My Desert Island Discs Explained

Jim linked to a little clip from Radio 4 about the nation’s “Desert Island Disc” – the British public’s most popular choice was Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. And it would be on his own list, he said. I had heard in the past that he listens to it most mornings. Well, in the past 6 months now, I have formed a habit of falling asleep to Spotify with either Simple Minds, or a mix of David Bowie and Simple Minds on shuffle mode. As a consequence, I am usually roused from my sleep by a Simple Minds song…sometimes I am roused in the middle of the night. The ones that usually tend to wake me up are: Boys From Brazil, Spirited Away, Seeing Out The Angel, New Gold Dream or This Earth That You Walk Upon (others can too, dependent on my mood of what I’m loving at the time – some faves alternate, whether or not I am dreaming, etc) – and, of course, the one you see below. The reason why it and the others I have as my 8 choices are on the list are explained below. (My list on Spotify has been updated since he asked the question as certain things…needed to be turfed out, while others needed to be desperately added!)

Spiegel Im Spiegel – It’s the repetition in the piano notes…like a spiral. Although it essentially keeps to the same few chords…there’s a spiralling effect for me. It spirals downwards, then up again. And the violin piece is the most beautiful piece of violin I have ever heard. It is a piece that makes me cry. There is such a blend of melancholy and optimistic joy entwined. The piano plays the melancholy, the violin the joy, the optimism. The piano is black…the violin white, and they mingle and mix, creating shades of grey. The lightest greys as the piano and violin hit high notes, and deeper hues as they spiral down together. They also part at times, taking opposing ends of high and low, light and dark.

I lose myself in this piece wholly. I really can’t explain beyond this why I find it so beautiful. I just do. There’s a simplicity to it, but a depth and a magnitude.

Adagio For Strings – it’s those final scenes of The Elephant Man that made me fall in love with this piece. Again…sadness. Such deep, deep sorrow mixed with joy. As John (Joseph) Merrick prepares for his final night on earth, we see the scene play out in his bedroom. He takes the pillows off the bed – almost with an urgency towards the end. Leaving just a single pillow. He glances at the painting on the wall of the lady sleeping. He takes one final look at the picture of his lady friend on the bedside table. And then he lays down prostrate on the bed, knowing full well that laying on a bed like this will kill him. Oh, but he has craved it for so long! And as he lays he head back, he struggles for breath…but then he is at peace. He has fulfilled a wish, at the ultimate cost. All summed up in that music.

And I am in tears.

What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted – That Motown sound, that beat…but for the saddest of songs. Love is a sad thing. It’s a wondrous thing too! But it makes fools of us. We can be slaves to it! And we are left in despair. I just feel every word of it. The way Jimmy Ruffin sings it. There is just such raw emotion. But like with most, if not all of the pieces that mean so much to me…there is light, such light. Those end words say “I’ll find love again! Love is all. It is the meaning to everything, and I’ll get it back.

I probably sound like a right misery guts! Lol. I just like to be moved. Happy songs are great and serve their purpose. I’m not ALL about the sad times. I like to rock out and be happy! But emotive pieces…melancholic pieces that have optimism are the types of music that mean the most, that affect me most.

Heathen (The Rays) – David Bowie’s song about the collapse of the Twin Towers (World Trade Center). I didn’t know this the first time I heard it, but it wouldn’t have made me fall in love with it any more if I had. There’s a simply structure to the guitar chords, epic low , thunderous bass and synth notes, a simple little screeching riff as the soft drum comes in. David’s words are beautiful, and he is so emotive on this song. It is epic and towering – like the structures he sings of. It’s gleaming, glorious, beautiful.

Again…it just is a piece that has me in tears with its beauty.

One Day – The most beautiful of optimistic songs. I remember being in my bedroom in 1994, listening to this over and over, praying Bjork’s words would come true for me. It’s like the words spoke to me “have patience, have faith. Your time will come!” Maybe it finally has? It makes me cry, of course – but through optimism. Tears of joy! Not sadness. Not melancholy. But sunshine, and colour…and beauty. And her son is at the start of it, and that bit is beautiful on its own.

“The atmosphere
Will get lighter
And two suns ready
To shine just for you”

And the crescendo that sends me into tears…

“And the beautifullest
Fireworks are burning
In the sky
Just for you”

“I can feel it.
I can feel it.”

Wonderful In Young Life – continues on a theme. It, like the Bjork song is a song that gives me tears of joy from its beauty and optimism. I’ve written a full piece about it as one of my Top 50 favourite Simple Minds songs. Of course, it is not merely in the top 50, but it is number one. I have “I’m singing memories” tattooed on my arm. That’s what this song means to me. How could I ever be stranded on a desert island without it? God knows what I’ll do without the other 49 SM songs from my Top 50 (or the 200 hundred odd other SM and Jim Kerr songs I love, for that matter!) when stuck there! I’d have to sing them to myself over and over! 

If you want to read more about why I love Wonderful In Young Life so much – just use the search feature and search for “why I love Wonderful In Young Life”.

Don’t Change – and just in case you are not convinced my choices are all to do with melancholy and crying – some awesome Aussie power rock. I have loved this song since it came out in 1982. A beautiful sentiment. Don’t change – just be the person you were meant to be. Be you. Be wonderful!

A New Career In A New Town – it cemented my David Bowie fanaticism upon first listen. It blew my away! I played it again straight away. I cried. I had never heard anything so beautiful in all my days. My goosebumps had goosebumps. I fell in love with Low, this song, and David. I have been the biggest David Bowie fan since that day. More than 30 years on…A New Career In A New Town never fails to still give me those feelings. I must have heard it….at least 1000 times now (based on me listening to Low, on average, 100 times a year for the first 10 years of my Bowie fandom), probably closer to 2000 times. It has never diminished in meaning, strength or magnitude.

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