretty sure I could do those things if I had to!), so ultimately the paper and pens would be more treasured.

Tropical beach

And there we have it. I’d love to hear what book or luxury item you’d pick. Or you can tell me some song choices you’d go for. Or can just laugh at my choices…

Picture credits:
‘Vintage Summer’ by Gabriella Fabbri
‘Paradise 4’ by Gabriel Bulla

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76 responses to “My Desert Island Discs

  1. Great choices, Vanessa! (Just your mentioning “Maria” sent chills up my spine.)

    I will have to come back with a proper response of additional music and whatnot. But, I think I’d agree a supply of paper and pens would be so worth it. 🙂

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    • Thanks Mayumi. Yes, Maria sends chills up my spine too!

      I think the pens and paper would be what would stop us from going mad from boredom! We always say we don’t have enough time to write as much as we want to don’t we!

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  2. This is really fun! I’d find it very hard to pick 8 pieces of music…. Hmm ok.. I pick (for now), I like a lot of songs that are out now, but these are the ones I’d pick I think.. Arghhh damn youuuu.

    This is showing the very varied taste in music I have…

    Ludovico Einaudi – I Giorni
    Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
    Stevie Wonder – Superstition
    Bob Marley – Is this love?
    Otis Redding – Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
    Michael Jackson – Man in the mirror
    Paramore – Hallelujah
    Damien Rice – Cannonball

    I think I’d also take an encyclopedia because I could learn about things. My luxury item would be my teddy. I know I’m an adult BUT I’ve had him since I was born.

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    • It is a difficult choice isn’t it, I’ve been pondering my eight for over a week. I do like a lot of current songs too, but they just didn’t make the cut when I was picking my eight! I think songs needs to have been around for a while in order to mean something to you, or to have memories attached to them, that’s the point really. Your teddy! Awwww 🙂

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      • Yeah, I just did mine in about 5 minutes, so it’s probably not as concise as it might have been if I pondered longer!

        Yeah I agree! Haha.. I know I’m such a baby. He’s travelled the world with me, I love him!

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  3. I guess for my book, I’d pick one on How to Survive Living on a Desert Island. For my luxury item, I’d like to say chocolate, but I’m thinking a musical instrument would be more practical. I’ve always wanted to learn the violin. I guess that would be the perfect time to learn. So then my 8 songs would be violin pieces I could learn to play, even though I’d much prefer some rock music.

    Wow. You’ve really helped me plan this whole thing out. I’d better be careful the next time I’m at sea…

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  4. Now you’ve got me thinking… I like a lot of what you chose music wise I would just take a few more rock (Just to be able to pound it out loud and make one feel in a crowd)… the book and other wishes I would need time to think about them… but I do like the paper and endless supply of pens…

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    • Yes, I’m guessing that Swan Lake and Bugsy Malone probably wouldn’t be on your list! If you think of your book and luxury item, come back and let me know, it’s really interesting hearing people’s choices!

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      • Although I’m of the older school, one I would like to take, would be Jesus Christ Superstar and probably “tubular bells” (mike oldfield I think) both long and tuneful and easy to hum along to.. My book would probably be Roberts Bird Book, the bible of birds world wide and my luxury item would be a Leatherman multi tool knife… I could do everything with that…

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  5. Nice to hear George today. Great song. I´ve done this with my students to get them to think of things that will help them learn English, so I get them to pick a book, movie, TV Series, album and actor or actress of their choice. 🙂 My luxury item would either be a grand piano or a guitar. Always look on the Bright Side of Life is a good choice too. I think I´d accept the Bible (even though I´m not religious, good story) and the complete works of Shakespeare of course. Probably Lord of the Rings too, cause I still haven´t finished them, and they´re worth reading again. Song choices, Strawberry Fields Forever Beatles, Surf´s Up Beach Boys, Imagine Lennon, Van Morrison Astral Weeks Television Marquee Moon, Neil Young A Man Needs a Maid.

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  6. This is great! I’m already thinking about my choices–musically, I have two already. The book and the inanimate item are really going to stump me. I’m not sure you can have pencils and paper both, because that’s two things. (I know, I know, party pooper.) I’ll get back to you…

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    • I thought the same thing about the pens and paper being two things, but they have allowed it several times before, so I’m going with it! I think it could be categorised as ‘the ability to write’ being one thing! Some things they seem to be quite strict on, and others a bit more flexible!

