I’ve never been very good at listening to music. I’m not a John Peel. I rarely sit in a room on my own, headphones on, listening to albums. I absolutely adore music, though, and it has been as big a part of my life as the need to wear pants. And I do wear pants, nearly all of the time.
Music is something which accompanies me. Whether it be on long car journeys, a dog walk, trip to the shops or slaving over a hot stove, it is usually present. I have a musician father. I also make music and have done ever since my dad introduced me to an Atari ST and copy of Cubase when I was about 12. It is part of me.
I’m the antithesis of a music snob. I don’t have a favourite David Bowie album. I’m fond of the odd bubble gum pop record. I’d struggle to name more than three Smiths records. I’m pitiful at discovering new artists. I’d rather connect my teeth to the mains than listen to Radiohead. I’m about as uncool as you can get. But I don’t care – I just love music.
Lately, I’ve been getting somewhat addicted to the Desert Island Discs archive (available here), and it has inspired me to pick my own. I’m not famous and I doubt anyone cares, but I’ve decided it is a process I must go through, no matter how arduous.
And arduous it has been. Almost impossible. My initial shortlist consisted of forty-two tracks. You’re only allowed eight. Eight. If you suggest taking more, or sway even a millimetre outside of the rulebook, Kirsty Young punches you in the face. Of course, being a desert island, and the place on which you’ll draw your last breath, there’s no going back. What you choose stays with you until your dying day. It’s an absolutely frightening prospect and has forced me to make some of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in the last ten years.
So, without further ado, here we go. I make no apologies for what’s in this list – it’s mine.
1. The Beatles – Oh! Darling (Abbey Road)
In 2011 I got married to my rather lovely lady of ten years, Lindsey. As is customary, you’re required to choose a song which provides the backdrop to your exit from the church. Those fleeting steps you take out into a world which is, actually, just the same, albeit with identical surnames and the promise of a tax break from Mr Cameron. Still, it’s a nice walk, all the same. I did very little planning for the wedding. I was, as most grooms are, completely and utterly useless, but I did choose this song to walk out to and the collective ‘ah!’ which emanated from our nearest and dearest in the church confirmed it was the right choice. And regardless, there is no way I’m going to a desert island without the Beatles.
2. Jeff Beck – Brush With The Blues (Who Else?)
As a kid, I harboured a deep desire to play the guitar. I never took up the instrument (although I can still strum the odd chord) but I’m forever in awe of those that did and none more so than Jeff Beck. I’ve chosen this particular track because it features, without a doubt, the best guitar performance I have ever heard. It also stands out like a beautiful, sore thumb on an album which is made up predominantly of dance-infused rock. Have a listen, and bear in mind this guy doesn’t even use a plectrum. Two things have the power to bring a tear to my eye – dogs and music. Beck’s playing on this track did just that to me the last time I listened.
3. Mary J Blige – Family Affair (No More Drama)
If truth be told, Mary probably wouldn’t be coming with me to the island, but there is simply no leaving this song at home. I have something of a distaste for the ‘our song’ thing, but there is no escaping the fact that this song was played a great deal during the early days of my relationship with Lindsey. Happy memories. And its produced by Dr Dre, who I love a little bit too much.
4. Daft Punk – Contact (Random Access Memories)
It is now fashionable to like Daft Punk. Before their seminal 2013 album, Random Access Memories, you liked Daft Punk if you appreciated what they did, often silently, for dance music. They invented French filtered house, but RAM was a huge departure from that, successfully resurrecting 70s disco and, in turn, putting Chic back on stage at Glastonbury. Somewhat controversially, I’ve decided not to delve into their back catalogue for the inevitable take-with-me Daft Punk track. I know it will be a wrench having nothing from Homework or Discovery to accompany me, but Contact is without a shadow of a doubt the best thing they’ve ever made, in my mind. It closes an album which, for me, is second only to Dark Side Of The Moon and Contact literally sounds like two robots falling from space, crashing through the atmosphere and heading gallantly towards the ground. Legend has it they broke the studio on the final listen to this piece and the thought of that thrills me every time. It also features NASA. Need I say more?
5. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax (Welcome To The Pleasuredome)
I’ll keep this brief. I had no idea what the song meant when I was 12, but Trevor Horn’s production was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard and I’ve been trying to make music like this ever since.
6. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb [live] (Pulse)
In 1994 I discovered Pink Floyd. Since then, they’ve been ever present. If I’m not listening to them, I’m probably thinking about them. I’m not sure how long I’d last without Dark Side Of The Moon, but I’m hoping at least having the greatest guitar solo of all time on hand will help numb the pain (boom!). Yes, this is the live one, but it’s the best rendition of that solo by a country mile:
7. The Prodigy – No Good (Music For The Jilted Generation)
I figure that, if you’re on a desert island on your own for the rest of your life, it’ll be pretty impossible to get by without a piece of music occasionally punching you in the ear for six minutes and eighteen seconds. Picking just one Prodigy song to take with me was as hard as the Pink Floyd conundrum, but I managed it. And it had to be this.
8. Jay Z – Takeover (The Blueprint)
The books I’ll have with me (see below), will provide literary relief for a while (and a source of fuel, as far as the bible is concerned), but I’ll likely get bored, which will leave something of a gap. Rap will fill that. Not taking a hip hop record with me would be akin to having no source of food. Picking just one track was, yes, nearly impossible, but I managed it. This one made the grade because Jay Z is still one of the most accomplished rappers I’ve ever heard and he absolutely destroys fellow mike bandit, NAS, in this brilliant, dirty, relentless assault. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a piece of music that sounds as confident as this:
If I could only take one…
That’s easy – Oh! Darling. Lindsey wouldn’t be there in person, but she’d be there every time I play that, which would be on constant repeat.
The book (complete works of Shakespeare and the bible are already there)
Roddy Doyle – The Van. Still the most enjoyable book I’ve ever read.
A piano. I don’t get enough time to practice at home, but that shouldn’t be a problem on the island.
There you have it. I really recommend doing this yourself, if you’ve got time. If I get time again, I’ll do another little blog on the ones that didn’t make it. Until then…