Today I’ve been in agony. It’s St Bede’s Day, aka St Melangell’s Day, however neither are the reason for this agony (although with some very tenuous arguing, I could definitely link this to the Venerable Bede and his penchant for recording biographies). No, the reason for my angst is that I took the Desert Island Discs Challenge. BBC Radio 4 are currently challenging their listeners to commit to choosing the eight tracks they’d want if castaway on a desert island, plus a book, a luxury and then the ultimate screw you of saving just one of those discs.
I can’t remember when I first started thinking about my Desert Island Discs, but I’ve been doing it a long time. It’s like an embedded ritual, activated every so often on a Sunday morning after The Archers. Although once, on a seven hour drive in the late 90s, instead of I-Spy, I found myself playing the slightly bluer version, Desert Island Dicks, with my two passengers. The only dick we all agreed on was Harrison Ford, due to him having been a carpenter and could knock up a shelter.
So obviously my list has an unwavering core, and these are Queen Elvis, Robyn Hitchcock and Castles Made of Sand, Jimi Hendrix. In that order, as this was the order they were given to me on a mixed tape that Glorious Barbara made me when we were 16. But the other six picks have ebbed and flowed through the years. And when I started to compile the list today the first pass came in at 26 tracks. After I removed most of Abbey Road, the prune continued by looking at similar tracks, either in beat, vibe, or era of collection. Ace of Spades or Smack My Bitch Up? Closing Time or Wild is the Wind or Claire de Lune? By the time I’d got down to a baker’s dozen, my keyboard swimming in sweat.
And then there was my eight. I sat back.
Then went through them again and realised I was missing a proper banger. A song to inspire me, like I was ready to get up and do my thing, movin’, doin’ it, you know? Which led me to fall down a Blues Brothers/Otis Redding/James Brown rabbit hole. I emerged with Sex Machine, James Brown and nine tracks. After that it was all about finding a balance.
My next dilemma was the book. For years my safety book, the book I’ve carted around the most despite it being a thick as a brick, is IT by Stephen King. But I just couldn’t envisage being stuck on an island reading about Pennywise and not being super freaked out. So I wandered around my bookcases until it came to me. So obvious when I thought about it. The House At Pooh Corner by AA Milne.
Which left me with my luxury item. Paper and pens. Easy.
And then the kicker, which disc to save if a rogue wave came to sweep them all away. Wild is the Wind, Nina Simone.
It was done. I reckon pulling teeth would have been less painful and more quick.
But then again, maybe it’s just done for now. Maybe one day I can find room for A Horse with No Name. And Born Slippy. Wings of a Dove. Virginia Plain, Whatever’s Written In Your Heart, The Man With The Child In His Eyes, Union City Blue…
If you want to take part in the challenge, pick your discs, book and luxury item, then using the hashtag #DesertIslandDiscsChallenge, tag in eight friends and share on social media. Further details below in Resources. Or just leave me a comment. Good luck, you’ll need it.