Desert Island Discs Redux: an explanation…

I’ve always wondered why D.I.D. play lists are always a bit musically dull, well apart from those that are wonderfully predictable done by PR agents or spin doctors: “no you gotta have  some reggae in there, remember the black vote”. So lo it was done and oh my! From the perspective of someone who has worked in music retail and spent a huge part of my life talking to fellow musos, I looked at my list and could only think: it. is. fucking. dull.


Not only is it dull, it is very white boy rock and roll, where the fuck is the reggae? The funk? The Soul? The Jazz? My last shop was called “Whats Going On”, not as to be indicative of some drug induced fog I inhabited in perpetuity, but as a mark of respect for that wonderful musician Marvin Gaye, and the great album of that name. Didn’t make the cut. Disc number 9 would probably have been Dr Alimantado – Born For A Purpose/Reason For Living, immaterial really, didn’t make the cut.


You have to do it to understand, because when you start thinking what 8 discs would I want to be stuck with for the rest of my life, you start to make some strange choices, so I do not think these are the greatest records ever made, that is a list that is in a constant state of flux, and changes the more you hear new things.


So why did I choose them, apart from the musical reasons I have already given? Well the Van Morrison and the Bob Dylan was because they held memories of different relationships, good and bad, names have been withheld to protect the guilty. The Creedence and the Hendrix are purely nostalgia for when I first found the astonishing power and emotional engagement I found when communing with great music. The Waits because I hate war and oppression and violence more than anything else, and it lays bare the paradoxical bullshit of liberating a nation by invading them, that people still swallow and believe. The Clash, well they’re the Clash for fucks sake, naïve, hypocritical, posturing, but I love them like some one loves their brother who is a total fuck up, flawed but strangely magnificent and always championing the underdog, the oppressed and the bullied, like many, of my favorite human beings, so the Clash are there as a metaphor for all I love about both people and rock and roll. The Mcmurtry is for cart man, who lives far far away, but is to me the apotheosis of friendship. The Jon Dee Graham, well I couldn’t imagine life with out being able to hear it, I have no idea why it affects me the way it does, but it makes me go all warm and weird when I hear it, it makes my soul swoon with joy and bliss.


I used to always say the greatest commodity ever invented was salvation, people will do anything for it, and by the time it is delivered it is too late to take it back because it doesn’t fit. Well the further explanation above serves to explain why nostalgia seems to run it a close second these days. We buy back the past that we have paid for once already, reliving what we think made us happy previously, live in warehouses we work hard to keep so we have some where to keep our nostalgia, shelves full of the past, dvd box sets, cd box sets, home videos, book collections, collections of stuff we just look at. We sit and watch TV from the past, Oh great Minders on! We just make it easy for the people that make and sell us these commodities that make us feel complete, why give us something new and challenging if they put some old rubbish that has already been paid for, out in a shiny new box set, write remastered, or redux on it, and of we go to buy it again. Some times I think we are so busy re-living the past we forget to do new stuff. The public get what the public wants: I don’t know how many roads must a man walk down, but I do know the  number of times a man will buy The Beatles White album in his lifetime is proving to be infinite.


Fuck it here’s the Doctor, what he says suddenly seems important:


One thought on “Desert Island Discs Redux: an explanation…

  1. Richard Rudin

    Almost impossible choice – I did my list yesterday but have already changed one selection in my head (this is quite common with guests on the ‘real’ DID). The one I changed was to make way foir a female artists as realised it was all male, so I put in an Ella Fitzgerald which I do love but in reality not my ‘top eight’. Certainly mine was 50% black artists; to me soul music has the capacity to transport me, Hearing *yes!) Marving Gaye’s voice or Al Green, or William ‘Smokey’; and of course Levi Stubbs’, are sublime. On nostalgia and memory, which, as you know is a particular interest of mine, I’ll copy you recent article in ‘New Scientist’. It argues that the secret of good mental health is to have a positive view of the past; that you cannopt deal with the present until you have dealt with the past but that positive view is based, usually, on a false interpretation; on a mental deception. Plus, we also remember things differently from each other and have different experiences from the same situation. There is a phsical as wellas mental side to this – we literally – see things differently! (Which makes the common connections induced by music and other forms of popuilar culture especially fascinating!). So, to be in good mental health in the present we have to have a nostalgic glow about the past!
    Music is hugely important in this; for example, if I hear CCR or certain Faces’ or Dyland tracks they remind me of sitting in your Nan’s house. This is a good feeling and because I have the ‘primary evidence’ of my diaries I know this is not a false memory. There is nothing wrong with that, surely? Of course, capitalism will seek to feed and exploit these feelings but everything is commodified in a capitalist system. That doesn’t make the actual emotion ‘wrong’ or to be dismissed. Plus, the fact is that for most people, the key ages of interest in music are about 12-25, which is of course when you are maturing and the music becomes associated with what are for most very pelasurable and exciting experiences and when life seems to have infinite possibilities. We ‘like’ the more idealistic, positive person we (generally) were then. So the music helps to recapture that ‘better’ person and improve our self-image.
    That doesn’t mean you should be deaf and blind to more current music but I am afraid you will never convince me that what is being produced in 2011 is anything like as interesting or just ‘as good’ as those in 1971 (check out the albums released that year!). So my list has nothing later than 1973 (Let’s Get it On’). Surely that can’t be beaten??? I am sure that would inspire a great masturbatory fantasy in the desert island!
    I think we were fantastically fortunate that OUR early maturing coincided with rock/pop/soul’s. Of course, there are many ‘functions’ of music but mood-enhanging/changing (for the better) is surely an important one.You like to intellectualise and rationalise why you like certain music, whereas I am perhaps more intuitive and less analytical. If a track has integrity, when it has done out of love and passion, whatever genre or period, then it works for me. I beleive that, as with good radio, there is something indefinable that comes out of the ‘groove’ when a recording session has been a happy and creative one. It’s the mood that I pick up rather than the quality of the musicianship, lyrics, songwriting, vocal performance, etc. which often does it for me. If that works and the association is a good one, then Bingo! It’s on the iPod most played 25 tracks!


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