Desert Island Discs will be eighty-years this old this month. The very first episode was broadcast on 29th January 1942. The voice of Roy Plomley, the programme creator was a voice of reassurance. In bad times, the programme must have reminded listeners that there was still much that was good in the world.
In the times before the wavebands were filled with stations at every millimetre turn of the dial, Desert Island Discs was one of those programmes to be frequently encountered at home and in the houses of friends. There was never a time I recall when anyone actually sat down to listen to it, it was more that its mood and format seemed to permeate the consciousness.
In younger days, the words were more interesting than the music.
The people spoke with perfect Received Pronunciation voices and recalled events that had changed the history of the world. The Great Wars of the Twentieth Century provided a backdrop to the personal experiences and reminiscences recounted by Roy Plomley’s studio guests.
To a 1970s teenager, the choice of music was unappealing: classical music and opera seemed to comprise the entire record selection of many of the guests. It seemed unthinkable that any of them might have chosen anything that had been in the pop charts.
I suppose I could listen to the programme podcast, but the programme is not one to which I would often listen now. Having lived outside of England for most of my life, the programme guests now are rarely names that I would recognize and the stories they tell do not carry the weight of history that was borne by the tales told by their predecessors. The music has become more interesting than the words, much of it very different from that played during the programme’s early decades.
What hasn’t changed over the years is the playing of a personal game, probably one played by many people, the game of choosing the eight records to take to a desert island.
Of course, the list changes each time I think about it, but among the eight at the moment are:
The eight will have changed by tomorrow.