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Me, Dermot and ten top songs

Posted on 23 February 2009 | 10:02am

Good response on Facebook last night when I slipped in that D:Ream‘s ‘Things can only get better’ was one of my ten songs when I go on Dermot O’Leary‘s Time Capsule programme on Radio 2 tomorrow night. It is the first of a new series, and I really enjoyed deciding which records to choose.

I was down to do Desert Island Discs a few years ago but we never got the dates sorted, and it all went away. But at least it meant I had done a bit of thinking about this, even before Dermot asked me to be his opening guest.

The format is slightly different to Desert Island Discs. You are allowed five ‘free’ choices, but five have to fit into the same formula week by week – a family favourite, a teenage kicks song, a tearjerker,your ultimate time capsule song and your funeral song. (A bit morbid but if you have read my novel, All In The Mind, you’ll know that there is a school of psychiatry that says it is very healthy to think about and imagine your death and what follows.)

Anyway, Dermot and his producer Ben encouraged me to pick records with a story attached to them so I tried to do that and here goes with the top ten.
Family favourite – my brother Donald playing the bagpipes, a tune written in honour of my father, also Donald. So Donald Campbell by Donald Campbell is the family favourite.

Teenage kicks – Diana Ross, Ain’t no mountain high enough. Love her. Love it.

Tearjerker aka ‘our song’. Randy Crawford, One Day I’ll Fly Way. Devastated to discover Fiona can’t remember that we used to dance around a bedsit to it.

Free choice 1. Verdi (theme from Jean de Florette) Because I used to hum it to the kids when they couldn’t sleep.

Free choice 2. Money’s too tight by Simply Red. Because Mick is Labour and a friend of mine but more important because I used to listen to it obsessively when I was going mad and my breakdown is an important part of my life, so had to be in there somewhere.

Free choice 3. Yes, it is D:Ream and I don’t care what anyone says – things HAVE got better as a result of Labour being in power.

Free choice 4. Nelly Furtado, Forza … great running music. (I was running to it on Regent’s Park canalside this morning)

Free choice 5. ANC anthem which became South African national anthem. Shows the power of politics to change things for the better.

Ultimate time capsule song. Ne Me Quitte Pas by Jacques Brel.

Funeral song. Quand on n’a que l’amour. Also by Brel.

Sorry this is so rushed but just as the names game gave you something to think on, so should this. I really enjoyed choosing them. Programme out on 1030pm tomorrow, Radio 2.

Dermot a good bloke, Labour obviously, as most good blokes are.
Must rush now because Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian has arrived. She says she wants to do an interview ‘honouring your website.’ Oo-er.

  • Twitterer

    Great choices.

    As someone who grew up in SA and had the honour of meeting Mandela, am touched by your inclusion of the ANC anthem in the list. In high school we used to listen to a song called ‘Give me hope Joanna’ (I think that’s what it was called); it was banned at the time, but that just made it more interesting.

    I’m not sure if it’s the case with everyone but I do find more and more that politics seems to affect my taste in music. I was a huge fan of Phil Collins but then heard some of his views and ofcourse that just killed it for me. Conversely, always did love Simply Red – but now they have legendary status for me. I hope that doesn’t sound too corny!

  • Bryony

    Things Can Only Get Better, fantastic. Great song, great election tune. Aint No Mountain High Enough is a great sing-a-long too, always perks everyone up.

  • Alina Palimaru

    My list would include, among others:

    U2 – Beautiful Day
    U2 – With or Without you
    Metallica – Nothing Else Matters
    Metallica – One
    Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror
    Xavier Naidoo – 20,000 Meilen
    Rokia Traoré – Dunya

    Awesome running songs:
    Raincry (1 8 7 OST)
    Goran Bregovic – Ederlezi (from Silence of the Balkans)

    But interesting list, Alastair!


