I’m sure that at one time or another every music fan has pondered their Desert Island Discs. Sometimes it starts as a conversation amongst friends, sometimes it’s a post on social media, sometimes it’s a question posed by a radio or TV host because it’s such a good time filler. It usually goes like this…
If you could take 5 albums with you to a deserted island and that’s all you could listen to for the rest of your life what would they be?
Sometimes that number is 3, or 10, or maybe even 20… the number is arbitrary as long as it makes the choice difficult. Given the current times maybe the term should be Quarantine Discs. At least with the quarantine you can still be in your own house with electricity and other creature comforts without having to worry about how you’re going to play your music choices.
I do have my own spin on the Quarantine Disc question… I enjoyed asking it on the radio occasionally, and liked hearing people’s answers along with their reasoning… If you could take the entire catalog of one artist to your desert island/quarantine house who would it be?
This question leads to a bunch of interesting variables for you to consider. Maybe you LOVE Kanye West’s first couple albums, but he hasn’t been able to recapture that magic on recent releases. Does Chris Stapleton have enough released material to keep you entertained for the next X number of decades? Maybe you think Neil Young or Bob Dylan are the greatest songwriters ever and have tons of records, but do really want one of those voices to be the only other one you’ll hear besides yours for the rest of your life? Aretha Franklin is the Queen Of Soul, but maybe you want more variety stylistically.
Will this include live albums, greatest hits collections, box sets, and out of print albums? Yes, it will. What about bootlegs of concerts and unreleased studio outtakes? Nope, not unless they were officially sanctioned and released by the artists themselves (ok Grateful Dead fans, you found your loophole).
The various albums by the cast of Sesame Street would be great for “Rubber Duckie”, “People In Your Neighborhood”, “I Love Trash”, “I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon”, everything Roosevelt Franklin ever did, and a bunch of other stuff. I’m not as big a fan of the Elmo era (although I hear his new talk show on HBO Max is really good), but I’d put up with this latter material if I can get the soundtrack from The Muppet Movie (1979) included.
Actually, the Sesame Street gang joins my list of close seconds along with Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Beatles, Barenaked Ladies, and a few others. So, who is my recording artist of choice? Whose catalog of music would I want to be stranded on an island (or quarantined in my house) with? I choose Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus.
MacManus has recorded more than 30 studio albums, released 6 live albums, had 4 box sets, and hosted his own talk show for two seasons under his more famous pseudonym, Elvis Costello.
It’s not just Costello’s large number of releases that led to my choice though… it’s also the wide variety of material. From his legendary post-punk rock and roll records to symphonic music he’s done it all. Country? Check! Acoustic? Check! Jazz? Check! R&B? Check! Covers? Classical? Collaborations with other artists as diverse as Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint, and The Roots? Check, check, and check! Whatever type of music I’d be in the mood for during my theoretical isolation would be available to me in the form of “The Complete Recordings Of Elvis Costello”. I might not listen to his CD of chamber music featuring The Brodsky Quartet very often, but I still pull out The Juliet Letters occasionally if only for the amazing song “Jacksons, Monk, and Rowe”.
Come to think of it, Costello also recorded with Cookie Monster and Elmo in 2011 when they did “Monster Went And Ate My Red 2” on Sesame Street. It sounds suspiciously like Elvis’ classic “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”. Watch the video here.
Oh yeah, one more rule for my isolation catalog discs… it includes any new releases that may come out. Coincidentally, Elvis Costello has a new single out… a return to his pissed off punk rocker roots called “No Flag”. Hopefully a whole album is on the way. Get the single here.
By the way, if this whole concept interests you, check out a BBC radio show/podcast called “Desert Island Discs”. Each week a guest (or Castaway) is asked to choose 8 recordings, a book (to go along with The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare and a Bible or another appropriate religious or philosophical work already “left for them”), and a luxury item they’d take with them if stranded. The choices are used as a starting point to interview the “castaway” about their lives, and leads to some fascinating discussions. Check it out here.
That’s all for this week. Please stay safe and wear your masks. -Billy