For those of you who’ve been living in a cave (or, perhaps more appropriately, on a desert island!) since 1942, the premise behind the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs is a simple one:
Each week a guest – a ‘castaway’ – is asked to choose eight recordings, normally music, a book and a luxury item (which must be inanimate and of no use in escaping the island or allowing communication with the outside world) that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and the Bible (or equivalent religious/theological work) are included.
Since its inception over 76 years ago, there have been only four presenters of the show – the late Roy Plomley, Sir Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and the current incumbent, Kirsty Young. Guests (or castaways) on the show have been drawn from all walks of public life, from comedians to politicians (although they are arguably one and the same), to actors, musicians and sports stars.
As fate would have it, I am not yet famous or important enough to be invited to participate in such a national institution, but why should that stop me dreaming? I’m going to post this as a three-parter, so I can go into a bit more depth for each track. So, without further ado, I give you my first three ‘desert island discs’.
Live Forever– Oasis
From their debut album Definitely Maybe, the first Oasis track I ever heard, and to this day, it’s still the best. It never fails to send shivers down my spine and always makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. Noel Gallagher’s guitar work, his brother’s trademark whiny, nasal vocals – music perfection.
I find it’s a crying shame the in-fighting and complex fraternal relationship between the Gallagher brothers prevented Oasis from achieving sustained world domination. They’re forging solo careers these days, but for me, the output is not in the same league as the collaborative work of the mid-1990s.
We Didn’t Start The Fire– Billy Joel
I LOVE this track. From his 1989 album Storm Front, this is a potted history of the 20thcentury, an unstoppable beat and Billy Joel on top form, building and building, faster and faster: “Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law, Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!” and it sounds like his head will explode!
Billy Joel has fallen off the radar in recent years in terms of his place in the public consciousness; he’s still busy touring, and although he released a compilation of classical music he’d written – Fantasies & Delusions– in 2001, his last studio album was River of Dreams back in 1993 – 25 years ago!
With or Without You – U2
The third track on the 1987 album The Joshua Tree, this is one of the ultimate love songs, in a perhaps unconventional way. It starts gently and although Bono’s gravelly voice might seem at odds with the delicacy of the lyric, I find it lends a certain innocence and honesty to the sentiments of the track. I always stop what I’m doing when this comes on and give it the respect it deserves.
I must confess that I’m a huge U2 fan. I’ve got everything they have ever released, and I’ve seen them live dozens of times. If I’m being honest, their greatest album remains The Joshua Tree some 30 years after its release, but for my money, the work they produced throughout the ‘90s stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest music around. Achtung! Baby is one of my all-time favourites and the much-underappreciated Zooropa contains some of their best work of that period.
Next time, I’ll reveal the next three tracks I’d take with me; three more which I would be more than happy to listen to on repeat, in my ‘enforced’ solitude. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Which are the tracks you can’t live without? (See what I did there?!)