Thanks to DaddyPoppins @DaddyPoppinsBlg for nominating me to do this Desert Island Discs – Blogofdad Edition post. His most excellent list can be found here: http://www.daddypoppins.com/daddy-blog/daddy-does-desert-island-discs
What 8 songs would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
Firstly, I am entirely unfamiliar with the programme on which this question is based, so please excuse my ignorance, rest of the world.
From the five seconds of research that I put into this post, I have deduced that this is a long-running (since 1942 – can that be right?) question that is posed on a BBC radio show. Apparently, guests are asked to choose eight recordings, a book and a luxury item that they would take if cast away on a desert island.
Being a castaway on a desert island is an entirely realistic premise, and one we will all no-doubt have to face at some point in our lives. Of course, when the question was first pondered in 1942, it’s safe to assume they weren’t imagining a world in which the smartphone existed. In this day and age I’m not even sure how it would be possible to end up castaway with just 8 songs to accompany me. I would either have nothing or, if I was fortunate to wash up on an island with high-speed WiFi and my mobile phone still intact, I’d have access to every piece of music I have ever cared about.
I put my problems with the concept aside and decided to play along. It took me a while to think this list through and I know I’ve made some terrible mistakes. It would probably take me all of a day before I was sick of some of these songs and found myself longing for the Norah Jones or Queen songs that I reluctantly discarded during a brutal cull. I’m also quite sure that the moment I dragged my sorry-self up the sandy beach towards the lone coconut tree that I would suddenly remember a list-worthy song that had completely slipped my mind.
I have also had to make some assumptions. I assume I’ve washed up entirely alone. If that was not the case, then this list would surely change. I wouldn’t after all, need the songs that remind me of Emma or Hannah if they were there with me. I’m also fairly sure that Emma would set up camp on the other side of the island if she had to hear Desolation Row more than once a week.
Finally, before I begin my list, I need to point out that this isn’t actually a list of my favourite songs. I avoided most of my absolute favourites for two reasons:
- I know them so well. I can remember every single word of Bohemian Rhapsody and I can belt it out myself whenever the mood takes me. My misguided youth coincided with unhealthy obsessions with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Operation Ivy, TISM, Oasis, Led Zeppelin, and Bob Marely, yet none of them appear here because my favourite songs from each of those artists come to me so freely.
- There is not enough diversity amongst my absolute favourites. Far too quickly they would lose their appeal and I would be left with nothing.
- Each of the songs that I have chosen remind me of something. They take me to a particular place and time, or they give me a message that will no-doubt be required when I find myself all alone on a desert island. Most of my favourites wouldn’t actually do that (Under the Bridge, for example, would just remind me that heroin is an awful drug – not exactly helpful on a desert island unless some particularly nefarious crates have also washed up).
My Desert Island Discs, in no particular order
- Dumb Things – Paul Kelly
A strange choice for me as I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Kelly’s music . Sometimes I find his songs a bit contrived or tacky (his song about being in prison, so being unavailable to make the gravy makes me cringe every Christmas). But Dumb Things really did seem appropriate for my new living arrangements. After all, I would have to have done something pretty dumb in my life to wind up stranded on a desert island with nothing more than 8 songs, a photo album and the world’s most expensive speaker system (see below).
It is also a great pump-up song, perfect for energising before building my shanty out of driftwood or running into the water to tackle a shark and drag it to shore for dinner.
Other notable reasons for choosing this song include the reminder of home that an Australian artist provides, and the reminder of the two times that I have seen Kelly in concert (both times supporting Bob Dylan). While I may take issue with some of his lyrics, I can’t fault the man on his live performances.
2. Desolation Row – Bob Dylan
Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature was testament to the quality of his work and there was never any doubt that Bob would make the list, the problem was narrowing it down to just one song. How does one choose from a catalogue so extensive as his? His work spans seven decades and countless, diverse genres (remember the Christian Rock phase? No? Good.)
Desolation Row certainly isn’t my favourite Dylan song, that would probably go to Working Man’s Blues #2. But it gets the gig for two reasons – it’s eleven-and-a-half minutes long, which means it won’t get old quickly, and it tells a story (one with delightful themes of urban chaos). It is a song in which I can get lost – it takes me on a journey (convoluted and disjointed, yes, but a journey nonetheless). And by the end of that journey through the bleakness of urban life, I’ll probably be able to look at my new surroundings on the desert island with refreshed eyes.
3. Everlong – Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters make the list because they have been a part of my life for a long time.
One memorable time a friend of mine found out about a free gig they were putting on at Fox Studios in Sydney. As I was a poor uni student at the time, I thought there was nothing better than watching a quality band for free. We hopped on a bus into town, but got off at the wrong stop and had to walk the last few kilometres. I have fond memories of traipsing through the fields of Moore Park, attempting to jump fences and finally downing a rewarding beer before waiting about 2 metres away from the stage for a couple of hours before the show started. We had an awesome view, Dave Grohl was in fine form, we made some new friends in the crowd and had an all-round great time!
Choosing just one Foo Fighters song was tough, but Everlong holds great sentimental value. It, more than any other song, reminds me of good times with great people in my 20s (even if the actual content is quite depressing).
