Desert Island disgrace

June 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm (BBC, good people, jazz, Jim D, music, The blues, wireless)

BBC Radio 4 invited listeners to vote for “Your Top Eight Tracks” on Desert island Discs. Here’s the result:

  1. Ralph Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
  2. Sir Edward Elgar – Enigma Variations
  3. Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No 9 in D minor ‘Choral’
  4. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
  5. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
  6. Sir Edward Elgar – Cello Concerto in E Minor
  7. George Frideric Handel – Messiah
  8. Gustav Holst – The Planets

Your Top Eight Artists

  1. The Beatles
  2. Bob Dylan
  3. Ludwig van Beethoven
  4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  5. Pink Floyd
  6. Johann Sebastian Bach
  7. The Rolling Stones
  8. Sir Edward Elgar

Top Beatles Tracks

  1. Hey Jude
  2. In My Life
  3. A Day In The Life
  4. Here Comes The Sun
  5. Yesterday
  6. Strawberry Fields
  7. Eleanor Rigby
  8. Let It Be

What a disgrace! This was supposed to be the greatest music of the Twentieth Century…AND NO JAZZ OR BLUES!

Never mind the Number One choice of’ Vaughn Williams’s tedious ‘The Lark Ascending’…

Regulars will be aware of my personal predilection for jazz. But even leaving that to one side for a moment, where was any black music? Motown? Soul? Rhythm’n’ Blues? Ska?  Reggae?   Even Rap?

These were the choices of the twee, self-satisfied middle class baby-boomers who tune in to the less intellectually demanding Radio 4 programmes such as ‘Desert Island Discs’, ‘Saturday Live’ and (the late and unlamented, by me at least)  ‘Home Truths.’

As a muso colleague commented/asked/declaimed in the car coming back this morning from a gig last night: “What, no Louis?!”

Louis is, it would seem, unrecognised by the Peel/ Graun/ Radio 4 generation who worship at the feet of jerks like Lennon and charlatans like Dylan.

As for The Queen and The Pink Floyd…words simply fail me. All words except WANKERS, that is.

Meanwhile, some of us know who was the greatest serious musician of the twentieth century…and the greatest popular one, as well:


  1. Jim Denham said,

    You couldn’t do much better than these selections, eh?



    Louis Armstrong

    Dallas Blues


    Louis Killen



    Thomas Tallis

    Spem In Alium

    Choir: King’s College Chapel Choir


    (below, Castaway’s favourite):

    Bessie Smith

    I’m Down In The Dumps


    St. George’s Canzona

    Coventry Carol


    Sir Edward Elgar

    Symphony No. 1 in A flat major

    Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Adrian Boult


    Billie Holiday

    These Foolish Things


    George Frideric Handel

    O praise the Lord (Chandos Anthem No. 9)

    Choir: Beecham Choral Society Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Thomas Beecham

    (Philip Larkin’s selections).

  2. lost said,

    i would at least agree about jazz and black musicians.

    on that score,its a pity you did not write about or find something about the recent brother who has left the stage-the one and only gil scott heron.not just for the revolution will not be televised but my favourites-winter in america and we almost lost detroit.

    actually just about everything he wrote that ive heard is unforgettable.he managed to combine real political thought that touched on and touched real human provides at least me with a sountrack for life and a set of anthems too.

    what about john coltrane and miles davis

    what about all those blues musicians male and female-billie hoiliday strange fruit for starters

    and indeed the white british musicians who helped bring the blues home-rory gallagher,tony mcphee,muddy waters,john lee hooker,

    and all or any of the musicians across the world who bring us their stories and their struggles.

    apparently the bbc want us all to supply list of our own,so maybe we can make up this defiicit.personally i cant bear to be constrained by the rules

    id also include bruce cockburns “i wish i had a rocket launcher”that describes the pain and focusses it-unfortunately there are still plenty of “stinking torture states”to sing about and stand against.

    i also want to honour robert wyatt who often opens his recordings to musicians and music of struggle.

  3. charliethechulo said,

    Lost: ‘Shiraz’ did, indeed, honour Gil Scott-Heron:

  4. Martin Ohr said,

    I posted this somewhere else a bit earlier.

    OK I don’t have any jazz either, but that’s not because I don’t like it, ditto: blues, dylan, colliery bands, kraftwerk, new order, bob marley and a whole host of other genres and groups that I love, but simply because I choose seriously the tracks that either mean something to me and that I could live with forever; anyway…

    Almost more depressing than having a Tory government is the awful music chosen by the Radio4 listeners who responded to the poll for the ‘peoples desert island discs’. It’s been widely trailed on Radio4 for weeks, complete with cheery talking heads and clips of some pretty decent tunes. The final list contains nothing like the cheery 50’s ska or anything resembling anything that a rational human would want to listen to more than once, never mind forever on a desert island, instead it contains the most predictable list of music- it’s like something Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Littlejohn or any daily mail hack would vomit up with on slow news day -see the bottom of this page for the Radio4 listeners choice.

    Personally if I ever had to hear Lark Ascending or Ode to Joy ever again it would be too soon…As an alternative, here’s my own equally predictable list which contains no Elgar, Vaughan Williams or Queen

    Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites
    Common People -Pulp
    Sheharazade – Rimsky Korsakov
    Heaven -Klezmatics
    Nothing Can Stop Us- St Ettiene
    World Turned Upside Down- Billy Bragg
    How Soon is Now -The Smiths
    Dance a Cachuca- Gilbert and Sullivan

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