So a few weeks ago, I embarked on my biggest creative project yet. Yes. I tried to pick… my Desert Island Discs.
For those of you familiar with the format, forgive me while I give a quick preface. Guests of the show are asked to pick (amongst a few other things) eight records with which to take with them if they were to be stranded on a desert island. See the thing about it is, you’re not necessarily picking what you think are the eight best songs, or even the eight songs that are your favourite. Were you actually to be on the island, what you’re doing is taking a little bit of home with you, so you pick songs associated with the memories and people which constructed your life, pre-epic shipwreck. But being on the show complicates this further. You have an audience. Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle dictates that audience changes our content. Suddenly we are trying to present who we are, and how these songs represent us, and not forgetting, construct our pre-epic shipwreck life. These are two overlapping, but very different goals.
So how did it go? How could it possibly go? Whittling down your favourite songs to the princely number of eight, diluting your entire musical taste into an octagon of concentration, well, does that sound like fun to you? Yes, it sounded like fun to me. Before I went mad. How did it go, how did it go… So the goal was eight right? Well… I managed to get it down to… drumroll…. 48! (and it would have been 49 if it weren’t for those meddling kids. At Tidal. Because they wont put Beyonce’s Formation on Spotify). I know that’s not quite the aim here, but it started at like 400, and it’s now the shortest playlist I now own, and a firm favourite already. With me. Just me probably because it’s so deliciously personal.
It was actually fun though! Painstaking, but a lovely process I highly recommend which is why I wanted to write lil’ blog about it. Delving through my music as if I was looking through my underwear drawers for a set of matching bra and knickers whilst running late, it was manic, but emotional.
As I said before, Desert Island Discs is about more than making a good playlist. It’s about taking the people you love with you to your island. It was lovely to revisit those musical memories and remind me of my nearest and dearest. You find yourself creating something very autobiographical, and suddenly come across a chunk of your life you hadn’t considered in a long time, or remember dancing in the living room with your little sister for the first time since it happened, and you smile. Big smiles. it’s nice to meet your younger self again, and the younger selves of the people in your life. And you cry of course. You cry big tears too for the people who aren’t even on this planet anymore, let alone this island.
Anyway, take a look. If you know me, see if you can see yourself in here. I bet if you care enough to read this, you’re probably in there somewhere. Welcome to tropical paradise.
I’m not going to explain all my choices; that would be far too personal. But here are a few highlights to further convince y’all to do this yourselves.
Master Blaster (Jammin) – Stevie Wonder
Back in 2008, out of the blue, and without giving her any indication of my musical tastes whatsoever, my nan got me a three disc special, of Motown’s Greatest Hits. On it, was this little sultry number. In a time of increasing mp3’s, I had already (foolishly) started to shed my CD collection, so when I got my first car that year (I think), there were only a handful CDs with which to travel with, and disc 2, which housed Stevie et al, got quite literally worn out. It did us proud though. Driving to Monmouth for no other reason than to get out of Gloucester in my gap year, all the way to Norwich at uni, where one of my flatmates would demand this song every time he got in the car.
Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
Eleanor Rigby was my first brush with the Beatles. I didn’t grow up in a Beatles household, so when I found it, 13 years old with a laptop and a shaky 1meg internet connection in the awkward privacy of my preteen bedroom, I thought I has found something unique and groundbreaking; and I did. It’s just I was about 50 years late to the party. Still, to this day, have you ever heard anything like those strings?
Laughing – REM
I did, however, grow up in an REM household. This is one of those songs which for me is synonymous with the word nostalgia. I thought I had discovered this album (Murmur) of my own volition too, but after reading about it in a very cool, very 2004 music blog, (despite it being about 2006/7), saving up, bugging the poor guy in HMV to see if it had come in after I made him order it, purchasing it, finally, and smuggling it into the house like it was pornography, I soon discovered that somehow, I seemed to know all of the words. Transported to my first house at age, too young to even remember, it came back to me. Thanks Ma ‘n’ Pa; your shadow of decent music taste is not one I want to step out of, even if I could.
Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meatloaf
I do sometimes wish I could step out my stepdad’s though. WHAT is Meatloaf doing on my Desert Island Disc longlist right? Blame Nick. I am, I don’t know, I am seven, I am nine, I am a shameful 12. I’m with my mum, stepdad, sister and stepsister and brother. One of us is either sat on a lap or all four kids are squished in the back. My mum has taken a break from shouting at Nick to get him to slow down or drive a little safer. Us kids have taken a break from finding new ways to torment one another. We are, instead, all screaming at the top of our lungs the lyrics to this song. I am so innocent at the time, it is years later till I figure out what it means and realise how wrong this is. I am happy. We all are. And this songs takes me back there faster than my stepdad’s driving.
You Make Lovin’ Fun – Fleetwood Mac
I could credit my lovely mum with my Fleetwood Mac obsession too, but this one is here to Dave Grange, and when we used to annoy Sam by blasting Rumours out from that attic bedroom of yours and singing joke lyrics to each other. Thank you for taking me to see them, and for playing along when I asked the market vendor if he could feed me pies, sweet little pies. You make loving lots and lots of fun.
Rasputin – Boney M
I don’t really know how to, or want to, explain this one too much… but I will say there are about a dozen or so people who’s weddings I wouldn’t miss for the world because 1) I love them dearly, and 2) I cannot wait to see everybody’s reaction when this is played and we get to the dance floor.
Still Young – Cat Empire
We are seeing Cat Empire live. It is a venue far smaller than a band that good should be playing in so I am in a man’s armpit, and every time the people around me (strangers at this point, having been separated from my friends in the frantic ruckus that the band create) breathe in, I am so hot, and feeling so claustrophobic, that I can literally feel the oxygen being drawn out of my own lungs to satisfy their needs to stay alive. I am suffocating.
And jumping. And dancing.
Couldn’t stop dancing. One of the most fun gigs of my life. Long live the trumpet.
Starman – David Bowie
I didn’t know what time it was, the lights were low-oh-oh. I’m hanging out with my first real boyfriend, first one I cared about anyway, and I should have been home an hour ago. We’re just sat trading music we care about, stealing glances, sharing kisses. Young love.
Walk of Life – Dire Straits
What I love about Dire Straits is how cross-generational they are for my family. I found a love letter once from my dad to my mum, and he’s talking about borrowing the new Sultans of Swing record from my nan. A good thirty years later and I’m sat at dinner with my grandparents and boyfriend and they are bonding over how much they all love Mark Knopfler, and how happy he sounds in the ‘woo-oohs’ in this song. He really does, and it makes me smile every time hearing it.
Pick up the Pieces – The Royals
This is mostly a tale of how magical the internet is. I have no real amazing memory attached to this song, but no doubt I will play it enough times in my life, it wont be long till one if forged. Without Spotify, I never would have found such a gorgeous roots reggae record from 1978. I can’t find a single version on youtube either, so you’ll have to deal with the whole beautiful album I’m afraid.
Can’t go Home – Surrogate
I love this lil Californian band, I adore these lyrics, and I couldn’t stop listening to this during my year in Virginia. Highly recommend them, but I refuse to confess my personal connection with this one song I’m afraid. I hope it speaks enough for itself.
I Summon You – Spoon
For my friend, who I ‘summoned’ from half way round the world and was always there for me.
Dancing in the Moonlight – Thin Lizzy
This particular track was the soundtrack for my adolescence, and definitely for the summer that Dave and me first started dating. Always staying out late, always in trouble, usually dancing. And while my parents might have been scolding me at the time, I happen to know this used to be a favourite track of theirs too, I suspect, for similar reasons.
4th and Roebling – The Districts
This is just for when I have the inevitable breakdown that one incurs from being on a desert island. What a song to do it to though.
Also featured, some of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear:
And finally, for the lyrics, for a very sad 14 year old me, and for the slim possibility of a future self, alone on a desert tropical island. Sing it Willy.