  • Mark Martin

    Family favourite – “Ali Baba” by John Holt. We took a family holiday in Scotland in 2002, purchasing a copy of Mojo magazine with a free “ska” CD on the front. The CD sound tracked a brilliant fortnight in Galloway when we would go to the beach or up into the hills and listen to this on the way back to our cottage, singing along. We joked it was because we were at the opposite end of the Gulf Stream from Jamaica.
    Teenage kicks – “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones. What else?
    Tearjerker aka ‘our song’ – “Wonder of You” by Elvis Presley. Reminds me of our wedding day and all those who were there that day who are no longer with us. My Nan, my Gran, my Dad, my “Dad in Law” and so on.
    Free choice 1 – “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” by The Clash. The Clash politicised a whole generation of music fans as well as broadening the musical spectrum of that same group. Through The Clash, I discovered reggae/dub, hip hop and soul. My mates in The Clashed, do a fabrilliant version of this.
    Free choice 2 – “Transmission” by Joy Division. Ian Curtis at his finest . Thirty years on the part where he SCREAMS “Well I could call out when the going gets tough. The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough. No language, just sound, that’s all we need know, to synchronise Love to the beat of the show. And we could DAAAAAAAAANCE” is still incredibly powerful. And the bass intro is one of the best and most recognisable intros ever.
    Free choice 3 – “Everyday is Like Sunday” – Morrissey. A packed Lancashire Cricket ground with EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the crowd drowning out the Moz himself whilst singing along to this in 2004 was one of the greatest moments of my life. A quasi religious experience that only true Moz fans will ever understand and a moment during which grown men still cry about when explaining it to their sons who were also there but somehow failed to feel the magic. The moment when “Subway Train” segues into “Sunday” and we all start singing, the moment where Moz himself loses it to the audience are the best examples of the power of live music. Its on YouTube at
    Free choice 4 – “Hallelujah” by Happy Mondays. The last time I felt part of a “gang”. The audience and group as part of one massive cultural movement as opposed to a mere “fan” of a group and it’s music. And a tune that I can unashamedly “Bez” dance to in my kitchen.
    Free choice 5 – “Pressure Drop” by Toots and The Maytals. Legend has it that my future Mrs and myself crashed into each other whilst dancing to The Clash’s version of this song and fell in love at first sight. That was way back in 1979 and despite a short on and off between then and 1983, we have been together since. Seeing Toots play this live recently was another great experience.
    Ultimate time capsule song: “Ghost Town” by The Specials. Sums up the Thatcher legacy of the early 80’s in a perfect pop song. The perfect antidote for anyone who is even contemplating voting Tory.
    Funeral song: “Atmosphere” by Joy Division. “Don’t walk away in silence…” My fantasy is that owing to a mix up at the funeral directors, they mistakenly play Russ Abbott’s song of the same name which is far less sombre and moving than the Walker Brothers inspired Joy Division song. Shame I won’t be there to enjoy that particular moment.

  • Pat Ireland

    Family Favourite – The Wanderer [Dion and the Belmonts] memories of bbq’s when 2 daughters would sing along to this with spatula and tongs microphones!!
    Teenage Kicks – To know him is to Love him – Teddy Bears – yes I know I am very old haha!
    Tearjerker – The Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler – I still cry when watching the film
    Ultimate Time Capsule Song – Winds of Change, The Scorpions
    Funeral Song – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Monty Python
    Free Choice 1 – D:Ream and I totally agree with your comments
    Free Choice 2 – Desperado, The Eagles – can listen to this for ever
    Free Choice 3 – Just Wanna Dance The Night Away – The Mavericks – lots of good memories of the Labour Club and lnedancing
    Free Choice 4 – When The Saints Go Marching In – by anyone – a reminder of the best Rugby League team in the country, if not the world!!
    Free Choice 5 – The Great Pretender – Freddy Mercury – nuff said!!!

  • Jane A

    Love music lists 🙂

    Here goes…

    Family favourite: Homeloving Man, Andy Williams (seemed to be always in the car on some agricultural Eight track cartridge system which regularly shredded itself.)

    Teenage kicks: Ca Plane pour Moi (French exchange trip to Macon during which I referred to my host’s parents as Monsieur et Madame Vache for almost a week. It wasn’t their name.)

    Tearjerker: Perfect Day, the Lou Reed version of course.