4. Back Porch – The Presidents Of The United States Of America
When I was a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have a loving, caring and supportive family around me. My parents were very good at allowing me to find me own way in life, while still offering plenty of support and just generally being there for me. I had a running joke with my dad, in which I constantly pointed out that he was old. He, in turn fully embraced his “oldness” (he was in fact, not that old. At least, not compared to how old he is today!).
I never took myself too seriously either, so when The Presidents burst on to the scene with Peaches, I became immediately attracted to this band that so wonderfully mocked a genre of music that I loved. The Presidents’ self-titled debut album was the first CD (remember those?) I ever bought. I listened to it over and over again.
Upon discovering Back Porch, I of course immediately tried to use it to make fun of my dad’s oldness. He turned the tables and adopted it as a theme song of sorts. He would sing, over and over again “old man on the back porch, old man on the back porch, old man on the back porch and that old man is me”.
I like to think that on my desert island I will have fashioned a crude porch to the back of my shanty, and constructed a driftwood rocking chair. Then I can live the line “Rocking back and forth, ’cause that’s my only destination”. I can give a nod to my dad and recognise that it is now me who is the old man on the back porch. And I can remember the good times, growing up with my family.
5. Give Me One Reason – Tracy Chapman
I have ummed and ahed about this one. I have been fortunate enough in my life to be surrounded by strong women, so there’s no way I’m going to find myself stuck on a desert island without a strong female voice. There are plenty who could fill this role, but in the end it came down to two incredible singers – Norah Jones and Tracy Chapman.
Jones’ Come Away With Me and Don’t Know Why were head and shoulders above on the chill-out scale, and I would probably regret not having one of these songs for when it came time to relax. However, in the end I couldn’t go past Chapman’s Give Me One Reason.
Tracy Chapman’s voice gives me goosebumps like no other. She evokes a sense of nostalga for something that I can’t ever quite put my finger on – perhaps something deep in my childhood. Whatever it is, I could listen to this song a thousand times and still enjoy it as if I was listening to it for the first time.
Finally, the opening line “Give me one reason to stay here…” may be just enough to get my butt into gear and start building a raft, in an attempt to escape my paradise prison and return to the real world.
6. Castles Made of Sand – Jimi Hendrix
Back in the days when I thought I was much cooler than I really was, I was introduced to the music of Jimi Hendrix. A friend of mine put the Experience Hendrix CD on and we sat on the couch and listened to it, start to finish. I was an immediate fan. His lyrics were mesmorising and his guitar-playing moreso. I could feel the man’s aura radiating through the CD player, coming from another place and another time entirely, yet still speaking so strongly to me (you know, as a middle-class white-boy without any real problems). I felt a huge sense of sadness when my friend told me that he was dead (long before I was even born), and at such a young age. I can’t help but feel that the world was robbed of something impossible to replace.
Castles Made of Sand gets the gig because it serves as a very literal warning to not get too complacent about my new circumstances on the desert island. Life is fluid, fragile and ultimately futile. I should not waste my time trying to build castles that will eventually be taken away.
7. Wristband – Paul Simon
What on earth am I doing? I’ve included a recently released song by an aging pop-folk musician. Surely liking this song is a passing phase, and I shouldn’t include something that hasn’t had the benefit of time to prove if it is worthy of being on such a list.
It is a gamble, but I’m pretty happy with having it on the list. Graceland was my favourite vinyl record when I about five. It was the one that I demanded be played whenever it was my turn to choose the music. Wristband takes me back to the earlier Graceland through Simon’s distinctive voice and music, but it also provides something else. It is contemporary – it speaks of real and growing issues of inequality, vanity and misguided authority in such a beautiful way. Perhaps it would help me to feel better about living on a desert island – that I had left this world behind.
The song is catchy and easy to sing along to. Try listening to it a couple of times, then see if you can spend the rest of the day without once singing out-loud: “wristband, my man. You gotta have a wristband”.
8. Under The Boardwalk – The Drifters
This one is probably the most important song for me on this list. It is the song that most reminds me of Emma. We played it at our wedding reception – one of the most genuinely enjoyable days of my life. “Under the boardwalk, down by the sea. On a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be” almost perfectly sums up some of my favourite times that we’ve had together (although never actually under a boardwalk, but plenty of down by the sea). I couldn’t think of a better song to put on, sit in a shady spot, look out to sea and reflect on the best things in life. Perfect!
Keen-eyed readers would notice that there is not a single song in my desert island discs specifically for Hannah. The reason for that is simple. My memories of Hannah from the past year are interwoven into all of this music. It is the music that I played to her as I held her, tightly wrapped in a bundle of blankets. It’s the music I played as we sat eating lunch together. It’s the music I play when she wakes up agitated by sore gums and new teeth – I hold her and we bop along together until she is no longer focused on the pain and a smile breaks across her face. And then we bop along together some more. It’s the music that she is beginning to dance to by bouncing up and down.
Because if I’m only going to hear the same 8 songs for the rest of my life, I may as well hear them through the best (most expensive) sound system on earth. I am, of course, assuming there is some kind of power point available on this desert island. Most desert islands have power points, don’t they?
I’m sure this is probably cheating, but I would have to take a photo album of all of the people, places and events that are most special to me. I’ll have to remember to get this printed before I go on any cruises in the near future.
Congratulations if you made it this far! If I have inspired you to write your own desert island discs list, please let me know in the comments so that I can check it out!