For those not familiar with the BBC Radio 4 show’s premise, a famous guest is castaway on a fictional desert island each week and they can choose eight songs, a book and one luxury item to take with them (alongside the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible, which every ‘castaway’ is given). The guests also have to choose the one record out of the eight they have selected they would save if a storm hit the desert island. In the three quarters of a century Desert Island Discs has been on air, there have been over 3,000 castaways, but only four presenters. The first was Roy Plomley, who originally devised the programme, hosting from its incarnation in 1942 to 1985. Michael Parkinson took over hosting duties until 1988, followed by Sue Lawley who hosted until 2006 when she stepped down and was replaced by current presenter, Kirsty Young.
In The History Press version, the selection process has been made even more agonising as the number of songs each person is allowed to take with them has been limited to just three, although this is no less revealing, or surprising (it seems there is a lot of love for Paul Simon at THP HQ!) If you like our song selections, or happen to be a Paul Simon fan, then the complete playlist is available on Spotify for your listening pleasure below.
Lucky Man by The Verve - The song of the ’90s which defined my university years.
Howl by Florence and the Machine - It’s powerful, dramatic and heartfelt.
Alive by Pearl Jam - One of the best bands in the world!
Luxury item: Tweezers - Why not?!
Book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I studied at A ‘Level and it is the book that inspired me to read English Literature at university.
Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel - I first heard this when I was 9 years old at a friend’s house and we loved it so much we just played it on loop. I still love it.
Life’s What You Make It by Talk Talk - There’s something powerful about this song that makes you stop, and the guitar is awesome.
Beat It by Michael Jackson - Another childhood favourite - Michael Jackson was an icon in the 1980s and 1990s and we couldn’t get enough of his music and dance routines. I still can’t moonwalk though...
Luxury item: Tweezers - Just. Got. To.
Book: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - What better book to read alone on a desert island?
Friday I'm In Love by The Cure - This was what was playing when I walked down the aisle with my new husband.
The Grudge It by Tool - Never fails to wake me up in the mornings.
Solid Air by John Martyn - Lots of happy memories from my parents’ house, and still a favourite to play on a lazy Sunday.
Luxury item: MP3 player, for obvious reasons.
Book: War and Peace by Tolstoy - I've never actually read it, but if I’m going to be stuck on a desert island I might finally get round to it!
Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday - From a time gone by and her voice is so honest.
Welcome Home by Dave Dobbyn - It will forever remind me of where I was born, New Zealand.
Without You I’m Nothing by Placebo (ft. David Bowie) - Gives me a lump in my throat every time I hear it.
Luxury item: A wok - the most versatile piece of cooking equipment.
Book: The Complete Works of Roald Dahl - His works are fun and silly and make me laugh.
Blackbird Through the Dark by Patrick Park - My favourite song.
Schindig by Mabon - Reminds me of my wedding.
Island in the Sun by Weezer - It seems appropriate.
Luxury item: A knife, for whittling.
Book: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - As the book is nice and long, so it would keep me occupied for a while.
Redbone by Childish Gambino - Because it’s completely stuck in my head at the moment.
Live and Let Die by Guns n Roses - It’s an all time classic song and perhaps an appropriate anthem for a desert island.
Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart - For a mellow folk accompaniment to the other two songs, plus it makes me think of home and family.
Luxury item: Sketchpad and pencils - Because I always complain that I have no time to draw anymore, no excuse when you’re alone on a desert island!
Book: Paradise Lost by John Milton - For the irony.
Piano Concerto No 2 in C Minor, Op 18 – 1 Moderato by Rachmaninov - The most moving, rich and uplifting classical piece I know and the reason I stated to learn to play the piano, aspiring to play this.
Everything’s Not Lost by Coldplay - I fell in love with their music the very first time I heard Yellow and this song from the Parachutes album has helped me through some very difficult times in my life. Although it always makes me cry, it also makes me smile through the tears and is so uplifting.
Bingo Bango by Basement Jaxx - It makes me smile and I would have to have something to dance to.
Luxury item: My piano - It would have to come with a piano stool as part of the one item and be full of sheet music to play! Also, with all the time in the world, I could try to master my dream of being able to play Rachmaninov.
Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach - This is my book for life that has been with me since I was 17. Whenever I feel stuck in life, Jonathan helps me to see the truth and get my strength back. My favourite quote from the book is: “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
End of the Line by Traveling Wilburys - This song always brings back memories of driving with my Dad to swimming lessons at the YMCA when I was a kid. Plus it’s a super group with both my favourite Beatle and hometown hero Bob Dylan!
Wait So Long by Trampled by Turtles - Fast-picking banjo and wild fiddle combine with technical skill on this Minnesotan folk-rock (or bluegrass thrash?) band’s spirited song.
Thrash Unreal by Against Me! - Lyrics that should be depressing but with enough punk angst fist pumps and ‘ba-ba-baps’ in the chorus to make it the exact opposite.
Luxury item: Sunscreen - I’ve managed to sunburn during a typhoon before and surviving on a desert island would be that much more difficult with blistering skin.
Book: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - I read this cult classic about a family of self-made circus freaks a long time ago and would love to read it again as it’s funny, sad and touching.
I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash - The words never fail to lift my spirits even when it’s foggy and grey outside.
You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?) by The Undertones - I’ve seen the Undertones four times live and I love dancing to their music. I was a bit of a punk at college so this takes me right back to the late 1970s. I also love Teenage Kicks but because John Peel loved it, it was played so much more than many other great Undertones tracks.
