Thursday, 6 December 2007

Desert Island Discs


My favourite radio show is without doubt desert island discs. (It's been on Radio 4 for about three hundred years, but it never gets old.) The premise is, of course, its genius: a 45 minute interview in which the interviewee has to choose eight songs or pieces of music to take with them to a desert island. It can't really fail, and having a sexy presenter right now is just the icing on the cake. Anyway, for no reason other than that I can, here are my current choices:

1. Promised Land by Bruce Springsteen. I love Bruce; I think he's one of the few genuinely honest performers around in that he's quite happy to go in and out of fashion and has no care for being thought of as 'cool'. This is him at his best - angsty, energetic, desperate, passionate, and optimistic, and it would be great to put on in the morning to get me up and ready to go.

2. Jupiter: The Bringer of Joy - Holst, from The Planets. Just because it does exactly that - brings joy. Even though the famous march has been reduced almost to cliche by endless reproduction, in its original context it's still enough to make the hairs stand up on my neck and make me want to stand up and say, "Yes! I'm glad I'm alive!"

3. Cherub Rock - The Smashing Pumpkins. Probably my favourite band, so it's hard to choose just one song by them. I think this is them at their best, and a sort of microcosm of their ouevre. Rocky, proggy, grungy, and you can hear all the elements of what made them the most musically accomplished outfit of their era - Billy Corgan's genius for composition, James Iha's crazy guitar, and Jimmy Chamberlain's brilliance on the drums: so brilliant he makes all other drummers seem like guys just hitting things with sticks.

4. The Rite of Spring - Stravinsky. I've written about this one before. I think it's at the absolute zenith of Western art - the very point at which beauty stopped being the ultimate purpose and it started to become fundamentally about navel-gazing, politics and grandstanding instead. This ballet was just on the right side of that divide.

5. The Hook - Steven Malkmus. Any song that begins with the line at age 19 I was kidnapped by Turkish pirates is a fair bet to be a success with me. I think Steven Malkmus is vastly under-rated. His music manages to be both funny and touching, and his lyrics would stand on their own just as poems. Ever since Pavement split up he's gone from strength to strength.

6. Superunknown - Soundgarden. This just reminds me of being a teenager. I used to listen to songs like this and think, yes, there is more to life than growing up, getting a job, living in suburban boredom, and growing old. Some people out there are trying to create something, and are passionate about it. Of course in this case partly they were being passionate about taking heroin. But mostly it was about good rock music.

7. Flamingo Sketches - Miles Davis. I couldn't overlook Miles Davis. What can you say about music like this? Nothing.

8. Slip Slidin' Away - Paul Simon. Just a great song about what it is to be alive, and I love the ambition of that aim. To try and say something with meaning, a sort of elegy for life.

Even looking back over the list I find myself thinking what an idiot I am. No Marvin Gaye? No Leonard Cohen? No Smiths? No Beatles? No Bob Dylan? No Supremes? No Temptations? No Ben Folds Five? Some of my absolute favourites are missing, dammit.

I could rewrite it all over again tomorrow, and every day for the rest of my life, probably.

2 comments:

zero_zero_one said...

You could rewrite it... I might just steal your desert island discs post as I'm feeling so crappy this morning I can't think of anything to write, other than our Scrabble game...

mattiecore said...

Ugh, I fucking love Stravinsky.

The Firebird Suite makes me weep, sincerely.