How often have you tried to pick the eight tracks you would take to an island after listening to the Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs? Would you pick tracks that symbolise key moments of your life, or just the music you love best? Guests on the show often complain of the agony of picking just eight, but I have no sympathy for them, because going on the show is not only an honour, but must also be a delight.
The simple, yet brilliant, idea for the show came to freelance broadcaster Roy Plumley nearly 80 years ago in 1941. Not only is the show still going, it is still going strong. It is fascinating the hear about the lives of those recently invited to take part, from Alan Carr to Gary Barlow, as the castaways always reveal far more about themselves than they would do in a normal chat show, which usually focuses on the latest work they want to sell.
Listening to the archive means you can explore the minds of people you admire in the past and also note how the way we annunciate has changed, and how much less celebrities were prepared to share. I recommend listening, for example, to Gregory Peck talking to Roy Plumley, who even when describing his near-death experience on a rubber whale stranded in the Irish Sea, makes light of the experience. Also, the stars of the past are often more self-deprecating, Going back to Gregory Peck, how many American film stars will claim they don’t have much acting talent in the way that Peck did when he was talking to Plumley? Honestly, listening to Peck’s recording would make you think he was rather ordinary if you didn’t know better!
On The Couch
The present interviewer Lauren Laverne has a tough act to follow after Kirsty Young, whose sensitive, in-depth questions made the show quite the therapy session, with castaways (and Young) often ending up in tears. I have never heard a historical recording where that happens, although sometimes the way that presenter Sue Lawley speaks to her guests makes me want to cry.
Inside Great Minds
As someone with a passion for words, I particularly like to listen to authors, to find out where they get their ideas from and how they work. What you learn from great creators is that there is no single method for getting inspired and creating great work, everyone has their own way of working. The only common denominators are that they have passion and spend hours on their craft. Great works of art and literature may sometimes look like they have been effortless to produce, but this is always far from the truth.