I'm probably the last person on the planet to discover that Desert Island Discs wasn't merely a feature in Tower Record's free monthly Pulse magazine, but a 76-year-old radio show on BBC Radio 4. The idea for the program came from Roy Plomley, an aspiring actor who had supported himself with odd jobs. It worked out pretty well for him, as he became the host on the first br0adcast on Jan. 29, 1942, and stuck with it for another 43 years. There've been well over 3,000 guests and the concept has remained the same over time: as a castaway on a desert island, you can bring eight discs (that would each have just a single song), one book, and a luxury item.
While music is the dominant part of the program, that “luxury item” is the most interesting. Bruce Springsteen picked a guitar, author Norman Mailer wanted just “one stick of marijuana,” and Simon Cowell chose a mirror so he wouldn't miss himself. According to a 2012 New Yorker article on the show’s 70th anniversary, “other luxury items have included spike heels, footballs, a Ferris wheel, garlic, cigarettes, a dojo, mascara, wine, a globe, an ironing board, a symphony’s worth of musical instruments, a cheeseburger machine, and, in the same category, albeit much grander, Sybille Bedford’s desire for a French restaurant in full working order.”
When Tower’s Pulse was still around I used to read the lists that were sent in, and it always seemed to be put together with the need to be eclectic, unique, and super cool, which makes sense. If you're going to etch something in stone that will be around long after you've gone, you don't want people saying “What an idiot ... he's got Vic Damone on his list.” On the other hand, any and all choices are going to be judged somewhere between brilliant and laughable, so I'll be happy to give it a go and y'all can think what you want.
My luxury item: Now please get your mind out of the gutter when I say this because she's young enough to be my granddaughter, but my first thought was Kylie Jenner. She's a mom, reality TV star, cosmetics mogul, has really cute dogs and is currently worth $900,000,000. And most important: there is no way her mother-manager Kris will let her top client escape her grasp, so a fairly quick rescue shall occur. C'mon, isn't it better than Simon's mirror?
My book: Music USA: The Rough Guide by Richie Unterberger. Released back in 1999 by the travel and reference publishers, it is the best American big-tent roots music resource book of its kind that I've ever come across. It's big and dense and written beautifully.
Eight songs in no particular order. Could be different if you ask me tomorrow. But for now, try these on for size. Oh ... I've decided to leave Kylie home and bring a guitar instead.
Moby Grape – “8:05”
Jules Shear and Rosanne Cash – “Who's Dreaming Who”
The Tuttles and AJ Lee – “Hickory Wind”
Leonard Cohen – “Dance Me to the End of Love”
ANOHNI and Lou Reed – “Candy Says”
Meg Baird – “The Finder”
The Handsome Family – “Gold”
Ana Egge with The Stray Birds – “Rock Me (Divine Mother)”
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed.