Desert Island Discs is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. 70 years must be a record for a radio series, surely?
Anyway, I caught up with a couple of recent episodes that made me wonder, as I often have done over the years, whether there is some snobbery towards classical music as opposed to modern music.
The premise of the programme is that each week a guest is interviewed and invited to select 8 gramophone records that he or she would like to have available on a desert island, should they ever be ship-wrecked. The assumption is, of course, that a record player will be available on the island… but that’s taking the idea too far. At the end of the programme, the guest selects one of the eight musical items as a ‘must-have’ as well as a book and a luxury item.
Anyway, David Attenborough (during his 4th appearance on the programme) selected the 3rd of Bach’s Goldberg Varaiations, although Kirsty Young, the current presenter, suggested that, at his request, it shouldn’t be a problem to have the whole set.
Compare this with Dr Brian Cox, who appeared a few weeks earlier. He chose Queen Bitch from David Bowie’s album Hunky Dory. He said that he could have picked any track from that album, that it was probably his all-time favourite. But at no time did Kirsty suggest that he might be allowed, in fact, to have the whole album.
Still, it’s all just a good ruse to get a good interview and hear some music that you might not otherwise come across. And that’s why I listen to this programme, even if I’m not particularly interested in the guest. Len Goodman, for instance, the judge from Strictly Come Dancing, a TV show that I’m not at all interested in and so, by association, I thought Len Goodman’s Desert Island Discs would be really tedious. But it was a very pleasant surprise, he’s a very interesting chap – who just happens, now, to be on a TV show that I don’t like!
So, Happy Birthday, Desert Island Discs, 70 years old. And at last, the BBC have made most episodes available for download here.