    Time capsule: Winner Takes It All, Abba. (No musical list complete without Abba…)

    Funeral: In My Life, The Beatles. (So glad it isn’t freaky to have this bit planned out.)

    Free five:
    Jack Savoretti: Gypsy Love (and runner up in the tearjerker category)

    Baddiel, Skinner, the other one: Three Lions (a football anthem essential to the list)

    Elbow : One Day Like This (yeah, recent, but bliss)

    Squeeze: Tempted (perfect storyline)

    Clash : White Riot (thought I was so cool with white hair and red beret circa 1978. Then it rained, the beret ran, and I had blotchy pink hair instead. Cool factor, zero.)


  • Mennard

    I must be feeling miserable tonight .

    Bit of a soul diva thing going on with this list but Mick Hucknall …MICK ‘Bloody ‘HUCKNALL you cant be serious !

    Anyway personal prejudice aside and as I have mentioned him in my own blog I must be consistent .I acknowledge the sentiment as the memory and strength it gave you you cant ignore and is clearly none of my business anyway

    Understand the D:Ream on same basis and love Brel .

    So …..

    Ok funeral song .Either Joe Brown I ‘ll See You in My Dreams ..also check out Keep Me in Your Heart Warren Zevon miserable as hell ..quite fancied Morecambe and Wise bring Me Sunshine would have that as one of my 5 so many memories ,and optimistic

    Also as one of my 5 Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’le

    How manys that 3 I think .

    Teenage Kicks …with no imagination Teenage Kicks by Undertones makes me ashappy today as it did then . Heard it in a shopping Mall in Vegas last year thought John Peel would have had a wry grin with that one ..or have vomitted !

    So 4

    Our song ..Strangers in tHe Night danced to it at our wedding thought it was ironic as ‘our song ‘ was Olivers Army Elvis Costeelo but songs about mercenaries are not romantic and wedding fodder.

    Time capsule song Let it Be .The Beatles not very original but cant help that .

    6 Now

    Family Fav Walk Tall by Val Doonican ..Good sentiment My Mums fav and I remember it playing when I was young in our old stereo gram

    So 3 for the road .

    Common People by William Shatner . Good ,Funny full of bite love it

    Simple Twist of Fate by Bob Dylan from Blood on The Tracks my all time fav album .

    and finally …tricky

    I love Sinatra and Strangers in the Night isnt representative .

    However going with I’m on My Way by the Proclaimers because its bouncy , optimistic and I’m such a miserable Bastard .

    Love the Blog , actually loved the diaries too if your taking compliments


  • Caroline Hett

    Alistair – I thought these would be your free-choice songs?
    Pete Burns’ – You Spin Me Round
    Darren Hayes – Spin
    Lifehouse – Spin
    And perhaps a couple of tracks from the Spin Doctors?

    I would choose:
    Farmers’ Boys – Blue Eyes (teenage kicks)
    Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3 in B flat minor (funeral)
    Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s Talkin (time capsule)
    Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama (family favourite)
    The Kinks – Days (tearjerker)
    Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side
    Simon & Garfunkel The Boxer or Mrs Robinson
    Eddie Cochrane – Three Steps to Heaven
    Marvin Gaye – Heard It Through the Grapevine
    Peter Starstedt – Where Do You Go to My Lovely

    At least Desert Island Discs limit it to 8 tracks.

  • Caroline Hett

    I used to like the song Things Can Only Get Better — but now, whenever I hear it, I see Mandelson, dancing like a foreign exchange student.

  • Brian Moylan

    Unfree 5:

    Family Favourite – “X & Y” by Coldplay, because it’s about me after a brain injury, “trying hard to speak and fighting with my weak hand..”
    Teenage Kicks – “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by Napalm Death (not really an idea what teenage kicks means..)
    Tearjerker – “Ruby Tuesday” by’t Rollin Stones.
    Time capsule – “Blue Room” by The Orb
    Funeral Song – “Loser” by Beck, “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t ya kill me”.. teh irony innit.

