Thursday, 28 October 2010

My Desert Island Discs Choice of 8 (in solidarity with Nick Clegg)

I was reading the Independent on Sunday (a regular vice I can't quite shake off) last Sunday (obviously) and found myself getting rather annoyed when I read this article by Andrew Martin about Nick Clegg's impending 'turn' on Desert Island Discs.

At the time of going to press, Andrew Martin was only allowed to mention 3 of Nick's 8 choices but he instantly took against the choices that he offered from the 8 - that were the rock songs "Life on Mars" by David Bowie, "The Cross" by Prince, and "Street Spirit" by Radiohead.

In particular, he made this mind-numbingly annoying statement:

"I believe Clegg made a mistake in not choosing eight classical pieces. In a dumbed-down world, we admire people who like complicated things".

Now, I love my classical music, but he clearly feels here that politicians in particular, shouldn't try and 'get down with the kids'. Clearly, it's an error for anyone to try and pretend that they like something that they don't simply to look popular - they'll always get found out for such a sloppy error. But at the same time, I don't want choices made because it's the 'safe choice'.

I'm sorry Mr Martin, but actually, I rather like and indeed 'admire' people who in this 'dumbed-down' world, have an eclectic taste in music and are willing to make the case for their different choices. Why the hell should Nick Clegg be expected to only like classical music, simply because he's a politician? What a load of pompous old tosh!

Nick Clegg's Desert Island Discs Choice of 8 were:

1. Chopin's Waltz in A Minor played by Idil Biret
2. Johnny Cash - Sunday Morning Coming Down
3. Prince - The Cross
4. Cesaria Evora - Petit Pays
5. Radiohead - Street Spirit
6. David Bowie - Life on Mars
7. Shakira and Waka Waka the theme to the 2010 World Cup
8. Schubert's Impromptu No.3 in G Flat Major played by Alfred Brendel

So that there is a pretty eclectic taste in music. I have no reason to doubt that Nick Clegg is telling the truth about this range of interest of his. I'm pleased to see such a diverse taste in music. Very little of it is to my particular taste but that isn't the point. The point is that we get much more from this world by enhancing our listening experiences with a wide range of music.

Mark Cole's Desert Island Discs Choice of 8:
I'm never going to end up on Radio 4 myself to give my own personal choice to the world, so I may as well do so here to show my solidarity with Nick's eclectic taste in music.

Now, I love my music - and I mean love it. Music can well portray a feeling, a sense of time, an emotion. I have, as anyone who knows me will testify, a wide taste in music. No matter what my mood, I'll always have a CD or a particular song in my collection at home that will chime with that feeling.

As it happens, I put together a 'Desert Island Discs compilation' of songs long ago. I've altered it on one occasion but here below is my long since settled choice of 8...
You'll find two instrumentals. I love the piano in particular and I love rag-time and I personally find Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag a much better tune than it's more famous big brother, 'The Entertainer'.

Also, there is no better instrumental in the world in my book than Apache by the Shadows. A close second would be Fleetwood Mac's 'Albatross', but it just misses out here.

I love Queen. They're the best band of all time. Freddie Mercury is one of the most mercurial of singers ever to have graced this Earth. A showman and an absolute musical genius. For me, his Barcelona duet with Montserrat Cabelle blows me away every time. The first time I heard it was after he had died when I was aged 10, when the BBC used it as the opening theme to their 1992 coverage of the Olympics. It's not even a power ballad - it's much, much bigger than that. It's just awesome.

This includes the wonderful opening instrumental.

Elvis Presley is simply, The King. I only became a fan at the ripe old age of 20 when the 'celebrations' for the 25th anniversary of his death sent 'A Little Less Conversation' to No.1 in the charts. Before I knew it I was buying videos about him, CDs, the lot. But if I were to pick one of my 8 here to be played at my funeral, this would be it - 'If I Can Dream'. It is the most hopeful, heartful, soulful, wordly optimistic song that there is and I absolutely adore it!

From his ''68 Comeback Special', ladies and gentlemen. It's Elvis.

A few choices from modern pop. My 'interest' and 'enthusiasm' in modern pop music hit a big buffer in about 1996 after the age of Brit-pop. Anything since has struggled to make my radar. I'm a big fan of Oasis, Blur and Pulp and the latter has really grown on me in recent years. Pulp's 'A Different Class' album is one of the best of modern times and I could easily choose 'Disco 2000', 'Common People' or 'Something Changed' for this list but I've got to go with 'Mis-Shapes'. It just rocks.

Then, there's a good old ballad from that awesome song-writer Billy Joel. Again, I could choose one of the many of his hits and right up there would have to be 'Goodnight Saigon' but for me, the great 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant' steals in at the end.

I love classical music. It calms me and more often than not, my bed-side radio is tuned in to Classic FM. I could easily pick 8 classical compositions here but if I had to pick one (and it is so difficult to narrow it down to one), then it would have to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. In its entirety, it is just absolutely superb. The four movements are all wonderful on their own but if I have to choose one of those four, I would go with the 2nd - the Allegretto. Its deep, dark, haunting sense reminds me of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and moves me every time.

Finally, but most movingly for me, there's nothing that combines so haunting, so moving, and so majestic a feeling than the sound of a Welsh Male Voice Choir. I'm Welsh and I'm proud of it and when I hear such a choir sing a traditional Welsh song, it sends shivers down my spine. None more than when the strains of Myfanwy can be heard. The word 'Hiraeth' for me, means the kind of feeling for my homeland that I feel when I hear this song.

Here it is being sang by Pendyrus Male Voice Choir in memory of those killed in Welsh mining disasters but particularly to the 116 children killed at Aberfan on October 21st 1966.

So, a re-cap, my Desert Island Discs 8 are...
  1. Scott Joplin - Maple Leaf Rag
  2. The Shadows - Apache
  3. Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Cabelle - Barcelona
  4. Elvis Presely - If I Can Dream
  5. Pulp - Mis-Shapes
  6. Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
  7. Beethoven - 7th Symphony (2nd Movement)
  8. Myfanwy
If ever I was stranded on a Desert Island, I'd want to make sure that I'd have with me, a range of music that covers the whole range of this love of my life - my love of music.

For the record, which book would I take with me? Well, it would be one of two. Either Nelson Mandela's autobiography 'A Long Walk to Freedom' or Harper Lee's wondrous 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

Luxury item? Pah, I don't know. Possibly my largest and cosiest duvet.

So to hell with Andrew Martin. I'm a much better and rounded individual for having a love for all these different musical genres and to that point, so too is Nick Clegg.


  1. A good selection, Mark.

    For the record, having acted as Nick's driver on a few occasions, I can confirm that he certainly does have an ecelectic taste and interest in music. Each time he got into my car he would look throught the CDs and a discussion would follow. He had a particular liking for Bowie, as I recall, but wasn't so keen on the Iron Maiden ;-)

  2. Hi Neil, many thanks for your comment!

    It's very good to hear that Nick is keen on his music as his selection suggested. It's also good to hear that he isn't keen on Iron Maiden - neither am I!

    Pass on my regards to him and tell him to keep rockin'!

  3. Choice number 6 has to be my favourite of the lot. However, I agree that the deep resonance of a Welsh choir is one of the earth's most moving things.

  4. Billy Joel hey Ollie? Fair play!

  5. My dad introduced him to me :) New york state of mind is one of my favourites but I guess this one tops it :)