In times of stress and upset (which is occurring right at this very moment in time), I usually veer towards comfortable viewing of movies and TV programmes which I fit into like an old glove; the telly version I mentioned in a post not that long ago. However, in this particular time of trial, I have recently found myself immersed in that peculiar British radio institution of the BBC known as "DESERT ISLAND DISCS". While not a newcomer to the programme, I have only recently dug seriously into the archives and listened to dozens and dozens of them. First broadcast over BBC radio on January 29, 1942, DESERT ISLAND DISCS was the brainchild of Roy Plomley who hosted the show until his death in 1985. Each programme would feature a celebrity guest or "castaway" who would be marooned on a desert island and would have to choose 8 records to take with them; the castaway would also be asked to choose one book to take along (the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare would be provided for them on the island as well) and one luxury item. Each broadcast would last around 30-40 minutes during which the castaway would be interviewed about his or her life story while interspersing excerpts from their 8 musical choices along with explanations as to why each selection was chosen. Also at the end of the programme, the castaway would be asked which selection means the most to them if they had to save only one. Always an interesting programme, DESERT ISLAND DISCS has become something of a compulsion with me during the last week or so. There is just something soooooooo soothing about that "light classical" music at the opening of the programme (Eric Coates' "By the Sleepy Lagoon") layered with the sound of seagulls. I don't know when the show is broadcast in the UK but it's got a completely "Sunday afternoon" vibe to it as far as I'm concerned. After Plomley's death, legendary TV interviewer Michael Parkinson hosted from 1985-1988, followed by Sue Lawley (from 1988-2006) -- Lawley even had a cameo on an episode of ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS in which Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) was her guest and Edina chose 8 Lulu songs! However, my favourite host of all is the current one: Kirsty Young not only has the most soothing-sounding voice but also is the most sympatico interviewer, I think. Some of the castaways' choices are quite predictable (Christopher Lee's "all opera" selections or TOP GEAR's Jeremy Clarkson choosing 70's rock with the Who, Pink Floyd and Bob Seger) while some others are quite surprising (Michael Caine's fondness for disco dance music or Helen Mirren complacently announcing "Pass the Dutchie"). Then again some episodes are downright gob-smacking i.e. Jeffrey Bernard's very "near-the-bone" rawness or opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's legendary choosing of 8 of her own recordings! And as for the most requested piece of music in the entire history of the show? I have it on good authority it's Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from the 9th Symphony. All I know is DESERT ISLAND DISCS is a fascinating listen, always interesting and spectacularly soothing to yours truly's frazzled nerves.
And as for my own selections? Should I be chosen as a castaway on the next episode of DESERT ISLAND DISCS, I should probably choose to take these 8 discs with me: 1. George Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE conducted by Leonard Bernstein, 2. Arvo Part's MAGNIFICAT, 3. TIME AFTER TIME by Margaret Whiting, 4. Antonio Vivaldi's SPOSA SON DISPREZZATA by Cecilia Bartoli, 5. VON (LIVE) by Sigur Ros, 6. EAST OF THE SUN (WEST OF THE MOON) by Sarah Vaughan, 7. WEST END BLUES by Louis Armstrong and 8. A LITTLE GREEN ROSETTA by Frank Zappa. The book I would take with me would probably be Alexandre Dumas' COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and my luxury item would most likely be a huge four-poster bed with many pillows and comfy bedding.