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  7. The Old Maid and the Thief by Gian Carlo Menotti
    Night Moves by Bob Seger
    The Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits (It is an island with a beach!)
    London Calling by the Clash
    Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
    Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
    Hank Williams’ Greatest Hits
    Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

    The book has to be To Kill a Mockingbird. I have read it a dozen times or more and this would give me a chance to memorize it!

    The luxury item: Peaches—always ripe, always juicy, always in season.

    HF

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  8. Obviously, I went with albums. Hope that doesn’t violate the rules! HF

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  9. Thanks for the George Harrison song. Hadn’t heard it before. Band of Gold?????

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    • Yes we hadn’t heard that song until about 3 years ago either, but now it’s a fave! As for Band of Gold, well each to their own right? 😉

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      • OK, I’ll cut you some slack.

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        • I thought of you this morning because I was listening to Desert Island Discs, and today it was Julie Burchill, and she picked Band of Gold has her first song choice! I thought “Ha! I’m not the only one!” And I also thought about what a coincidence that was that she had one of the same songs as me on the episode following my blog post. Hmmm, I wonder if she saw my post first and copied!

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          • OK. It was a good song. I used to like it too when it came on the radio. As for this outright plagiarism: Well, if it was such a good song, then many people might have it as their all-time faviorite. And if Julie Birchil was inspired by your stuff, then all the better. By the way, I have this question on a silly contest I posted when I started the blog. I think it’s titled Win Valuable Cash Prizes. It’s funny stuff I think.

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  10. “Magical Mystery Tour”… Beatles

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  11. Great idea, Nessa! 🙂

    What an eclectic mix, love the variety you’ve picked and your reasons! This is just too hard for me… I’d be picking albums. There are too many that are just brilliant! It’s something I think about quite often. 🙂

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    • It’s really hard isn’t it! I’m sure if I thought about it for longer I’d think of others and want to review my list. Like I said, they weren’t necessarily all time favourite songs, although a few are, but it’s more to do with the reasons.

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  12. I especially like the last two choices. 🙂

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  13. I’ve never heard of Cheer Down by George Harrison and I’m SO glad you shared it. My drug-addled brain is letting my toes tap to the beat. I love it too! Such a fun song!

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  14. All you need is love – Beatles
    I will – Beatles
    Here comes the sun – Beatles
    Good day sunshine – Beatles
    And I love her – Beatles
    Something – Beatles
    Michelle – Beatles
    Twist and Shout – Beatles.

    Notice a pattern here?

    Book . . . too hard to pick.
    Object . . . my Kindle. Solves the book picking problem.

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  15. Only eight songs? Oh, wow. That’s tough. The title track “London Calling” would be a good one…. But what else…. I’m stumped on this one, but it’s interesting to see what other folks are coming up with. 🙂

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    • Yes, I don’t know what the significance of eight is, it seems a fairly random number, maybe it’s something to do with how many would fit comfortably into the length of the radio show! But it’s certainly not enough.

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  16. Wow. You’ve stumped me, Vanessa! Are you sure I have to limit it to 8? I like your Swan Lake choice… I can just see you now, being a ballerina in the sand. ; ) I always quite liked Always Look on the Bright Side, too. So fun.

    I think I’d have to pick a fiction book for my second book choice. Which one? I don’t know. A thick one that I could read over and over, for sure. I’ll have to mull it over.

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    • It’s very difficult to pick eight isn’t it, trying to think of which ones you would be least likely to get tired of hearing over and over! I can see me being a ballerina in the sand too!

      I think it depends how long I would I would be stuck on the island. If it was a shortish time I’d probably go for a fiction too, but on the assumption that it could be a while I’d go for the encyclopedia. I liked Robin’s suggestion of picking a Kindle for her luxury object though, then you could have as many books as you wanted on there (I wonder if they’d allow that).

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  17. BUGSY MALONE! Wow, that took me back. Dan and I were in a production when we were at school. I wanted to be Blousy Brown so badly but I couldn’t sing. I’m hopeless when it comes to choosing top music – but I was at a dinner party at the weekend and we were confessing to our one guilty pleasure song – Carly Simon you’re so vain for me. So, I guess that would have to come on the island.