    Free 5:

    “A joy” (any of many mixes) by Four Tet
    “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes
    “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by Napalm Death (cos they still can)
    “Redemption Song” by Bob M
    “The Revolution will not be televised” by Gil Scott-Heron, even though it was =)

  • Karen Redman

    Have to absolutely agree with you about Ne Me Quitte Pas, the theme from Jean de Florette & RSA National Anthem. I lived in South Africa just after Mandela was released from Robin Island and that anthem held so much hope. I listened to a lot of Simply Red when I cracked up, too. I wonder if Mick Hucknall has found a niche market??! Good choice all round, Alastair! Oh, and I agree with you 100% about polls, too.

  • Fugitive Ink

    Never being one to let lack of demand get in the way of supply, I’d long ago worked out my Desert Island choices. Here, anyway, are my Time Capsule ones:

    The family choice is Woody Guthrie singing ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’. Actually, it ought to be ‘Jarama Valley’, since – as with plenty of present-day conservatives, I imagine – my mother was, literally, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Well, I’ve outgrown admiring that, but for me, there’s only one ‘Woody’, and find his words (and strumming) surfacing in my mind at the most unexpected moments.

    The tear-jerker is Billy Bragg’s ‘Wishing the Days Away’ – no explanation needed.

    Teenage kicks? We’ve already had Joy Division doing ‘Transmission’, so I’ll go for New Order’s ‘Ceremony’. If you’ve ever wondered why events unnerve you, seek no further.

    My funeral? Easy. As much of Handel’s Messiah as possible, but particularly ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery’ … to ‘If God be for us’. When people I love die, this is the music that’s helped me, anyway. The high-quality choir that will doubtless perform at my funeral is welcome to follow the Harnoncourt scoring.

    Free choices:

    Isaac Watt, ‘Our God, Our Help in Ages Past’

    J. S. Bach – ‘Erfreute Zeit im neunen Bunde’ (BWV 83) – Harnoncourt recording, please.

    Velvet Underground – ‘Sunday Morning’ – a lovely song, sexy and sweet and slightly sad too.

    Handel – Acis & Galatea – ‘Love in Her Eyes’ (Bostridge) – fond if colocynthic memories.

    Schubert – ‘Der Lindenbaum’ (Fischer-Dieskau / Moore) – who hasn’t felt this way? One of the most beautiful responses to the transitory quality of experience ever recorded.

    Kraftwerk – ‘Neon Lights’ – for reasons too dull to recount, this will always remind me of London’s 7/7 bombings, as well as the more obvious appeals Walter Benjamin et al. Fragile, haunted, yet ultimately optimistic.

    Finally, one of my most entertaining day-dreams is trying to score, and cast, an operatic version of Mr Campbell’s Diaries. Has there ever been a more fruitful topos for opera? But then one has to choose the coloratura soprano to sing the role of Cherie, the basso singing Prescott, and of course the magnificently nervy, scene-stealing counter-tenor cast as Peter Mandelson. No wonder I have so little free time these days ….

  • Jeff

    “things HAVE got better as a result of Labour being in power.”

    You are utterly delusional mate!

  • Louise Baldock


    Family favourite – “Nobody Home” Pink Floyd – “I’ve got a little black book with my poems in, got a bag with a toothbrush and a comb”. My sister Maxine, me and my step-dad Roger learnt every word to every song on The Wall and especially the talking between tracks. We still shout out “How can you have any pudding if you wont eat your meat?” or “Mummy, there’s an aeroplane up in the sky” or “Oh My God, what a fabulous room, are these all your guitars?” from time to time.

    Teenage kicks – Music was a massive influence on me and my mates when we were teenagers, I could think of hundred of songs that were special to us, over the 6 years of teenagedom, I shall pick one that always had everyone up and dancing – especially the boys – “One Step Beyond” by Madness.

    Tearjerker aka ‘our song’ – That would have to be “Amazed” by Lonestar. “I’ve never been this close to anyone or anything, I can hear your thoughts,
    I can see your dreams”. Unfortunately the love affair that was the sound-track to didn’t last but the song still moves me.

