Desert Island Discs

A very personal choice


I have always dreamt of being invited to take part in this programme, to be interviewed by Sue Lawley or Kirsty Young on BBC radio 4 is to my mind the ultimate accolade and a true mark of success in life. However I am still waiting for the phone call, and becoming a little impatient I have decided to go ahead with a do it yourself version. I hope they don't think my selection of show stoppers is not suitable for a Sunday morning.

Disc No. 1 - Italian Caprice by Tchaikovsky

picI can't explain why but this piece of music is the earliest I can remember. Of course I didn't know what it was called at the time but for some reason I associate it with the out-patient's waiting room of Wigan Infirmary at the end of the forties or early fifties. Perhaps I fell off my bike!

Disc No. 2 - When you were Sweet Sixteen by Joseph Lock

picThis is typical of the type of music which was listened to by my parents whilst at home in the fifties, Joseph Lock was very popular. Issy Bonn was another well liked crooner from that generation. Our family just had a radio and we listened to 'Workers Playtime', 'Family Favourites' and 'Round the Horne', an aunt living nearby had a wind up gramophone which played records at 78 rpm. Gracie Fields, George Formby, Bing Crosby featured amongst their record collection, my particular favourite was Pee Wee Hunt and his Paramount Jazz Band playing 'Twelfth Street Rag'. There was another record called 'I Don't Want to set the World on Fire' (I just want to start a flame in your heart), I don't know who sang it but it used to make my sister cry.

Disc No. 3 - Oh is there not one Maiden Breast from the Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan

picMy older sister was married when I was quite young and lived near the Cherry Gardens in Wigan Lane. I spent a lot of time there whilst growing up, they had a Dansette record player and a selection of long playing records. This is where my liking for Gilbert and Sullivan started with the Gondoliers, Pirates of Penzance and Princess Ida. I still enjoy their tuneful music and clever satirical lyrics and have in more recent years been to see a couple of the operas at the Savoy Theatre their original home. The theatre is well worth a visit for the architecture and internal d├ęcor alone.

Disc No. 4 - People will say We're in Love from Oklahoma by Rogers and Hammerstein

picAmerican musicals were the popular music of the late fifties and traditional jazz was enjoying something of a revival with Chris Barber, Monty Sunshine and Ken Collier. This spot could have been filled by Sidney Bechet or George Lewis and his Jazz Band playing "Burgundy Street Blues" but I tossed up and Oklahoma won. All through my school days and beyond I worked weekends and holidays for a local dairy, this song from Oklahoma puts me in mind of those days driving around at first on a horse and cart and later in their Austin A40 pick up. Again I can't think why I'm sure the pick up didn't have a radio, the horse and cart certainly didn't, but this music was everywhere including the theatres on Lord Street Southport and radio programmes like Family Favourites.

Disc No. 5 - Runaway by Del Shannon

picIt's funny how we associate pieces of music with certain periods or events in life, this record is probably the strangest. At the start of my working life in 1960 I spent a lot of time in Chorley as pop music was beginning to get rather exciting with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bobby Vee, Gene Vincent, Roy Orbison, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. This record reminds me of those days and a particularly fine fish and chip shop we patronised at least twice a week, just released it was coming from a radio behind the counter, I was in the queue with a big list.

Disc No. 6 - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Peter, Paul and Mary

picIn the seventies and eighties we had a young family and didn't venture very far, holidaying in the Lake District with the sailing dinghy and walking the fells. I was going through a big folk song phase and grew a beard and wore sandals. We attended folk nights at Aspull Rugby Club when we had a baby sitter, to see acts such as Gary and Vera Aspey, the Auld Triangle and some other Mike Harding tribute acts. Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span were popular on the world stage at the time and making a big impression. There were many songs I could have chosen but this one probably tops the lot.

Disc No. 7 - Just as I Am sung by the Sheffield Celebration Choir

pic"O tell of His might, O sing of His grace, Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space, His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form, And dark is His path on the wings of the storm", just some of the words of 'O Worship the King' a fine traditional hymn with rousing melody and profound poetic words and typical of the hymns I grew up with. Featuring prominently at morning assemblies and school speech days in the fifties, words like these never failed to lift the spirits and inspire confidence, with their extravagant imagery they were guaranteed to make a deep and lasting impression on young receptive minds. Years later my affection for such masterpieces is undiminished and the sound of a church organ and choir in full voice performing one of these classics still gives me goose bumps. It goes without saying therefore that life on my deserted island would not be complete without at least one "Song of Praise" and record number seven is a particular favourite and very appropriate as Easter approaches. It will be a great source of comfort on those days when things don't quite go to plan, when no matter how many times I cast my net the fish supper eludes me.

Disc No. 8 - Soave sia il Vento from Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutte

picLike a great voyage of discovery life takes you to many exciting places and likewise with music, taste changes and develops over time. My taste for popular, folk, blues, jazz and gospel music seems to have remained static and firmly rooted in the sixties, however my liking for opera, choral and classical music continues to develop and doesn't show any signs of slowing down due to old age. A taste for Gilbert and Sullivan developed into Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Rossini and Gounod, opera, choral and orchestral works, this piece is a fine example from Mozart. I haven't yet managed to come to terms with Puccini, Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Brittain and a few others, it's so heavy, but I suppose there is still time! I'm going to explore Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin next to see if I can find a tune anywhere.

Choice of Luxury Item and Book

Assuming I will be given a Bible, my choice of luxury item would be a months supply of mint humbugs to feed my sweet tooth and my book "Little Dorrit" by Charles Dickens.

Palfreyman - March 20th 2010