To thine own self be true

Desert island musings

Posted by Polonius on 18 February, 2007

I’ve occasionally thought of putting together my own Desert Island Disks compilation, but never really got past the first four or so songs. Now that Edward the Bonobo has done his, I thought I’d have a go. This post started off life as a comment on his blog, but I can’t seem to get Blogger’s “preview” facility working atm, perhaps tomorrow?

Anyway, here’s my selection. In the spirit of the original radio programme, I thought I’d explain some of the reasoning behind some of the choices.

Early in our relationship, SWMBO and I had a couple of minor bonding through adversity incidents: burst pipes, that sort of thing, usually at “four in the morning, the end of December”, so we had to adopt as “our song”:

Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen

For a while, I had to live in England. As the time came to return home, I often listened to:

Caledonia – Dougie Maclean

(Arguably Frankie Miller did it better, but his version always reminds me of cold piss!)

There’s some doubt over the events that led up to the surrender in St. Valery on 12th June 1940: was it a cynical ploy on the part of Churchill to keep the French in the war, was it incompetence on the part of de Gaulle, or was it simply the effective application of the new tactics of blitzkrieg? Whatever the cause, there’s no doubt that the troops who surrendered there bought enough time to allow the effective evacuation at Dunkerque, without which the British Army would have been destroyed, and a Nazi invasion of Britain would have been a very real possibility. Yet they were forgotten – No stories, no statues for those that were killed, no honours for those that were caught/ Just a deep sense of shame as though we were to blame, though I knew in my heart we were not. So wrote the late great Davy Steele:

The Beaches of St. Valery – Battlefield Band

Three legends for the price of one: the subject, writer and singer of:

Tribute to Woody – Christy Moore

This next one wasn’t the first single I ever bought (that would be Blockbuster by Sweet), but it was the reason behind the first album I bought. I think it’s stood the test of time rather well, and the tinkly piano bits are probably the best thing Rick Wakeman’s ever done:

Life on Mars – David Bowie

Next is a tribute to friendship. It’s a corny idea, but I’m a sentimental git. There’s a couple of Simon and Garfunkel classics that could fill that role, but Carole King just doesn’t get the recognition she deserves:

You’ve Got a Friend – James Taylor

Somehow I managed to get through most of my life without ever being aware of Nick Drake. When I first heard him, I was reminded of John Martyn, so it came as no surprise when I learnt that this was dedicated as a tribute to Nick Drake:

Solid Air – John Martyn

For that token classical piece, I’d like some gentle piano music. A Chopin prelude, perhaps? No, how about this (which I can just about squeeze out of an alto sax):

Gymnopedie No.1 – Erik Satie

Book: Something with “The Complete” in the title. There isn’t enough reading in “The Complete Far Side”, and I couldn’t choose between “The Complete Yes, Minister” and “The Complete Yes, Prime Minister”, so it’ll have to be The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes.
Luxury: My 20″ Pashley muni – I will learn to ride it one day!


4 Responses to “Desert island musings”

  1. Edward the Bonobo said

    “And Jane came by with a lock of your hair…”

    Good call! Lenny was on my ‘bubbling under’ longlist.

    I haev to say, though, ‘Caledonia’ possibly belongs on another list I blogged previously…

  2. Polonius said

    That’s because you have no soul. And to think I contemplated adding “Bohemian Rhapsody” just to see what sort of reaction that would have provoked – but that would have been only joking!

    It’s surprisingly difficult though to come up with a list. A couple of the songs on the list actually do remind me quite strongly of a specific time in my life (which I think is the point of DID on radio, where it’s really a hook for a chat about the subject’s life). Then there’s a few singers/songwriters I’d like to include (Joni Mitchell ought to have been in the list.) And by the time you’ve done that, you’ve got about 20 songs. The other thing is that the songs that have the most profound effect on me all tend to be quite sad, which doesn’t really reflect the breadth of my taste.

  3. azahar said

    I just saw you over at Edward’s (I was there to complain about his stupid blogger comment box thingy) and thought I’d stop by to say hello. And also mention that I have a signed copy of The Complete Far Side that I treasure.

    Nice list. And an interesting looking blog. Off to browse awhile . . .

  4. Polonius said


    Thanks for dropping by.

    A signed copy? I’m impressed!

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