Desert Island Discs

So I was thinking, for whatever reason, about BBC Radio 4’s program(me), Desert Island Discs, wondering what eight songs, one album, one book (the complete works of William Shakespeare and the religious text of one’s choice are already there), and one inanimate luxury item I would bring with me (I believe the rules specify that the inanimate luxury item cannot be something useful for, say, getting off the island… so a computer is right out).

  1. Fat Man In The Bathtub, Lowell George
    Little Feat, of course. This is get-off-your-ass-and-dance music.
  2. Ball and Chain, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton
    The Janis Joplin version. Miss Janis was and is arguably the greatest white blues singer ever.
  3. 9th Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven
    The George Szell/Cleveland Symphony, of course.
  4. Sing Sing Sing, Louis Prima, arr. Benny Goodman
    Specifically, the twelve minute Carnegie Hall version the Benny Goodman band laid down in the famous 1937 concert. Gene Krupa is bugf**k nuts, man.
  5. Passacaglia and Fugue in Cm (the Great), Johann Sebastian Bach
    Pure chills up my spine every time. Actually, I get that from almost all the fugues, even the by now overfamiliar Toccata and Fugue in Dm. This one only just edges out the 5th Brandenburg.
  6. Wooden Ships, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner (lyrics), David Crosby (music)
    I just can’t decide whether the CSN version or the Airplane version, but it’s CSN by a hair. o/` If you smile at me I will understand, that is something everybody everywhere does in the same languageo/`
  7. Two Of Us, John Lennon and Paul McCartney
    How do you distill the Beatles down into one song? You don’t. But this has long been one of my favorites, managing to be both a clash and a blend of Lennon and McCartney’s individual styles.
  8. Reuben and Cérise, Robert Hunter
    By the time I got down to this last one, the despair of indecision set in. I wasn’t worried about the lack of the Grateful Dead, as they would be covered, and magnificently, by the album selection below. But there are so many contenders for my last slot, and they span a range that can’t be defined: almost any track off Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Modeste Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (or even the later St-Saëns or Emerson Lake and Palmer arrangements), ‘s Journey’s Done and ‘s Rocket Ride, Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse (heck, almost anything by Scott in his pre-electronica days), but I had to go with this strange, beautiful resetting of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth into Mardi Gras. Garcia’s cover dispensed with Hunter’s original ending that was truer to the myth; here, for once, I must dispense with Garcia and say that Hunter got it right in the first place. One’a these days, I’ll have it down solid for OVFF…

Album: This is the easy one: American Beauty, The Grateful Dead. It has it all: my favorite song in the world, Box of Rain. The classic Grateful Dead anthem, Truckin’. Perennial OVFF Sunday Jam favorites Ripple and Friend of the Devil. Brokedown Palace. Sugar Magnolia. Attics of my Life. More. It’s everything that made the Grateful Dead great. Better yet, there’s a 2 disc set that has both this, and Workingman’s Dead, which adds Uncle John’s Band, Black Peter, Dire Wolf and Cumberland Blues (among others) to the mix. This is as much a no-brainer as possible.

Book: This is not a no-brainer. I’m trying to think of what books I reliably return to, time after time, and even that list isn’t especially short. Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and I, Robot. Duane’s Door… series. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series. I think ultimately I have to go with… a cheat. Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories. And since I’m an atheist, in lieu of the above-referenced religious text, I will also take a copy of Douglas Adams’ The Compleat Hitchhiker. :)

Luxury Item: A complete set of fitted golf clubs and a limitless supply of golfballs.

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