Desert Island Discs header

ALISON RUNHAM

Alison

Here goes ... no laughing at the back!

MUSIC:

Main problem here was, not only could I have easily included six other artists, but I could also have chosen several other songs from some of these people. The list started huge and I honed it, changed my mind, honed it some more ... still not entirely sure!

Both Sides Now - Paul Young and Clannad

The record I want played at my funeral. What d'you mean, why? Oh, alright then. The lyrics pretty much sum up the confusion of life - you know, one minute you think you've got it sussed, and the next you think you've slipped into a parallel universe with completely different rules. I liked the Joni  Mitchell version, but this is so much better - very ethereal. A song where they lyrics and music please me equally.

Against All Odds - Phil Collins

I've always wanted to do a record compilation caleld 'Music to Slash Wrists By'. I've already got ideas for several volumes and I guess in fairness this should have a place! I actually like this record for a very depressing reason. I really think it captures that sheer despair of losing someone you really love. 'Time heals all wounds' be buggered. We all know it doesn't - and this puts it into words. So this one is definitely for the lyrics, though I like the music as well. I think it does have something of a comforting quality though in that Mr. Collins sings it with such feeling that you can believe somone else HAS felt as miserable as you...

Beautiful Day - U2

Oh how many U2 tracks I could have picked! 'Streets...', 'Still haven't found...', 'Stuck in the Moment...' - agonising decision. Haven't listened to this in a while, but while the lyrics may be ambiguous, the atmosphere and the melody are incredibily uplifting. But you have to play it LOUD...

Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen

As is often the case with me and music, I only started to really like Bruce after the Brucemania began to wane. I've tried to watch the film once and failed. Perhaps I should try again, but the first bit seemed to slow that it bored me rigid. This song, however, is a masterpiece and is one of the two (the other being choice 1) that were always destined to be in my Top 6. Very atmospheric music, and the lyrics ... designed pure guilt trip I think. I may have not seen the movie, but I have watched someone die of AIDS, and I think the whole song is very poignant. Another entry for 'Slash Your Wrists' I'm afraid ... one again, there were loads of Springsteen tracks I could have chosen; 'Human Touch', 'Brilliant Disguise', 'Secret Garden' to name but a few.

At this point I decided it was all starting to get too 'Wrists', so I took out a mournful Texas track and replaced it with ...

Old Friend - Elton John and Nik Kershaw

Crikey! There went my one chance to drag this list out of the 80s! However, this is not an 80s track, but is from the EXCELLENT 'Duets' album that Elton John recorded with friends. Not the tribute one, but, quite literally, duets. Lots of good ones on the album, but the tune and lyrics make this a real 'feel-good' track. And occasionally I have need of such a tune! Very upbeat, so best with a bit of volume. Even vaccuuming the carpet seems bearable if you put this on loud enough to hear it over the top ... not I look at it actually, a deep thought has just occurred ... this song is the antithesis of 'Philadelphia' which is a song about being abandoned by people close to you. In contrast, this song is all about old friends 'putting you on your feet again' ... so there you go. Perhaps this, then, should be the first track on 'Music to Stop You Slashing Your Wrists and To Give You Hope for the Future Vol 1'...?

Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams

Choosing a favourite Bryan Adams track is like choosing which chocolate to eat first at Christmas when people have bought you your real favourites ... in my case, Tia Maria and Irish Cream Liquers. It just can't be done - you HAVE to shove them all in your mouth at once. Bit painful with a CD, obviously, buy you get the analogy. I'm sure. Don't you? Anyway, 'Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman', 'Cloud Number 9', 'Everything I Do' (sorry, I just love the guitar solo), 'Heaven' (recently desecrated by a 'dance' cover version ... a nation weeps) - they could all have been in there, along with many others. But this won because I needed another upbeat track. The ultimate 'scream it at the top of your lungs' song, the lyrics may not be profound but they are good.

Now look, there is my six, but I have to mention the others that nearly made it on to my desert island (and would have done if I had a bigger boat).

