Desert Island Discs: A List Writing Narcisist Writes…

Well it was always going to be too much to resist, a list, and as a bloke, list making is part of my psyche, it’s what men have to fill the huge void we have because we have no feminine intuition, for that matter, we have no masculine intuition, but that is something that is akin to Atlantis in the male psyche. Rumored to exist but no actual proof of it ever having existed, a male fantasy, one of many… So to stop all males becoming even more crippled by insecurity than we already are, we have the gift of the list, it saves thinking too deeply about anything, because all we do if we need to make a choice is make a list, and whatever is at number one, that’s what we choose. So if you are a female in a relationship reading this: congratulations, you came top of some mans list. Enjoy, my only advice is never ask what the criteria was for getting points, its probably best if you don’t know. Look at it this way, none of us really know how a microwave warms food do we, but a prick and ping when your in a hurry doesn’t have you reaching for a text book on cavity magnetrons does it? Obviously making lists isn’t going to replace female intuition all on its own, so to fill the remaining gap, we can read maps and program Tom Toms. We have evolved from hunter-gatherers to driver-listers.

So the BBC have decided to open Desert Island Discs up to any one who wants to list the 8 records they would take to a desert island with them, with an invitation to say why you chose the record. What kind of list making map reading man in his right mind is not going to rise like a ravenous mackerel to a bait like that, and I don’t like football, so I am on my last warning from the bloke club anyway, so here are my desert island discs. Anyway, shouldn’t it be deserted Island discs?

For the record, you have to name a book of your choice and one luxury, so for completeness the book would be the full Oxford English Dictionary and luxury item would be some paper and pencils: how else am I going to be able to keep making lists?

A link for all you list makers out there:

Creedence Clearwater Revival Keep on Chooglin

The record that taught me that 4 people with drums and wires could create something more eloquent and exciting than any conversation could yield. The genius lies in its simplicity, The drums and bass connive and conspire like spin doctors to drop a sedimentary bedrock rhythm while the metronome simple rhythm guitar of elder brother Tom allows the fluid feral guitar of the younger John to roam to exotic and thrilling places and never worry about getting lost, as feedback looms and subsides like a hesitant tempest. Pity they ended up with a hatred of each other that eclipsed death.

Jimi Hendrix Like a Rolling Stone Live at Monterey

The Shakespeare of the electric guitar taking notes available to everyone and fashioning something unique, memorable and unrivaled to this day, and probably for all time, on a song by the Shakespeare of the song lyric. Hip don’t get any hipper, and cool don’t get any cooler than these seven minutes of aural ecstasy made even better by the self depreciatory self introduction of “I’m like to bore you for about 6 or 7 minutes and do a little thing…by Bob Dylan”

The Clash White Man in The Hammersmith Palais Live

The Clash played the most intense live gigs I ever saw, politics and music fusing to show me who I wanted to be when I had no direction home. Rock n reggae in a perfect fusion, hard call between this and Straight to Hell, but the roots groove wins by a short skank.

Jon Dee Graham At the Dance

Possibly the most underrated song writer on the planet, and a mighty guitarist who shape shifts into Ernie Isley on this paean to Tex Mex Dance bands that somehow bottles the gauche fragility of teenage romance, and garlands it with a guitar solo so full of tender anger and frustration, that in seconds, it demonstrates how language is dwarfed by music as a way of conveying emotion.

James Mcmurtry Choctaw Bingo

The most literary song writer in America with this classic tale of rednecks, methamphetamine and guns, that flows on a torrent of irresistible guitar like water from a ruptured dam. Mcmurtry captures a family reunion with equal parts horror and amusement, the best short film never made.

Tom Waits The Day After Tomorrow

How to choose one from hundreds of Wait’s songs, but this is the one because sometimes a song can say more in 3 minutes than hours of anti-war speeches, this is Tom’s distillation of the futility of war to create an absolute essence of wisdom, he then gives it voice by a soldier waiting to go home; behold:

They fill us full of lies /Everyone buys/About what it means to be a soldier/You can’t deny/The other side/Don’t want to die/Any more than we do/What I’m trying to say/Is don’t they pray/To the same God that we do?/Tell me, how does God choose?/Whose prayers does he refuse?/Who turns the wheel?And who throws the dice/On the day after tomorrow?/
I’m not fighting/For justice/I am not fighting/For freedom/I am fighting
For my life/And another day/In the world here/I just do what I’ve been told/You’re just the gravel on the road/And the one’s that are lucky/One’s come home/On the day after tomorrow

The truth does not come any more simple, compelling or profound.