Nessun Dorma by Puccini, sung by Pavarotti - You can’t beat the soaring notes and stirring quality of the music. It’s ideal singing in the shower music (not that I do). I realise this token opera excerpt doesn’t make me look cultured because its popular use as the BBC’s 1990 World Cup anthem took it into the homes of millions, but I love it all the same.
Luxury item: Paper and paints.
Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Red Red Wine by UB40 - The reggae vibe would be appropriate on a desert island, plus it reminds me of my childhood and my family.
Maria by Blondie - Blondie are my favourite band, and it was hard to decide which of their songs I would pick. But something about the beat of this one always lifts my spirits, so it seemed like a good choice for the circumstances.
Oh England My Lionheart - to remind me of home.
Luxury item: My bed - because at least then I would sleep well!
Book: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice. It’s my favourite book ever. It’s a really feel good coming-of-age story set in the 1950s. I’ve read it a hundred times, but never get bored of it and I always turn to it when I need an escape.
The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel - My parents are big Simon and Garfunkel fans and their songs were regularly playing in our house when I was growing up. I always loved this song for its melancholy tune and beautiful use of storytelling.
Coffee and TV by Blur - In the big Oasis vs Blur battle of the nineties I was firmly rooted in the Blur camp and this song quickly became my favourite when it was released at the end of the decade.
Talkin’ Bout a Revolution by Tracy Chapman - I didn’t really discover Tracy Chapman until the mid-noughties when I bought her eponymous debut album. I played it on repeat throughout my time at university and so to listen to those songs now immediately takes me back to a time in my life when I felt everything was changing.
Luxury item: Lip balm - I can’t live without it.
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - my favourite book and some of the best characters ever written.
Born Slippy by Underworld.
Connected by Stereo MCs.
I Wanna Be Adored by Stone Roses.
Luxury item: A throne.
Book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Run Away With Me by Kerrigan-Lowdermilk (as performed by Stuart Matthew Price) - Really great to belt along to and super pretty. It was one of the first musical songs I fell in love with once I’d gone beyond the Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh stuff.
The Sound of Silence by Disturbed - A great rendition of a song I already like the original of. The video is great and I definitely would be able to visualise it as I listened!
Daft Punk by Pentatonix - Just great for when I wanted something more upbeat and to be blown away by acapella greatness.
Luxury item: Endless supplies of pens and paper to write with.
Book: The complete Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy.
You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon - One of my Dad’s favourite singers and reminds me of family holidays we used to take each year to a holiday cottage in mid Wales.
Still Young by The Cat Empire - One of my favourite feel-good bands and the rhythm in this song always makes me want to get up and dance (my son loves it too!), and I’ll have plenty of time for dancing on a desert island.
Feeling Good by Nina Simone - Every time I hear this song it makes me smile. Beautiful voice, beautiful words.
Luxury item: Ultrablend cleanser by Lush - a one-pot miracle balm (cleanser, moisturiser, great for cuts, sunburn etc.)
Book: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) by Laura Marling - I love Laura Marling's music, I’ve seen her play a number of times and she is always my go-to artist when I feel a bit low and reach for a record. Almost impossible to choose just one song, but I have a feeling I might be a teeny bit nostalgic for snowy England on my desert island in the sun.
Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes by Paul Simon - This track is so uplifting. Gracelands is one of the most joyful sounding albums I've ever heard, simple joy in music, in defiance of the dark shadow that apartheid cast across the world at the time. I love the way this song starts softly with gentle harmonies from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, before kicking into life and infectiously carrying you along with it, and Paul Simon's lyrics are always pure poetry.
Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles - There are so many perfect Beatles songs, but I have a soft spot for this one. Poignant, full of hope and sadness, and a song that vividly evokes my childhood, listening to Beatles albums in the car with my parents.
Luxury item: A big stack of paper and pencils.
Book: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This book has made me laugh every time I’ve read it since I discovered it aged fourteen in a junk shop, and it opened a gateway to so many other wonderful books. A real comfort read.
A Thousand Trees by Stereophonics - Stereophonics were the first band I really got in to once I discovered ‘proper’ music as a teenager (you know, with guitars and stuff and not produced by Stock, Aitken or Waterman) and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this band live. I could have picked any song off their debut Word Gets Around album, as each one tells its own individual story of everyday small-town life, but as soon as I hear the opening chords of this album-opener it transports me right back to the late 90s and nights out with my friends.
Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins - I love string arrangements in songs, and the soaring strings in this one are just sublime. We hired a string trio for our wedding and they arranged this for us and played it as my husband and I walked down the aisle just after doing the deed, so it marks a pretty epic moment in my life.
Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra - Growing up in the Midlands it probably comes as little surprise that my parents were fans of local band ELO. This is a family favourite and is just so feelgood - as soon as I hear it, I want to dance and on a desert island, I really can dance as if no-one is watching!
Luxury item: My guitar. I used to play a little bit and had lessons for a while, but lacked the patience to practice. I’d love to master playing it properly, and I’d have no excuse with all the time in the world to learn.
Book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I love this book and being shipwrecked, I would definitely be able to relate to the themes explored!
Missiles by The Sound - This will remind me that there is always the hope that the people back home are managing to sort out some of the nonsense that we have a habit of creating. It’ll also remind me of the best band I have ever seen.
The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen - For when I want to hear something that is equally brilliant and beautiful.
Get Over You by The Undertones - If I need cheering up, almost anything by The Undertones will do, but this will do better than most.
Luxury item: A decent bottle of wine.
Book: 1984 by George Orwell.