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  18. I’ve never heard that George Harrison song -thanks for the link!

    Good choice on the pen and paper. I’m SURE you’ll have no trouble using the pen to smash up rocks to make useful cutting tools. I’m not laughing.

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    • It’s not a very well known George Harrison song, and yet it’s so good.

      Well at least I have an endless supply of pens, so if I break a few along the way while using them as tools to make tools, it won’t matter!

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  19. What a neat idea for a radio program! (Though I would rather have eight books and one song. And that song, BTW, would be Roy Orbison’s “She’s a Mystery to Me.”)

    I think my luxury item would be a fully-staffed ocean liner with enough fuel to get me back to New Jersey.

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  20. I think all of my eight would be Blondie tracks – is that allowed?

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  21. I’m still thinking 🙂 But I do know for sure what my inanimate item would be: a tarp. It would protect me from the sun or I would fry in the first 24 hours, also I could use it as a blanket on the off chance it got chilly, or from rain on the off-off chance of that on a desert island.. Oh, and it will keep my books dry too. .I also know I would pick the Bible over Shakespeare since I’ve never understood more than half of what Shakespeare wrote, if that much. Book besides that, I still have no idea. I’ve picked out three musical selections, but “no albums” threw a wrench into my plans.

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  22. I’ve sort of wandered away from popular music but the picks you have here make my heart sing. Nice to be rejuvenated. Thanks, Vanessa.

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  23. I prefer to laugh at you! But you don’t mind, right?
    Very cool, enlightening post, Vannessa-Jane!

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  24. Fun post. I’d really have to think about this one, and because I’m a Libra I’ll never decide. I’ll be stranded on the island, naked, hungry, and bored because I couldn’t make a darn decision!

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    • Ok, well I’ll pick the paper and pens for you too as your luxury item because I think you’ll appreciate those, but I couldn’t possibly pick the music or book for you, so you’re going to have to decide those for yourself at some point!

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  25. Great post, Vanessa.

    My music would be a mix of classical and The Who, Prince and The Doors. LA Woman always makes me feel better.

    Encyclopaedia sounds like a good choice. Learn about everything.

    If I promise to disable the text facility, the ability to send any data so I can’t communicate with anyone and, of course, disable the phone. I’d like to take my iPhone so I can keep up to date with events around the world. I NEED my apps! It’ll need to be a solar powered phone, obviously. Unless there’s a power supply in the palm tree 🙂

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    • Unfortunately I don’t think your iPhone would be allowed. Recently on there someone asked for a radio as their item and were told no, that they weren’t allowed anything that provided that incoming communication of what was going on in the rest of the world. I think the exercise is very much about coping in isolation, and if you were having that input from outside it would be less isolating. Otherwise I think I’d pick a solar-powered digital radio.

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  26. It’s obvious you enjoy a wide range of music —- and I think that’s great! Meanwhile, just wanted to say Hi Vanessa!

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  27. Okay, I have dawdled long enough. I’m going for beauty, nostalgia, and silly fun. Things that make me want to dance, because I figure I’ll be pretty depressed at being stranded 🙂 I’m sure you can figure out which is which.
    Tchaikovsy’s Violin Concerto (preferably Joshua Bell playing). If I can’t get the whole concerto, I’ll take Movement One, Part One (Allegro Moderato).
    Play That Funky Music White Boy–Wild Cherry
    I Want You Back–The Jackson Five
    I Wish I Had A River–Joni Mitchell
    Somewhere Out There–Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville (from the soundtrack of “An American Tail”)
    When You Wish Upon A Star–lots of people
    Last Dance–Donna Summer
    Here and Now–Luther Vandross\
    Whew. I guess it helps not to be a little OCD when you try this 🙂

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    • I almost missed this. Ha! Glad you took the time to think it all through properly, it’s a bit decision, you have no idea how long your and those songs will be stuck together. You have a quite a variety like I do! 🙂

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      • Thanks, Vanessa…I would need a variety. Note I still didn’t pick a book. But I decided I’m going with encyclopedia also. That might be kind of cheating, since that could be as many as 26 books, but sticking with the “mere parts of a whole”, perhaps we would get away with it.

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