Van Morrison Raglan Road

A stately and sublime reading of a wonderful poem by arguably the greatest white vocalist of all time, (and yep, I know yer good Frank but, the Belfast boy wins for me) The Chieftains curl around the melody like Russian Vine, as Van finds nuances and inflection like an alchemist, a virtuoso exploration of tiny silences, muted roars, and just enough soaring to allow us to see the restraint on display, the final emotive stanza goes down to conspiratorial whispers, that immerse both singer and listener deep in a well of suffocating despair.

Bob Dylan Visions of Johanna

My favorite song, by my favorite songwriter, with my favorite lyric couplet of all time:

“The ghost of ’lectricity howls in the bones of her face
/Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place”

I would never dare to say what a Bob Dylan song is about, I can only say what it means to me. The drums beat a resolute unforgiving march, providing an underlying tension while organs and guitars come and go like the characters in the song, but at the core is the singers love of the mysterious Johanna, a love so intense as to be beyond expression. The pain is made more unbearable by Louise who appears to be an unwanted lover, all too close, as he lies like a tormented febrile insomniac. The singer is eventually so consumed and overwhelmed by the constant visions of Johanna, that he ceases to exist except for the visions, the ultimate, exquisitely painful expression of both the pain and majesty of unrequited love ever committed to tape. Arguably also the point where popular culture went through the looking glass of undeniable credibility, and became acknowledged as being as intellectually astute and artistically complex as any other art form.

It appears there is no clips of this great art any where on the internet, so I’ll give you the lyrics so you can perform it your self:

isions Of Johanna

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ’lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeeze
I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music


7 thoughts on “Desert Island Discs: A List Writing Narcisist Writes…

  1. Bogart

    Och Strum, I expected more than the safe popular options, Hendrix, Van Morrison, Dylan, The Clash. The Eastender’s, The Corrie, The Dallas of Yuppie generations. Dylan was/is the emperors new clothes, sooner or later the world will realise he’s in the chud and wonder why they were told he was dressed in finery. Van Morrison is the musical Joyce, like running a marathon the idea is good, but as those honest few who have completed the miles will attest, it’s the completion that counts, the bits between the start tape and the end tape are perfunctory. Hendrix, self indulgence excused because of white liberalism, The Clash, Mud singing the Wolfie Smith songbook. Give us Mrs Mills anyday…

    1. strummerman Post author

      Well only just seen your entire reasoned argument, and i have thoughts on the sefeness n predicdability of the list, that is for later, but I have to point out that each song is there on its own, If you chose your favorite goals of all time and one was by mr Best, and I started banging on about his private life it wouldn’t have any relevance, to the goal, so a clash song about a shit night out is hardly the Wolfie Smith song book is it now Mr Bogart? So your 8 discs are…..

  2. Richard Rudin

    Ha! Didn’t think you would be able to resist this! Always a difficult ‘trade’ to what you think is the best (artistically) and what gives you goose-bumps because of associations/memories, or just sheer emotion. On that point, re lack of emotional intelligence/subtlety for those of us with the ‘Y factor’: how VERY dare you!

  3. Bogart

    White Man would be in my 10 best singles of all time, but hey when it comes to hitting the backside of scared cows with a banjo, I knew aligning the Clash to Mud & Wolfie would not only have had you spluttering in your cappuccino but also admitting “eh by gum t’lads reet’.

    But for Wolfie content “The British Army is waiting out there”

    Yet the doubts will linger, would I choose a freshies track not becuase it’s better than a Van-bob song but simply to be recalcitrant?

    Or am I correct that even heterogeneity is contolled?

    Or maybe I’m just talking bollocks

    My 8, will follow, am I allowed S Club 7……

  4. strummerman Post author

    they are your 8… just for clarity before I give this a lengthy response, I worked on the principal, not of the “best’ 8 tracks ever made, but of if I was only going to have 8 tracks to listen to ever again, or for years, what would they be, and the memories they have, or the emotions they evoke have played the greater part I would say…. perhaps I was not honest enough, an update is on its way…


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