Sadly on this occasion it’s only metaphorically speaking… As visitors here before will have probably realised, it’s the sort of situation and location I value highly, if only to gain a little solace and some light relief from our social rat-race…
All my life I’ve cherished the moments of joy and peace gained from sitting at the water’s edge. Mostly its fishing a river, a pond or canal but equally it can be simply looking out over a lake observing the wildlife and nature.
Sometimes, as with Eric Coates, it’s the views out to sea from a coastal vantage point, dreaming of sailing off to far away places as the sun sets over crystal clear ripples and waves of a blue-green ocean. I’m always reminded of that famous quote…
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover…(Mark Twain)
Given the opportunity (and financial where with all) you can be assured, I’d be quickly resident in a house with an expanse of water nearby, mostly for the fishing but mainly for the solitude. Perhaps with the impacts of global warming and the recent climatic and meteorological events, I might get my wish, sooner than I expect? 🙂
The desire to live near water is kind of natural for the resident of any island nation I suppose, irrespective of the size of the island in question. It could also be a minor thought process in the mind of many of those drawn to the entertainment format of Desert Island Discs. That brief passage into the thoughts and self-observations of another, during a period of isolation and solitude, that perhaps helps us to examine our own?
For those who’ve never listened, Desert Island Discs has a simple format: a guest is invited by Kirsty Young (the current presenter) to choose the eight records they would take with them to a mythical desert island, along with a book and a luxury item. But not only does it appeal to islanders (actual or aspirational), the show is also a National Institution. One that provides another one of those descriptive elements helping to define Britishness. It sits on the same level as Beefeaters and cream teas in the pavilion after cricket on the village green.
But it also provides you with an opportunity, through the thoughts and choices of others, to emulate that Robinson Crusoe status. To be alone with one’s own thoughts and self-observations, in tranquility and the pleasant surroundings on your very own Treasure Island experience, all be it metaphorically.
With all this in mind, how does one start to choose eight songs? Tunes that are special to you and actually carry some meaning or memory about your life. They could be chosen to reflect periods or aspects of your life, they could be chosen as indicative of personal traits or simply triggers that help you recall certain events.
Music has the ability to do this and because it does, our musical taste also often fluctuates through our life. Change can be dependent upon our age, our personal aspirations or desires and differing personal circumstances through life. Peer pressure or the desire to apparently belong to a social group or gang can also influence our musical preferences, at least when we’re young and impressionable.
Some types of music appear to endure for an eternity whilst other genres fade into obscurity. Much classical music is still enjoyed many years after it was composed, whilst much of the more modern music, as with many more recent artists and pieces, often tends to fall into the latter category. It is little more than a social fad of the period in which it was produced, and I can’t help thinking, most will disappear into the ether of angst that mellows with age.
There is little of the punk era that has truly endured, although there is some and some that I like. Likewise, I suspect there will be little of the rap culture remaining in years to come, thankfully. The types of music that tend towards longevity are those which possess some form of structured singing, beat and/or rhythm. The ones that are so much more than simply electronically produced, sampled or enhanced noise and shouting, ones which are created with a certain level of human skill, feeling and emotion.
Many would argue that rap music for example, is structured and reflects the emotions, feelings and thought processes of today’s youth, ergo it is music. I however would argue that perhaps that isn’t the case, it is simply an avenue to let off steam, one that will not endure for eternity. It is the reason why so much of today’s ‘music’ tends to dissolve into obscurity, often within 6-12 months of its publication. Time will tell who is right.
I’m one of those few people who has a fairly eclectic taste in music, a factor that should ease the process of selecting eight tunes to take with me to the island. But that wide-ranging taste also makes my selection a little difficult so where do I start?
Do I try to make choices that reflect certain periods in my life? Do I make choices based upon musical taste that has endured throughout my life? Do I select pieces to try an illustrate a personal trait or ones that have personal meaning? Perhaps all those reasons for final choices are relevent?
My choices, with some reasons, are shown below however; given the same choice on a different day and at a different time in my life, I’m also confident they could well be vastly different from these. But here goes, in no particular order…
1. Bob Marley – One Love (YouTube Link): Reggae is a genre of music that I’ve had a close affinity with for most of my adult life. Marley is probably the most famous exponent of the genre, at least to non reggae fans. I have chosen a version of this track performed by the Playing For Change organisation, a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. It’s a noble desire that many of us aspire to. It also partly introduces my next selection.
2. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Homeless (YouTube Link): Some time ago now I was introduced to both traditional African and township pop music. Although I’d personally been aware of it before, Paul Simon’s Graceland album probably did more than any other to introduce this genre to the world. Graceland features an eclectic mixture of musical styles and was strongly influenced by the earlier work of South African musicians Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu. The Zulu-Western pop cross-over music realized in their band Juluka ensured the popularity of South Africa’s first ever integrated pop band.
