March 19, 2020

"More than two thousand episodes [of Desert Island Discs] are available online as downloads or podcasts..."

"... and I began listening to them a few years ago, as a way of glimpsing times other than my own. I love hearing about the path-altering memories of others—what it was like to experience Beatlemania or Motown or punk before they were settled narratives. At first, I was drawn to specific guests, hoping to learn more about the interiority of David Beckham (the Stone Roses, Elton John, Sidney Bechet), what kind of music Zadie Smith liked (Biggie, Prince, Madonna), where the cultural theorist Stuart Hall found inspiration (Bach, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley—'the sound that saved a lot of second-generation black West Indian kids from just, you know, falling through a hole in the ground').... It’s come to seem less like a show about music and creative inspiration than one about the possibility of loneliness. How do you find meaning in total isolation?... As many people prepare for weeks of 'social distancing' and working from home, we return to comforts.... It never occurred to me, until fairly recently, that this exercise was different from merely naming your favorite songs, or what you considered to be the best.... I didn’t realize that the desert-island choices were really a question about mortality.... What would it mean to survive and find yourself alone (Pharoah Sanders)? Would you bask in memories of friendship (the Beach Boys) and good times (Derrick May), of your greatest love (the Intruders)? Would those memories be too painful? Maybe you would want to listen to music that existed free of context—the last splendid and uplifting thing you heard before getting lost, a reminder that the world goes on without you?"

From "Join Me in My Obsession with 'Desert Island Discs'" by Hua Hsu (in The New Yorker). Go here for the shows.

ADDED: To be clear: "It’s an interview show with a simple premise: each celebrity guest discusses the eight recordings that he or she would bring if cast away alone on a desert island." Just 8 songs. Not albums.

32 comments:

eddie willers said...

So are you looking for our own selections? I'd have to start, "Other than the Beatles...."

Phidippus said...

Bad idea to choose pop music. It's basically disposable; it wears out fast, like a cheap suit.

Bach. Brahms. Mahler. Schubert. Beethoven. Shostakovitch. Each of them stared Death in the face. They all died of course, but Death blinked first.

hstad said...

AA, quick question, did your blog get to much traffic yesterday at around 2 - 2:30 pm? Cause I noticed no postings after that time. To many people answering from home - LOL!

Bay Area Guy said...

The Beach Boys, I maintain, were better and bigger than the Beatles.

I stand by that statement. Surf's up, Dude.

Ps Brian Wilson was a musical genius, but a wacko. He's still alive!

Deevs said...

Before reading I asked myself, "Is this helping?" The answer isn't obvious from the post title, and I don't know what to do.

Wait, I think I can work this one out. I'm confused, and confusion doesn't really help, so I guess I shouldn't read this post.

Ken B said...

Roasted rapini today. Cut the stalks off, toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, cayenne. Roast 10-11 minutes 425. Spread the rapini thinly on a cookie sheet when cooking to let the leaves crinkle. Yum.

Ice Nine said...

I'm pretty sure that these are interesting. But I'm absolutely positive that they would be a hell of a lot more interesting if more than 1% of them were from people that I'd ever heard of. Oh well...can't have everything.

Fernandistein said...

28 year-old, "at least", man wins high school wrestling championship!

Rory said...

I used to be able to listen to Ella Fitzgerald on headphones through a whole workday, because she was so easy to listen to. And I could listen to Ray Charles all day because he moved aross so many genres. Never could do that with anyone else.

Ann Althouse said...

“ AA, quick question, did your blog get to much traffic yesterday at around 2 - 2:30 pm? Cause I noticed no postings after that time. To many people answering from home - LOL!”

Sometimes we have moderation on. Then the comments are on hold and later go up all at once.

rcocean said...

I'd pick the Beach Boys over the Beatles for a desert island. Just more upbeat and happy. I'd chose Harold Lloyd over Chaplin for the same reason.

eddie willers said...

Pet Sounds was a good album and "Good Vibrations" one of the best 45s ever but, Holy Jesus guys, even Brian Wilson went crazy because he knew he could never come close to the Beatles. And he never did.

You gotta give the Devil his due. (Though I agree on Harold Lloyd)

Ann Althouse said...

You only get 8 songs. Not whole albums.

Bay Area Guy said...

@ Eddie Willers,

"....but, Holy Jesus guys, even Brian Wilson went crazy because he knew he could never come close to the Beatles. And he never did."

I read this really interesting book on CIA mind control experiments, and did you know that Charlie Manson and his gals bummed off Brian Wilson at his Malibu beach house, before moving on to Spahn Ranch? Crazy meets crazy.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Beatles over Beach Boys. not even close.
I'd probably pick just about anybody over the Beach Boys.
Not that I don't recognize how great the Beach Boys are - and they are, just not my cup of ear-tea.

+Beatles
Decidedly not crazy. and when they started to go crazy (John) they knew when to call it a day.

Grant said...

I’ve listened to many episodes of this via podcast, but only ones I’ve chosen because I’m interested in the interviewee—often not a musician. In nearly every case there are interesting revelations in the interviews, but perhaps a bit less interest in the musical selections than I would have thought. I now know that Alfred Brendel is an ass and that Mary Berry is as charming as she seemed on Great British Baking. But the choices of desert island music are so idiosyncratic that it’s difficult to take away anything specific, about loneliness or anything else.

Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

I used to love music in the 80's and 90's. Now, I've lost interest. I'm not that stirred by music and I don't find that I want to listen to any of it, even stuff I like. Sad!
I cannot stand current pop-cult. All the females sound the same. I cannot stand watching American Idol shows where all the contestants sound the same. Boring.

I love Siouxsie. I adore KD Lang. I'll always love the Beatles.

Iman said...

Jumping Jack Flash - Stones
Rock and Roll Doctor - Little Feat
Don’t Cry No Tears - Neil Young
Baby Blue - Bob Dylan
Julia - Beatles
Just Like This Train - Joni Mitchell
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix
Magnificent Seven - The Clash

Iman said...

And for its sheer beauty and majesty, I’d sneak Surf’s Up Beach Boys in as number 9.

Iman said...

Charles Manson was buds with Dennis Wilson, not Brian.

Amexpat said...

Spirit in the Sky: Norman Greenbaum
Gimme Shelter: Rolling Stones
Down by the River: Neil Young
Kind of Blue (longest cut from album): Miles Davis
St. James Infirmary: Louis Armstrong
Quit Hollering At Me: John Prine
Gates of Eden (Bootleg version with George Harrison): Bob Dylan
When I Paint My Masterpiece: The Band


Quickly chosen, trying for variety

DavidD said...

Please Please Me--"I don't wanna sound complainin' but you know there's always rain in / my heart." C'mon, who can resist a rhyme scheme like that?
Yes It Is--"For red is the colour that will make me blue...."
I'll Cry Instead--"I got a chip on my shoulder that's bigger than my feet."
Think For Yourself--"Although your mind's opaque, try thinking more if just for your own sake. The future still looks good, and you've got time to rectify all those things that you should."--opaque? rectify? This is pop music?

That's 4; I'm sure I can find 4 more if I must.

Rory said...

"Just 8 songs."

"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," Jerry Lee Lewis
"Tutti Frutti," Little Richard
"Good Golly, Miss Molly," Little Richard
"Long, Tall, Sally," Little Richard
"Lucille," Little Richard
"Keep A-Knockin'," Little Richard
"Slippin and Sliding," Little Richard
"Rip It Up," Little Richard

eddie willers said...

I read this really interesting book on CIA mind control experiments, and did you know that Charlie Manson and his gals bummed off Brian Wilson at his Malibu beach house, before moving on to Spahn Ranch? Crazy meets crazy.

As noted above it was Dennis, but MAN, you've GOT to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood....

Amexpat...you can come over to my house and listen to records.

DavidD...how good was YOUR poetry when you were 19? How about a later tune?

Words are flowing out
Like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
Are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me
Jai Guru Deva, Om
Nothing's gonna change my world

walter said...

If the interiority is complex, that might indicate an interiority complex.
Yes, yes..pop music is disposable.
Pity so many of us derive sustained enjoyment from it.
Fooking trogs, us.
(truth is, much of "classical" is terribly repetitive)

walter said...

Btw, if you don't know a pop culture reference you encounter on the internet, you can change that quicker than typing out you don't know what that is.

tpceltus said...

Love, love, love Desert Island Discs. But I've never thought of it as about loneliness. How absurd. It's set up, and comes across, as a cozy chat between a celebrity or other interesting person. The 'desert island' bit serves to achieve that sense of coziness. As one musician said (in paraphrase), 'this show has been on for decades...there must be a lot of people on that island.' Episodes are available through a search on the BBC iPlayer Radio app. An added benefit of the app is that it gives access to a lot of the BBC radio channels. Fun.

rcocean said...

Eight songs is tough. Okay. Excluding Classical works, Opera, and religious music aka just Pop/Jazz/Rock/Etc.

Just off the top of my head:

Louis Armstrong (Potato Head Blues)
Doris Day (Its Magic)
Miles Davis (So What)
Beach Boys (Sloop John B)
John Lee Hooker (Hey Bartender)
Benny Goodmman (Sing sing Sing)
Pinetop Perkins (Pinetop Boogie Woogie)
Peggy Lee (Waiting for the Train to Come In)

stlcdr said...

I don’t know whether I’m surprised or not, that you had to explain what desert island discs is and that it’s singles not albums.

FleetUSA said...

During the 70's-80's when we lived in London DID was one of our favorite programs. I often taped them (old cassette tapes)

In addition to the 8 songs the guest would pick one book. The Bible & complete works of Shakespeare were already provided.

The BBC announcer/producer/owner's voice was classic soft toned English ---- Roy Plomley

Robert Cook said...

"Sail On, Sailor" Beach Boys
"Until I Die" (Originally recorded by the Beach Boys, but my pick is the version recorded by Brian Wilson and produced by Don Was for the Brian Wilson documentary film and CD "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times."
"Young Man Blues" Live version from "LIVE AT LEEDS" album
"In Search of R.Crumb" by obscure 70s band Christopher Milk
"Search and Destroy" Iggy and the Stooges
"Death Trip" Iggy and the Stooges
"Roadrunner" The Modern Lovers
"Message of Love" Jimi Hendrix on "BAND OF GYPSYS" live album (There are a couple of other songs on this, Hendrix's best album in terms of his playing, that I could have picked.)