    Free choice 1 – “Ginny come lately” – Bryan Hyland, this song was the first song I ever really loved. I played it over and over again on my record player in my bedroom when I was about 8 years old. It begins with a vocal swell like a wave coming in to the shore, “Well I only met you ‘bout a couple of days ago, and oh my love for you has no more room to grow” . I only have to hear the opening bars to be completely transported back in time. I should say I was given the record by an older girl who had tired of it, it was not contemporary.

    Free choice 2 – “ Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – Meatloaf. Bat out of Hell was one of the first rock albums I bought and like everyone else born between about 1960 and 1966, we knew every word to every track and played the meanest air guitars. I chose Paradise because I love the baseball commentary that accompanies the efforts of the boy to have his wicked way with his girlfriend “We got a real pressure cooker going here”

    Free choice 3 – “Rat trap” – Boomtown Rats. At age 13, My best mate Lisa and I used to walk from her house down through Grammar School Lane and into Yarm High Street several nights a week, looking for people to hang around with and maybe eat hot vinegary chips from the paper if we had enough money. We loved the Boomtown Rats and Johnny Fingers in his pyjamas and we used to sing Rat Trap very loudly as we walked. We also used to sing Blondie’s “Picture This” too although we were never quite sure we had the lyrics right to that one.

    Free choice 4 –“Things can only get better” – D:ream – you don’t really need me to tell you why this is a big part of the soundtrack of my life, do you? (Ali, I picked this before I knew you had, honest!)

    Free choice 5 – “Valerie” – The Zutons. Moving to Liverpool has been one of the best things that ever happened to me. I love the bones of the place, if that is geographically and anatomically possible. I am priveliged to live here and to have lived here through the 800th birthday and the Capital of Culture. For me this song encapsulates everything I love about the city and it is a much better version than Amy’s, although I do love her music. I don’t know whether Valerie lives in Birkenhead or in Ireland, but in my mind’s eye she clearly lives somewhere “across the water” from the Pier Head.

    Ultimate time capsule song: I think I shall have to go for “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. I was in a hotel in Southport in November at a Labour Party Regional Conference dinner. I bought a book from Alastair Campbell who was giving the after-dinner speech, which I got him to sign for me so that I could give it to Susan Watson for her birthday. I went outside for a cigarette and when I came back in, I bumped into Marc Almond on the step (I don’t think he was with the delegation though, sadly!). I was so thrilled, I burbled like a star-struck teenager. Nothing changes, I was a burbling star-struck teenager when he gave me his autograph in 1981 at the Kirk (Kirklevington Country Club).

    Funeral song: “Different ways to sing the blues” Pinto Bennett and the Famous Motel Cowboys – “We’ve all got different ways to sing the blues, we’ve all got different ways to pay our dues, we’ve got black and white and left and right and things that we can use, we’ve all got different ways to sing the blues”. Pinto and the lads are from Idaho and were touring GB in the early 1990s. They are very tall men, Alastair sized in fact, and very fine specimens too, sigh. The song is from the album, Pure Quill, my copy of which has been signed by each of them and I will always treasure it.

  • Suzanne Richards

    Family Favourite – ABBA, Neil Diamond and Bruce Springsteen tracks all spring to mind but they would have been solely influenced by my mother. I suppose a joint family favourite would have to be Alba by Runrig, even my baby brother used to sing along to them.

    Teenage Kicks – In my teenage years music went together with boys so it must be Sweet Child of Mine by Guns & Roses – spent many a school walking trip playing this loudly in the back of the mini-bus with the boys ;0)

    Tearjerker – Sweet Thing by Van Morrison, the voice, the words THE MAN!

    Ultimate Time Capsule Song –as I am quite fickle this would depend on my current mood. At this moment in time it would be Mirrorball by Elbow – its about how you feel the moment after you have fallen in love.

    Funeral Song – 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton – has to be something bold, brassy and upbeat so you can’t really opt for anyone other than Dolly. Just make sure ya’all have fun now :0)

    Five Free Choices – My music taste ebbs and flows like the tide. Current top 5 would be:

    Adele – Hometown Glory
    The Black Keys – Girl is On My Mind
    Bon Iver – Wolves (Act I and II)
    Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
    Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid