Thursday, September 20, 2012

Desert Island Discs


What better post for my 60th birthday than a retrospective - my own Desert Island Discs.

1. Trains by Reginald Gardiner (1961)

There were several contenders for this first slot. Children’s Favourites on the BBC Home Service was the soundtrack of my childhood - songs like “Little White Bull”, “I am a mole and I live in a hole”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “Three Wheels on my Wagon”, plus many others. Reading the list at http://www.turnipnet.com/whirligig/radio/childrensfav.htm took me back - so many familiar tunes. “Trains” we had as a 45, one of the very few early singles my parents bought. I’ve no idea what made them buy this particular single. My favourite segment is the one about the piece of tin in the tunnel outside Snowhill, Birmingham.

2. Twist and Shout EP by The Beatles (1963)

This EP was an incentive to take out a subscription to The Children’s’ Book Club which my parents did to encourage my reading - I was a studious child. You received a book every month and my subscription ran for years - all manner of books including several W. E. Johns books (Biggles and Sci-Fi).

There is a popular belief that you were either a Beatles household or a Rolling Stones household but I don’t hold with that. When we very young Mum and Dad bought all the records and because of this a number of Beatles album purchases followed so it was more by happenstance that we became a “Beatles household”.

3. Morning from Peer Gynt by Grieg (1875)

The only classical piece in this collection. Our music teacher used to have a quiz every year where he played us tracks which we had to identify with a point for the composer and  a point for the piece. It was the same tracks every year. This one had a bonus point for identifying the title of the movement as well which I always got.

It evokes for me a mental image of a steep, sunlit Nordic alp - a bit like Sound Of Music but without Julie Andrews. I never really got into classical music although there was a period (most of my life actually until about five years ago) when I had been to far more classical concerts than I had pop concerts.

4. Debora by Tyrannosaurus Rex (1968)

Listening to John Peel’s late show under the bedclothes after lights out was an essential part of my musical education and JP introduced me to Tyrannosaurus Rex. This was the first single I bought with my own money and was the start of a dedicated following of Marc Bolan.

I subsequently bought every single and album although I kind of drifted away at the Slider album during the height of T.Rextasy. I was more of the would-be hippy persuasion than a screaming teeny-bopper.

That was for me a magical summer. O-levels-were behind me, the A-levels were far away, I had not a care in the world. My summer job was working on an archaeological dig (the Lunt Roman fort at Baginton). Actually it was my hobby – and they paid me for it! I was happy and cycling the five miles to the dig in glorious sunshine, this song on auto-repeat in my mental juke-box.

5. All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix (1968)

As Marc Bolan sings in Telegram Sam “Bobby's alright, Bobby's alright
He's a natural born poet, he's just outta sight”. A sign of Dylan’s genius is how well his lyrics sound when sung by others: The Might Quinn by Manfred Mann, Wheels on Fire by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity to name but two others out of thousands of covers.

This however is a masterpiece - the master poet meets one of the musical giants. An evocative poem transformed by Hendrix into an apocalyptic track.

6. Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road (1971)

I like pop music. Bubblegum is not a pejorative term. I came in for a lot of stick at school for liking T.Rex while my mates were into Prog Rock, Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

This single, which I bought at the time and still own, is representative of both this type of music and this period of my life. This was the music I revised to for my A-levels leading up to the college years.

There are many other artists who could have taken this slot - Mungo Jerry, Suzi Quatro, Slade, 10cc, Gary Glitter, Mud. Popular music should be filed under “Pop”.

6. Changes by David Bowie (1972)

If I were to nominate my favourite album it would not be a T.Rex album which might surprise some, it would have to be Hunky Dory. Some timeless lyrics and a gentle playfulness not found in the following classic albums (Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs). There are so many lyrically fun tracks and “Song for Bob Dylan” connects to the Hendrix track but this was the one I plumped for.

So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

7. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham! (1984)

I like pop music, I like ’80 pop music, I like Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and this is , for me, the archetypical example of what a pop song should be. It was this or Like a Virgin by Madonna for this slot.

My vinyl collection is sorted into four main sections: classical, collections, pop, and attractive female singers (or bands with female lead singers). The latter section obviously features Madonna plus Linda Lewis, Minnie Ripperton, Cher, Kate Bush, Maria Muldaur and many more.

8. And So It Goes by Billy Joel (1989)

And this one is for Mary. My list would not be complete without a song for her. There were three contenders for this spot; the others were Couldn’t Love you More by John Martyn and True Companion by Marc Cohn. Those latter songs came later but this was the song I played one emotional night during one of those “put up or shut up” periods that many couples go through. I put up and here we are married 19 years…

In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense

And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break

And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows

And there are the supplementary questions they always ask:

Book (excluding the Bible and the Collected works of Shakespeare)

  • Collected works of Isaac Asimov. 

I was brought up on science fiction; my father read it and my god father Marc Pulvermacher read it. I grew up reading all the classics from the golden age of science fiction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Age_of_science_fiction.

Luxury item

  • Chocolate machine.

I have a reputation for liking chocolate; this machine would provide an infinite supply of dark chocolate without nuts. See “A story of The Dark Side of the Chocolate” http://www.mmenterprises.co.uk/msmchoc.htm

One single - if I could keep only one:

  • All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix.

This conjures up an other world of sword and sorcery delivered by a unique combination of greats – food for the imagination.

PS. Other contenders. This is the long list:

  • Lady Madonna by the Beatles
  • I Can’t let Maggie Go by The Honeybus
  • Blue Eyes by Don Partridge
  • Indian Reservation by Don Fardon
  • Big Spender by Shirley Bassey
  • I Gotta see Jane by R Dean Taylor
  • There is a Mountain by Donovan
  • Voices in the Sky by The Moody Blues
  • Windy by The Association
  • Sabre Dance by Love Sculpture
  • Horse With No Name by America
  • After the Gold Rush by Neil Young
  • Something in the Air by Thunderclap Newman
  • Pinball Wizard by the Who
  • Living Doll by Cliff Richard
  • Teddy Bear by Elvis Presley

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