|18 Jul 2019|
|Desert Island Discs|
|1. Jennifer Eccles - The Hollies |
For some reason I’ve never been too much of a follower of ‘mainstream’ music. My earliest musical memory, besides singing Kumbaya sitting on a rostrum in primary school, was our class being asked by a primary school teacher to bring in our favourite songs, or what we were listening to at the moment. Whilst most people brought in Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley, for some reason I brought in Jennifer Eccles by The Hollies, which was released in 1968!
2. She Drives Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals
This was the first cassette I bought. Not really a fan, but if the point of this piece is that your choices should permit a review of your life, then this is a pretty poignant moment. I must have been about 7 or 8, and we were about to embark on our first long-haul family holiday to America. Being a lively young man, my parents were concerned as to how to keep me quiet, so at the airport we bought one of these:
I obviously then needed to buy something to play on it and She Drives Me Crazy was the hit of the time in 1988.
3. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
I always like the story telling aspect of songs, the inspiration and the back story. This one is well-known now, but I found it particularly tragic. It deals with Syd Barrett leaving the band and suffering a mental breakdown. The story goes that in 1975, former frontman, Barrett had become a pale shadow of his former self and made a surprise visit to Abbey Road studio. He’d put on so much weight that the others didn’t recognize him for several minutes. He’d shaved his head, too, along with his eyebrows. Roger Waters penned this song after seeing his friend so lost and detached from the world around him. ‘Wish You Were Here’ deals with that mental inability – the refusal, even – to engage with reality, and it served as a tribute to Barrett’s better days.
4. New York State of Mind - Billy Joel
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Billy Joel and a lot of time in New York. Therefore, this song covers both bases. For me, Billy Joel is a modern-day story telling great. All his songs have a back story and a reason for being written, rather than the nebulous tunes that seem to be churned out by the pop empresarios these days, or by teenagers on their computers. New York State of mind encapsulates the city so poignantly and it’s Billy Joel at his best.
5. Redemption Song - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Marley had an amazing ability to mix politics, religion and human rights together. His music has in my eyes, a quite unique ability to bring people together, as typified by the Peace Concert in Kingston, Jamaica which culminated in the prime minister Michael Manley and opposition leader Edward Seaga embracing two previously notorious rival gang leaders, Bucky Marshall and Claude Massop. The two political leaders then joined hands with Bob Marley. Drawing inspiration from Marcus Garvey, this song carries a powerful message about learning from our past and fighting for the future.
6. Juicy - Notorious BIG
South Wales in the 90s wasn’t necessarily a huge hub for hip hop but MTV was a cultural phenomenon and exposed us to artists such as the Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur. It was height of the West Coast v East Coast rap wars that would eventually see ‘Big’ and ‘Shakur’ lose their lives. Again, with this song I just loved the narrative that Christopher Wallace (his real name) spoke about. It tells the story of his life changing from bad to good and becoming more responsible as an adult. The opening line: “To all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothin'” I felt I could relate to, being an angry teen, despite the fact I can’t remember any teacher ever saying that to me!!
7. These Are The Days Of Our Lives - Queen
I was a huge fan of Queen growing up. I had every album they made. As a youngster, we were bombarded with hard-hitting adverts about AIDS and it was very much in the public psyche. Although Freddie didn’t publicly disclose his diagnosis until the very end of his life, there were lots of rumours in the press that he was gravely ill with the disease. The song is incredibly poignant and the video, heart breaking. It’s also inspirational at the same time, but it was evident the Freddie – in my eyes the greatest front man of all time – didn’t have long to live.
8. Famous Last Words – Billy Joel
When I said I like him, that would probably be an understatement. I’m what you would call a superfan. In the early 2000s I flew to New York for 2 days to see his ‘farewell show.’ Little did I know, he would be in London two months later and has now completed a record breaking 61-show run at Madison Square Gardens that shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. In the 90s Billy Joel stopped writing pop songs to tun his attention to classical music; his first love. Billy felt he’d "said it all," and rather than churn stuff out he’d stop there; and true to his word, he has. The last song on the last album he wrote was Famous Last Words and I respect how he has stuck to his guns. Elton John and Paul McCartney would often ask Joel why he wouldn’t put out more albums. Joel’s response to them was “Why don’t you put out less?” I think he has a point.
Luxury item: Tennis Ball
Nearly all sport derives from people taking advantage of their surroundings. The football long ball game was developed to take advantage of the vast expanses of playing fields at Uppingham. Dribbling in football was pioneered in the cloisters of Charterhouse, and the wall game of Eton took advantage of the unique wall they had – although that hasn’t really caught on yet anywhere else despite an abundance of suitable walls. I would imagine my time on the desert island would be spent trying to devise a game that would make the hours fly by, and hoping that one day I might have someone to play against – or even get rescued and take my game global. If I had a tennis ball it might give me a head start since, of all the sports balls, I think it’s the most versatile.
Book: The Proud Highway - Hunter S Thompson
Despite being an egg & bacon wearing MCC member and teacher at a Public School, I’ve always thought of myself as being somewhat anti-establishment. Or, perhaps I’ve always wanted to be, but never had the gumption to carry it off. The Proud Highway is a collection of letters by the pioneer of Gonzo journalism and at first read I loved his anarchic, anti-authoritarian style, and it proved the inspiration for me to read – a fire that hadn’t been lit during my school years.
This quote from the book sums up his style and approach to life quite nicely:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”