The Desert Island Discs archive has been online for a couple of years now, but it’s only in the last month or so that I’ve really got stuck into it like the goldmine it is. I think I listened to a few over Christmas and maybe spent some time listening to the people that I’m fangirlish about in the past, but I’ve now reached the level of obsession where I’ll download anything that they’ve ever broadcast.
I’m powering through about four episodes a day right now. And there’s only 2,850 castways. Help.
There are lots of features by DID obsessives online – this Guardian one is good – and I don’t really believe that I can bring anything new to the table; I just really, really like it.
You spend 40 minutes listening to somebody talk about eight pieces of their favourite music and, by the end, you’ve learnt a buttload. It might be about history, it might about politics or it might just be the more obvious stuff about that person’s life – but I’ve not found a boring one yet. Even when it’s with a boring person! Or the music’s shit! Get someone talking about a song they remember from childhood and next thing you know, you have them spilling about their troubled relationship with their dad in a way that most interviewers can only dream of.
For a massive ignoramus like me, the musical education is also invaluable. I often wonder when I’ll become a true grown-up and know lots about classical music, because even the dummies on DID seem to have at least two or three favourite pieces of classical stuff; an operetta here, a concerto there. What, you’re not au fait with classical? Jesus, grow up, Gibson! All I know about is Zadok the Priest, and I got that from DID. Just look at the most popular tracks and artists! Who? What? Huh? Educate me!
Unlike most Desert Island Anoraks, I don’t have my own eight discs picked out and ready for the inevitable day that I get the call just yet. As mentioned above, the misery of not having eight pieces of grown-up classical music to reel off is just too shameful. I mean, I really went off Nigella when she picked Wheatus and while I’d never stoop quite that low, my love of the Mike Curb Congregation just seems kinda embarrassing.
One thing I have considered picking is Sleepy Lagoon by Eric Coates… which is actually the theme for DID. Not because I’m just that meta, but because I really, really love it. (I do have my book picked though; it’s a PG Wodehouse short stories collection, naturally. And I’d be in good company.)
Anyway – here are some of my DID picks that you should give a listen. Or maybe just download all 500, like me. S/O to the BBC for making the archive completely brilliant with its suggested listens and searchability!
Morrissey – massive flirt, really funny, picks a great selection of NYC punk
Jessica Mitford – best of all the Mitfords, good anecdotes, chooses a lol luxury item… Debo and Diana are also on there, with Diana’s being notoriously fucking grim thanks to her Nazi-lovin’ ways
Hugh Laurie – every song he picks is great, if you like the delta blues as much as I do
Marlene Dietrich – because it’s Marlene bloody Dietrich!
Kathy Burke – funny, life-affirming, wonderful stuff
Ian Hislop – I just really like Ian Hislop. And it’s always interesting, as a journalist, to hear journalists being interviewed.
Alice Cooper – bloody love Alice and he’s a fascinating man with a fascinating history. His turn to religion in later life also makes for an interesting interview.
Cecil Beaton – Cecil Beaton!! How many interviews with Cecil Beaton have you heard? Exactly. He’s completely fascinating.
Clarissa Dickson Wright – man, has she had an interesting life. I thoroughly enjoy her attitude towards all the stuff that’s gone wrong for her.
Vidal Sassoon – because he’s the main man in my industry, his voice is like heaven and his life history is worthy of a movie (if there hadn’t been one already…)
Bonus mention: Barbara Cartland – why isn’t her episode available to listen? C’mon, I’m desperate for it.
[Picture: A cold day in Miami Beach, 1940 by Alfred Eisenstaedt]