Music Monday: Desert Island Discs

I love Desert Island Discs. LOVE. With big puffy pink hearts and everything.

I have been downloading and listening to the Desert Island Discs show — it’s posted as a podcast after the radio broadcast is done in the UK — for a few years now. It has been on the air, in one form or another, for 70 years, so it’s got some terrific history to it.

The premise is simple, really. As it says on the website:

(A) guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re castaway on a mythical desert island.  They’re given the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible.  During the interview they explain their choices and discuss key moments in their lives, people and events that have influenced and inspired them and brought them to where they are today.

And I find it absolutely fascinating. And a little disappointing.

It combines some of my favourite things, in terms of entertainment. Music, obviously. An interesting, personal and revealing interview, more like a conversation sometimes, done by a good interviewer. Biographical information of the interviewee, usually readily given, although sometimes not. Discussion of music, and what influence it had on the interviewee’s life, or the role a particular piece or song had, or the memories around it — as someone whose life is intertwined with music, and for whom many of my memories and feelings are connected with music, I totally get this. And, at the end, a brief discussion of books and a personal “luxury” item, which is oftentimes surprising.

I really love that.

What I find disappointing is often that someone’s musical choices are not what I would imagine they would be, or that they don’t “live up to” my expectations. It’s like if someone you idolize turns out to have absolutely appalling taste in music. Image shattered, right? And, sometimes, someone you thought you admired turns out to be a bit of a jerk. So there’s that.

I find it a very relaxing podcast to listen to, generally. I’m someone who grew up listening to the radio, so I find the documentary format very relaxing. It’s informative and interesting and often funny. And I have learned things about people I never knew about before, people I may have known in name only, and some I had never heard of at all.

Last year (I think) the Beeb uploaded their audio archives of the past 50 years or so. It seems the 1960s broadcasts are few and far between, but once you get into the 70s there’s a treasure trove of artists, politicians, authors, scientists, public figures, royalty, all there for you to learn about. I’ve gone back into the 80s to listen, which is sort of near the limits of my popular cultural awareness; although if I find someone truly interesting I may listen to some of the earlier ones as well. And sometimes, when a guest is on more than once in the course of the decades, it’s interesting to see what they originally chose and what they have done and said differently later.

And if that isn’t enough, now there are books about the series as well. They’re on my Christmas list, to be sure.

I often think about what my choices of Desert Island Discs would be — if, you know, I became interesting, famous, intelligent, or wealthy enough to be asked on the programme. (SHUT UP IT COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN.) And I must admit, I am surprised at how difficult it is to narrow down my choices. Just EIGHT discs? Really?

The other issue is, as one sees with guests of the programme that appear multiple times, is that what is important to you at one age or point in your life may not be as important at another time. And as well, your tastes in music may change, or your emotional state, or your memories, and that will influence your choices as well. So that makes it difficult.

But it’s one of my favourite discussions to have with myself.

Anyway, there’s no actual music here in this edition of Music Monday, but if you go to the site — and you really should check it out if you are at all a fan of music or biographies — there is an incredible wealth of music to be had. And perhaps I can post my actual Desert Island Discs here as well, if ever I can narrow down the choices. But not today.

I have some DID podcasts to catch up on.