If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Desert Island Discs 1

It's not a new idea, but I thought I would share a few musical favourites. The Desert Island Discs model is actually quite difficult - what, only eight records from the whole of my lifetime? - and imposes a tough discipline. But worth a try. I will separate this into eight posts, although as my musical tases are very wide indeed, each post will probably represent a whole genre rather than a single artiste. No particular order; first does not equal favourite. But each one will be a piece of music that is important to me in one way or another.

Music is of such importance to me that I cannot imagine a world where it doesn't exist. I have a tune (or possibly a fully-orchestrated symphony) going round in my head at all times. Earworms are attracted to me and breed in my cochlea. My mother was a good singer and sang constantly when I was a baby and toddler, and I'm sure that's where I get it from (Dad could hardly carry a tune if you gave him a fork-lift truck, and thought Madama Butterfly was the height of musical art, so it wasn't from there). I never had the discipline to learn to read music properly or to play an instrument to a reasonable standard, but I can sight-read simple choral stuff and get a tune out of most instruments with a bit of encouragement. I was quite good on the guitar once, but lack of practice has meant that I no longer do so in public. I love singing: I'm a tenor and can get top G if given a sufficient run-up (any good composer will give his tenors a couple of warm-up laps before expecting them to go that high, thank goodness). I've been in a couple of really good choirs in my time, which have been fantastic experiences.

One thing I can't stand is having music as background to other work. Some people can work with music on in the corner, but I can't. If there's music around, I have to listen to it, even if it is Radio 1. No work gets done. The exception is practical work: when I was making and restoring furniture, I used to have a CD player in the workshop that was on all the time. But even then, if it came to a particularly good song, or passage, I would stop work to listen. Perhaps that's why I didn't make much money! But I can't write and listen. I tried writing this with the chosen piece on in the background, but had to turn it off. It's one or the other.

First off is the wonderful Loudon Wainwright III. I understand from my younger friends that he is now only famous for being the father of Rufus and Martha, but to me he is the witty, self-aware and self-deprecating writer of some fantastic songs - usually centred around life and love, and usually with a bitter twist somewhere along the way. I saw him at Leeds Town Hall in around 1970, when his voice was a penetrating whine (like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, he didn't seem to let a lack of vocal perfection get in his way), but in recent years he has matured into a fine singer.

This one is 'Primrose Hill', from the 1997 album Little Ship. Catchy, and deeply sad - quite a combination.

I got the idea for this from Wrinkled Weasel, who (I hope) tolerates copycats. Thanks.


  1. I was kind of hoping somebody would take up the baton.

    This has a wonderful stripped down to basics quality that only people at the top of their game can get away with, since it tends to reveal everything.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I thought it was a shameless bit of copycattery, but it's a good idea I wanted to run with.

    More when I track down the relevant CDs.


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