'American Pie' by Don McLean. Like lots of his tracks, but this is a true classic. Madonna ... don't bother dear! 'I Don't Want To Talk About It' by Everything But The Girl ... more wrist slashing I'm afraid. 'Angel' by Robbie Williams. Gorgeous lyrics, rather gorgeous music, gorgeous er ... ahem. Quite an appealing performer as well. Which is of course irrelevant - musically speaking that is. 'Brothers in Arms' (song with a message, tear-jerking guitar solo), 'Your Latest Trick' ('slash' I'm afraid, but lovely sax solo), 'Sultans of Swing' (everyone knows the guitar solos from this, even if they don't realise it), 'So Far Away' (PURE 'slash' not a good one to listen to you if you're recently bereaved I'm afraid. Nice guitar work though). All these last four by Dire Straits, of course - you either love 'em or hate 'em. 'Once In A Lifetime' by Talking Heads - fantastic tune, great lyrics, definitely 'feel-good' which is probably why it didn't make the main list! 'Babylon' by David Gray - strangely upbeat AND slash at the same time. Perhaps it depends on your mood. Lyrics, music - the man's a genius.

And taking a bow in the back row are The Cranberries, George Michael, Texas, Chris Rea, The Manic Street Preachers, Queen, Pulp, REM, Coldplay, Cher, Toto, Sheryl Crow, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics ... this could just go on so I'd best move on to ....

FILMS:

Sliding Doors

Good acting. Gorgeous John Hannah (if I was with him, I would be a darn sight more careful than Gwyneth when crossing the road, let me tell you), and a storyline about something that's always intrigued me - the 'what would have happened if..' phenomenon. The sheer injustice of the 'ending' has reduced me to tears I'm afraid....what a big girl's blouse....

The Lion King

Yes I know it's a kids film! This is the first Disney film made to be genuinely funny, and I suspect it may still be the best of that ilk. Rather bizarrely, as I type this the children have it on.....Bit of a tear-jerker, but some classic one-liners. Brilliantly voiced - though I've sometimes suspected Alan Rickman would have been even better than Jeremy Irons as Scar. As for Rowan Atkinson.........one of the worst facets of the disappointing attempt at a sequel was the failure to secure him to play Zazu again. Perhaps that's why they made his part smaller in the follow-up. Sadly, I know adults who don't get some of the jokes in this film. 'When it comes to brains, I got the lion's share, but when it comes to brawn - well, I'm afraid that I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool...' 'Boy! He looks blue.' - 'Really? I'd say more of a golden-brown' 'Hey, kid, what's eating ya?' - 'Nothing! He's at the top of the food chain!' Words fail me, rather unusually....

Stargate

There are other science fiction films that are probably as good, but the whole exploration of the ancient Egypt / aliens connection fascinates me. Brilliant. I actually prefers the actors who play Jack and Daniel in the series, though. And one of the best things about the film has to be that it spawned a brilliant series, with a powerful female role - hurrah for the blonde with brains and scarily accurate marksmanship! Long live Carter! And if you haven't seen the series...er, you know the boy in the film who befriends Jack on Abydos? Don't get too fond of him...

Four Weddings And A Funeral

There are so many things I could say about this film and its reflection of life in the declining years of the 20th century.....good grief, Penfold! To hell with it. I think a lot of people found many things to empathise with in the film. Its most important message has to be - life's too short! So grab the bull by both horns....and the overwhelming thing has to be, it is DEEPLY, DEEPLY funny.

Lord Of The Rings

I think I'd take 'Fellowship Of The Ring' to my desert island, actually. All the films are good, but I prefer the first part of the story (though I do like the Ents!). Beautifully made and well acted. Of Course it's not exactly like the book - how could it be. I can't think of any book that would need so much bravery to attempt a film version - talk about expectation! 'The hopes and fears/ of all the years/ are met in thee tonight!' Like the book, due to it's sheer scale, the film is hard to compare with its peers.

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone

Despite the fact that I find some of the editing choices almost impossible to understand - they removed important, explanatory parts of the plot that only needed brief scenes (many of which WERE filmed), either leaving them out or replacing them with new scenes not in the book - this is still a very good film. Once again, I think that doing justice to the book was a tall order. The actors really brought out extra humour though - particularly Ron! I hate to say it, but the whole HP phenomenon probably actually DOES deserve its hype and success.....Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid was a triumph. (Funny walk though!)

And narrowly missing the top 6....

Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Love the plot, Love Kefalonia. Thought Nicholas Cage played the part really well, and it brought a bit of forgotten history to life.

The Princess Bride. With all due respect to Monty Python, this is better. A shame that the PG certificate has made it a 'children's film', as they just don't understand the humour. And probably most of today's children won't when they're grown up, either....(Whoops! Social comment. I shall stop it immediately). 'My name is Inigo Mentoya. You killled my father. Prrre-parre to die'. Anyone not laughing either needs - or perhaps has already had - a frontal lobotomy.

The Matrix. For sheer weirdness. Is this the dream?

The Mummy. Oh the horror! Oh the special effects! Oh the Brendan Fraser! The added humour was masterful. And oh yes.....John Hannah was in it too! And even the sequel was good.

Minority Report. Very novel idea, good acting, gut-wrenching 'car-jumping' scene. Like 'Matrix', it messes with your head, and I like that.

Notting Hill. For the comedy characters! Rhys Ifans was priceless.....a feel-good movie too.

BOOKS:

Harry Potter - J.K.Rowling

Any of them - I'd have to flip a coin. Perhaps 'Goblet of Fire', because a) I think J.K.Rowling had really got into her stride by then, and the writing's better b) it's the longest book so far, so more hours of enjoyment!

Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier

A brilliant story, and descriptions of the landscape that are too good for you to skim over. One of the most atmospheric books ever, though I'm afraid we're back to slashing our wrists for the ending.

Magician - Raymond Fiest

Ok, I take the remark about LOTR back - it would be just as difficult to turn this into a film (although the pressure would be less as it's less well-known). Many authors have 'comparable to J.R.R.Tolkien' splashed all over their books - in this case it's true. In fact, I even think he may be better. As you read the book and the sequels, you know that he had to have a lot of the plots worked out right from the beginning. Scary. Fantasy on a grand but believable scale, with lots of features to take it out of the 'oh look, it's the sword of power!' category. Very original ( though often copied since I fear.)

The Lord Of The Rings - J.R.R. Tolkein

Naturally I'd take the full three-part novel with me. Scale, originality, humour, charm, excitement.....you're there. You ARE Frodo. And personally, when those Black Riders come for me-Frodo, I'm scared right out of the urge to defeacate. But then I always was a scaredy-cat.

The Autobiographies of Dirk Bogarde

Probably have to toss a coin on this one. A very, very interesting man who writes about his life with wit and intelligence. And what a life! From liberating Belsen to renovating a dilapidated farm in Provence.

A Discworld novel - Terry Pratchett

Preferably one of the longer ones. Picking one favourite would be impossible. Perhaps 'Wyrd Sisters' because it would remind me of seeing the play (3 times!). A comic genius; what more can I say. I have met a few people who don't find Terry Pratchett funny, and this makes me deeply concerned for the future of mankind. There's no dumbing down with TP; if you're not well read you will miss lots of the jokes! Nobody, but nobody does it better or even half as well.

Missing the top 6 by a whisker...

The Chronicles of Prydain - Lloyd Alexander

Five 'children's' books. A fantasy based on Welsh mythology. Not done anywhere near justice by the Disney film which took it's title from the second book in the series, 'The Black Cauldron'. This is one of THE best fantasies for children, but it has been badly overlooked and is probably out of print now. Full of hidden meanings and an oracular pig called Hen Wen, rather bizarrely.

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S.Lewis

Everyone knows 'The Lion, The Witch And the Wardrobe'. Only a few realise it's book 2 of 7, and the others are really good too. But beware the shock ending in book 7!

My Family And Other Animals - Gerald Durrell

Mainly for his superb skill in bringing Corfu to life, and also his brilliant characterisations of his family. He seemed to lose the plot a bit with later books, but the first two are superb.

Any travel book by Michael Palin

To remind me on my island that the rest of the world is out there! There are lots of good travel writers, but I love his view of the world, and his photographer is VERY good. Mr Pao, I salute you.

LUXURY ITEM:

A specially- comissioned, lifetime-supply-size bottle of  Tia Maria and coke, ready-mixed, ever-cold, ever-fizzy. Aaaahhhhh..........


© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions and Alison Runham
© Photos and Artwork - Andrew J. Müller
© Web Design and Layout - Andrew J. Müller
2009


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