Desert Island Discs

Stranded by Greil Marcus

Stranded by Greil Marcus

One game we music snobs fans like to play is Desert Island Discs. Amusingly, I thought Greil Marcus made this up in his 1978 book Stranded, but of course, it has been a BBC radio show since 1942 – I had no idea!

To play, you simply get together and discuss which 8 pieces of music, one book, and one luxury item you would like to have with you if you were stranded indefinitely on a desert island. You are obliged to ignore all of the logic and anti-logic this would involve!

Most of the guests on the radio show are not musicians and not pop culture figures, so I find their musical choices very highbrow!

Whenever I’ve played this game, we’ve just chosen albums. So without further ado, out of the 1985 albums I have in the house (at last count), I would choose:

The xx - The xx

The xx – The xx

8. The xx – The xx (2009)

This quiet, droney, minimalist album is the perfect accompaniment to the sadness and despair I would surely feel. But it is masterful and pretty enough to keep me from sinking further in! I would need that catharsis.

Hatebreed - The Rise of Brutality

Hatebreed – The Rise of Brutality

7. Hatebreed – The Rise of Brutality (2003)

I despise violence but I love this kick-ass metalcore album. A couple of years ago I had some cancer tests done (they were negative, thankfully) and I played this album often while awaiting a diagnosis. With songs like Live for This and Facing What Consumes You, I would be able to face up to my fears and get my anger out!

New York Dolls - New York Dolls

New York Dolls – New York Dolls

6. New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)

This is my favourite album of all time. It’s a feel-good rock n’ roll record. That’s all!

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

5. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

It’s a cliche to like this album, but it must be over-exposed for a reason! It’s a shoegaze/noise album with layers upon layers of shrieking sound, but it’s also profound and beautiful (well, if you’re me, anyway). The vocals are buried in the mix, giving it a dreamy feel. I often fall asleep to this album and get jolted awake by the loud bits…in a good way!

The Clash - The Clash

The Clash – The Clash

4. The Clash – The Clash (US version 1979)

I debated which early punk album to include because I like so many, but for me this is the best. The earlier UK edition had 4 tracks swapped out to create the US edition. As you know, The Clash were one of the more political bands, and they integrated reggae into their sound. I love how the songs capture how youth felt in the Thatcher years, even though it was recorded before she was elected!

Mew - And the Glass Handed Kites

Mew – And the Glass Handed Kites

3. Mew – And the Glass Handed Kites (2005)

I choose this album for sentimental reasons. Rom and I fell in love to it and with it, and it was much celebrated on the music website through which we met! The album is an update of progressive rock – as far from minimalism as you can get – and sounds very lush and romantic.

T.Rex - Electric Warrior

T.Rex – Electric Warrior

2. T.Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)

Because I would want to dance around to Cosmic Dancer and Get It On (Bang a Gong). Wouldn’t you?

Motown Classics Gold (Cheat Alert: 2 Discs!)

Motown Classics Gold (Cheat Alert: 2 Discs!)

1. Motown Classics Gold (1960-1972)

The Motown hits were created as singles, so a compilation album is a great way to experience the era. I know all these songs off by heart and never get tired of singing them. That desert island had better get used to my imperfect voice!

OK, as for a book. The game rules say you can get a Bible or religious/philosophical work as a freebie, along with The Complete Works of Shakespeare. I would choose a book of collected poems, provided that the selection was worldwide and not just Western. I could then spend my time memorizing and performing poems. I would like that!

Finally, as to any other item I could have with me. The rules say it can’t be a person or any item that would assist me in getting off the island. So naturally I would choose a pen and paper. Is that two items? I’d be frantic if I couldn’t mark time, record anything, write down thoughts, and draw. I’d have to resort to scratching things on rocks and trees. Or if I wanted to be really tragic, I could write an opus in the sand and let it wash away at high tide!

Does anyone else want to play?

See also:

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die


  1. I really have no idea! I can only assume I’d reach for all of Matchbox 20s stuff – after hearing some of it on my bf’s iphone yest (about the only thing over 7 hours road tripping I knew and liked perhaps!), I realise I still LOVE them! I’m pleased I actually know who the XX and My Bloody Valentine are, but not well. I would probably also like to take along a Whitlams album, good Aussie rock, but they can be very melancholy. Maybe Whitney Houston, cause man, she’s awesome to belt out a tune with! In a similar vein I’d likely pick favourites for nostalgic reasons, meaning Music Box by Mariah Carey too. I think that has me at 5 or 6… I really do like Gyspy and the Cat and they are pretty upbeat, so they would come along (but I don’t know the name of the album!) Maybe a Gorillaz album, they always make me what to do things at hyper pace, and make me think of summer. And perhaps Active Child for some chilled out music (Wikipedia says their album is You Are All I See – I didn’t know, but I do like the song ‘Hanging on’).

    As to the book, I have no idea, but at a pinch Atlas Shrugged – cause I haven’t read it, it’s long, and deep? Who knows. I’d probably do better with something Bear Gryles has written! Or that Emergency book I have already?

    And an item? like you, likely a pencil and paper. Though maybe a mozzie net. Or a torch? Or just a watch (though as I don’t wear one now, I can’t imagine wanting or needing one there!).

    • Now you’ve given me some new music to listen to. I heard Active Child once, but I’ve never heard Whitlams or Gypsy and the Cat, so I will check them out! The Man vs. Wild guy’s books are a smart choice!

      • My first thought was the Whitlams 🙂 I really like their music, but agree it can be melancholy. They are very popular here in Oz, but I’d be interested to hear what you think 🙂

      • OK, I gave the Whitlams a listen! I see they started in the 90s so you can hear a Britpop influence. Overall I thought the closest matches were maybe Travis and The Smiths? I don’t mind a bit of melancholy, although I think The National goes too far that way!

  2. Fiona

    One! thousand! and eighty-five! albums!! I was wondering after the last post if you had more books or albums…pretty much even?

    I’m afraid I will have to bow out of the game in deference, especially since I hadn’t heard of 8/10 of those albums! But I’d definitely take a poetry anthology for the book.

  3. As someone who reads more than they listen to music, this would be sooo difficult. If I can take 8 albums, I feel confident I’ll be in the mood for most of my choices most of the time – but with only 3 books? Maybe I could get away with something like all the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Harry Potter books in one physical “book”. 🙂 I think I’ll have to steal your idea for pen/paper too. That would keep me occupied for hours!

    I like your Motown compilation idea! I’d also want an album by Wilco, Title of Record by Filter, maybe the soundtrack from A Night at the Roxbury? It motivates me whenever I don’t want to get something done – cleaning, running, etc. so that would be helpful. Maybe Egypt Central’s debut album? And I’d really like some Billy Joel/Bruce Springsteen/Journey type feel good music. Not sure exactly what album though . .

    • Hi Amanda, You have very diverse musical tastes! I just looked up Egypt Central. I could stand with a re-read of the Hitchhiker’s Guide books – I have the first 3 in one volume!

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