I’m happy to say that, in addition to Graceland and some Juluka albums, in my collection you will also find artists like; Miriam Mekeba, Hugh Masekela, The Soweto Gospel Choir, a soundtrack from The Power of One and several examples from the discography of the ubiquitous Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Like Clegg, despite him being a Lancastrian, I’d be more than happy to be called Le Zoulou Blanc.
3. Fleetwood Mac – Songbird (Youtube Link): Taking a track from their most famous album ‘Rumours’ is both an easy and a difficult task. Easy because almost every track is well-known, popular and means something to someone, somewhere. Difficult because its hard to choose just one out of so many great tracks. I could have chosen ‘The Chain’ which would also reflect on my Motorsports interests and the bass riff is one of the first I ever learned. Or, ‘Don’t Stop’ because it has personal meanings and memories, reflecting on a turbulent emotional period in my life but I didn’t.
Mick Fleetwood called Rumours “the most important album we ever made” and its consistent critical acclaim, since it was released in 1977, tends to confirm that. I have chosen “Songbird” written and performed by Christine McVie, simply because I love her voice and the song, it is so easy to sit back and relax with.
4. A.Sullivan / W.S.Gilbert – When a felon’s not engaged in his employment (YouTube Link): Ok so you might not immediately recognise the title but if I said “a policeman’s lot” it might start to ring some bells. The song is from The Pirates of Penzance, an operetta by Gilbert & Sulivan. The reason for inclusion here is twofold. Along with the songs from ‘Pirates’ my youth was filled with selections from The Mikado and HMS Pinafore et al. My parents were massive fans of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company who have specialised in performances of the Savoy Operas for over 130 years. It also serves as a reminder of the profession I retired from and sadly, how it is being smashed into an almost unrecognisable image of its former self by our politicians and senior police leaders.
5. The Eagles – Hotel California (YouTube Link): I could have included any one of several different tracks by The Eagles however; this one is probably most representative, especially at the moment. It’s kind of amazing that it’s 37yrs since the release of this iconic signature track from the album of the same name. This choice is an example of the longevity and popularity of good music.
Perhaps just as surprising after all those years is the fact that the band are about to embark on a world tour in 2014. The History of the Eagles Tour includes several UK dates (see here). It has been suggested that Hotel California may have been based on a Jethro Tull song (see here), which leads me to my next selection.
6. Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (YouTube Link): One of the earliest LPs in my record collection was the seminal ‘Aqualung‘ album. The fourth studio album in the band’s career was, despite the band’s disapproval, regarded as a concept album featuring a central theme of “the distinction between religion and God”. My selection was a hard choice (decided by toss-up) between this and Locomotive Breath, a track notable for it’s long bluesy piano introduction and flute solo by Ian Anderson. Which leads me to my next selection.
7. Eric Clapton – I Shot The Sheriff (YouTube Link): Clapton is listed by the Gibson Guitar Corporation as #4 in the top 50 guitarists of all time and he is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. an outstanding musician predominantly influenced by the blues, Clapton has been referred to as one of the “most important and influential guitarists” of all time. An achievement I would wholeheartedly agree with.
The track I’ve selected is a collaboration between Clapton and Mark Knopfler, of Dire Straits fame and another great guitarist. The original 1974 cover of a 1973 Bob Marley penned song became the most succesful version of the song ever. The song and musicians reflect my love of Reggae and Blues music.
8. The Beautiful South, Prettiest Eyes (YouTube Link): This song was selected to reflect on a lifetime of loves, memories and losses but life experiences I wouldn’t change. It also reminds me that partnerships can be lifelong but only when both parties work at it. When The Beautiful South split in 2006, several members of the band weren’t ready to let it go and now The South, not the same but “still beautiful,” are carrying on with the great music.
9. The Book – Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela: I’ve owned this book for sometime but never got around to reading it completely. In the week that ‘Madiba’ passed away (see here), perhaps being cast off to a desert island is an ideal opportunity to consume this work?
10. Special/luxury item – Jacklore Bushcraft Knife & Fire Striker (Fire Steel) or Ferrocerium rod: Being thrust into a life or death situation on a desert island, what better than the fundamental tools of a survival kit. Being someone who is perfectly happy with his own company, able to fend for himself in an outdoor environment and importantly, having been trained in survival skills; I would like to think I could manage the situation and for a good deal longer than most.
As I said at the beginning of the musical selection; it ain’t no easy task… I could easily replace any one of the above tracks with a dozen or more, and for as many different reasons! The more eclectic your taste in music the harder the choice!
- Desert Island Discs The radio show was created by Roy Plomley in 1942 and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 ever since. It holds the record for the longest-running factual programme in the history of radio and is one of the longest-running radio programmes in the world – surpassed only by the Grand Ole Opry (28-Nov-1923) in the United States and by Sunday Half Hour (14-Jul-1940) in the United Kingdom (source wikipedia.org).
- By the Sleepy Lagoon is a light orchestral piece by the British composer Eric Coates. Created in 1930, Coates’s original orchestral version was chosen (with added seagulls) to introduce the BBC Home Service radio series Desert Island Discs in 1942, which it still does to this day on BBC Radio 4 (source wikipedia.org).