Monday, 26 April 2010

Desert island discs...

As I cast my eyes around my flat yesterday, desperately looking for the fourth and fifth thing to take to my desert island, I realised that music is one thing that would be difficult to live without. Hence, I suppose, the whole guitar thing.

Brits among you will be familiar with Desert Island Discs, described by the BBC's website as "one of Radio 4's most popular and enduring programmes... each week a guest is invited to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island". (The use of the word "record" is, I suppose a product of this being the BBC, and the programme having been invented in 1942.) You learn an awful lot about people through the music they listen to, almost as much as you do through the books they read. (Does anyone else think this ought to be part of the current prime ministerial debates?)

So, here we go. Eight songs (yes, songs - not whole CDs!) that would define me.

1. I would need something by Jean-Jacques Goldman. The vast majority of you will have never heard his name, but he's an iconic singer who arguably defined pop music in the 1980s and 1990s in particular, in the French-speaking world. His words are incredibly clever and he sings about all kinds of things including his Jewish faith and test tube babies and communism. Sometimes it's poetry, sometimes social commentary, sometimes he cleverly blends the two.

I'll just pause here for you to have the obligatory laugh at the expense of French pop.

Now you've got that out of your system, I will say this: give me Jean-Jacques Goldman over insipid English romance-obsessed music any day. There. I've said it.

Anyway, the song of his that best captures my life would have to be Puisque tu Pars (because you're leaving) but it still stirs up some emotions in me that I don't always feel like dealing with. Ditto Veiller Tard (staying up late - hmmm, not quite the same ring), a haunting piece about the things that go through our minds when we can't sleep. Or Confidentiel - about adopting a family for yourself. There are too many nerves that are still raw even after all these years. So I'll go for Elle a fait un bébé toute seule - She made a baby by herself - the aforementioned test tube baby song. It's an upbeat 80s tune, so singalongable, and I have great memories of some people I love very much, singing this in a minibus on the way down to the South of France for the best holiday I've ever had.

Wow. I don't think I'll write this much for all the songs, or I'll have lost all of you.

2. For good

Okay. I'll try and be briefer. This one is from the musical "Wicked", and I love it - it made me cry, in fact, thinking about the same kind of people who I sat with in that minibus singing Jean-Jacques Goldman at the top of my lungs, and how their friendships have changed me. For good.

It also expressed perfectly the theme of my novel, "inevitable": because I knew you, I have been changed for good. So it would be useful to have along for inspiration.

And, it also reminds me of Josh and Donna on the West Wing. 'Nuf said on that one.

3. Rutter's Requiem

I fell in love with this at the beginning of my journey into an interest in classical music which has since come to a screeching halt, but which began in my second year at King's College, Cambridge, whose choir had recorded the piece not long before. I know it's not cool to pick this one: you should really curl your lip in disgust and spit out "popular classical music" just afterwards. But I love it. It's beautiful; it's haunting. It transports me to another place, which could be useful after six months on the same island, and brings back for me the musty, incense-filled smell of King's College Chapel. Nostalgie quand tu nous tiens...

4. Atrapados en la red, by Tam Tam Go

Chances are, none of you will have heard of this either. A catchy, happy little piece about online dating - from the days when online anything was still a novelty. Yes, more nostalgia. When I hear this, I find myself back on the Spanish beach on which I spent much of '99-2000 and in the place - I refuse to call it an internet café - where for an outrageously high fee I could send half an hour eeking out an email on telnet to my friends in Russia and Spain and France on their Year Abroad. Anyone remember telnet? None of my twitter friends will. You're all far too young. Sigh.

5. Para no verte más, by La Mosca Tsé Tsé

Another catchy little Spanish number that was being played everywhere that year. If there was one song that defined my time in Cullera (close to Valencia), this was it. It's not the nicest of lyrics - I will rip up your photos and burn your letters, that kind of thing - but when I mix it with a Spanish accent, some sunshine and a little sangria, somehow it still makes me smile.

6. Marseille, by Patrick Fiori

Another one nobody will have heard of. Sorry about that. This one is relatively recent - my fond memories of French pop are mostly from my childhood - but it was key in my whole rediscovery of Belgium as my home. The lyrics basically talk of someone who went far away to find himself but never forgot where his home was, just like when you find a faded photograph and it stirs up happy memories. I first heard this in my adopted big sister's kitchen, and it may have been key to calling me back here.

7. Better than life - Hillsong

It's hard to choose just one worship song, and so many of them have difficult emotions associated with them. This one, though, is associated in my mind with what were, for me, the early, happy, hopeful days of ChristChurch London. It was a firm favourite, with just Rhys strumming his guitar in the upstairs room of International Students' House, and with good reason: better than the biggest dreams in my heart, better than getting what I say I need... No matter when I hear it, it's always a timely reminder of the incomparable greatness of the love of God. Plus, there's a chance to correctly use an apostrophe in better than the sound of my friends' voices...

8. Jesus, my only hope

Another great song, associated with the same sunny summer, my first in London. It has a catchy tune, and a harmony I could at one point actually master. But most of all, lyrics that are wonderful for the soul, and during which you can actually hear people singing louder. (I dont think it's just me.) When Satan's accusations make my poor heart afraid, I hear my King declaring: Father, that debt is paid!!

I could, in particular, have chosen many more soppy love songs (I'm a sucker for those...Vonda Shepherd's Ally McBeal soundtracks for example), and, of course, Bang Bang by Dizzy Gillespie and Body and Soul by Billie Holliday. (West Wing fans will know why, and if not, they should either hang their heads in shame, or hurry up and watch Season Seven.)

Jack Johnson and Norah Jones and Newton Faulkner are all on a constant loop, and I love my Notting Hill and Love Actually and Snuffy Walden CDs. So I guess if I could take eight albums, the answer would be completely different. But those are not the rules, so I've chosen eight songs that could be used on the soundtrack in the film of my life. (You know, the one where Melissa Fitzgerald or Lauren Graham plays me, though I've had a recent revelation that Liza Weil would do a great job of "capturing my essence". She does the ranting and raving so well. Anyway, that's another topic for another day.)

On that note (bad pan fully intended), I'll let you get back to whatever I interrupted with this longer-than-usual blogpost. Do feel free to tell me what songs you would take, though. It's not as easy as it sounds!

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