I’ve written before about Desert Island Discs, a BBC-produced podcast that interviews public figures about the eight songs they’d want access to if they were stuck on a desert island. In between explanations of each selected song, they discuss their upbringing, the growth of their careers, and what they anticipate in time to come. Its archive goes back to the 1940s, and while most new episodes feature figures only those in the UK would know, there are also plenty of appearances from American and global stars.
The reasoning behind guests’ song choices varies. Some may pick music that is significant to a certain time in their life or has always meant something to them. Others think more rationally, considering which records they wouldn’t tire of on a desert island. I tried my hand at this selection process with both angles in mind.
1) “Piano Man,” by Billy Joel
Now Paul is a real estate novelist / Who never had time for a wife / And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy / And probably will be for life
If you were born and raised on Long Island in the last 50 years, a love for Billy Joel and this particular song runs through your blood from the very second of your first breath. He’s our local bard, our very own William Shakespeare of music. This is the song that was there before my memories even formed — I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know it. Its lyrics ache with lost potential, pessimistic optimism, and the sad comfort of an often pathetic routine.
I first talked about some of my favorite podcasts in July 2017, but since then, I’ve become such a podcast fan that I organize all of the ones I follow by the day new episodes are posted. I work from home and really rely on podcasts to keep me engaged in my work. I know some people can’t focus on tasks with unrelated audio playing, but I’ve found I’m usually fine with some background noise.
The following are podcasts I’ve really grown to love in the past year. I used to only listen to podcasts during work, but I’ve started playing some of these while cooking or doing any other menial task. I prefer interview series and pop culture discussions over true crime or political podcasts, so if you like lighter fare in your podcast lineup, I’d highly recommend any of the picks below!
This is actually a long-running radio show on the UK’s BBC Radio 4, having first aired in 1942. I either listen to it in full form on the BBC’s website, where more recent episodes usually stream easily, or in shortened podcast form on Stitcher or Mixcloud, which both have older interviews that won’t play for me on the BBC site. Featuring both British and foreign guests from various professional industries, each episode asks for its subject to select eight songs they’d wish to have access to as a castaway on a desert island. In between each musical snippet, they discuss their lives, careers, and why these songs stand out to them. For starters, I recommend trying out Tom Hanks and James Corden‘s episodes, and if you’re open to listening to an interview with someone you may not know, Miranda Hart’s is great. I usually veer toward the interviews with film and TV figures, but the podcast’s endless archive includes episodes with politicians, authors, musicians, and more.