CRAIG BROWN: Desert Island hit parade for the Fab Four
All these castaways, except for one, chose The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun as one of their Desert Island Discs. Who is the odd one out?
a) Boris Johnson
b) Elaine Paige
c) Sandie Shaw
d) Joan Bakewell
e) Aung San Suu Kyi
f) Jerry Springer
g) Andrew Neil
The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun appeared on their Abbey Road album (pictured) and has been featured many times on Desert Island Discs
The answer is Andrew Neil. Surprisingly for such an abrasive character, his choice of Beatles song was Golden Slumbers, the lullaby from Abbey Road.
As part of my research for my book One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time, I compiled a list of everyone who had picked a Beatles song on Desert Island Discs.
The results were unexpected.
Who would have thought that She Loves You would be chosen by such a disparate group as novelist Stephen King, Falklands veteran Simon Weston, sailor Robin Knox-Johnston, snooker’s Dennis Taylor and villain Robert Maxwell?
Or that All You Need Is Love, that great hymn to the hippy ideal, would be the favourite of boxer George Foreman, racing driver Jackie Stewart, dancer Wayne Sleep, actress Penelope Keith, and politician Michael Howard?
I mention all this because scientists from the Alan Turing Institute in London have recently scanned the data from 80 years of Desert Island Discs.
Broadcaster Andrew Neil (pictured) shunned Here Comes The Sun when he went on Desert Island Discs, choosing instead Golden Slumbers by the band
Their conclusion — which might just as well have emerged from the IBO (Institute of the Bleeding Obvious) is that, over time, pop music has overtaken classical music in popularity. Who would have thought it?
Among pop acts, The Beatles proved the most popular of all. Once again, it would be odder if they had not.
They were the cast-aways’ most picked artists of the years 1988, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2017.
It now looks as if they will always be a mainstay of the programme, alongside Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.
Gone are the days when The Beatles were pooh-poohed by the great and the good.
Back in February 1964, the distinguished commentator Paul Johnson condemned them as ‘the apotheosis of inanity’ in the New Statesman, describing their music as ‘the montonous braying of savage instruments’.
But nowadays, even castaways associated with classical music tend to pick a Beatles song as one of their Desert Island Discs.
Cellist Steven Isserlis chose I’m Only Sleeping, ballet dancer Darcey Bussell chose Love Me Do, pianist Joanna MacGregor chose Tomorrow Never Knows, violinist Itzhak Perlman chose I’m Looking Through You, and opera singer Nicolai Gedda chose Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Over the years, all sorts of unlikely people have revealed strong emotional attachments to this or that Beatles’ song.
The Beatles (pictured) seem destined to be a mainstay of the programme as it continues into the future
Recovering from an operation to stop him going entirely blind, the 17-year-old Gordon Brown kept hearing Hey Jude playing on the radio, and it gave him heart to carry on.
To him, its message was both melancholy and optimistic: ‘It’s sad to start with, but actually very positive by the time it ends.’
The American novelist John Updike was visiting London when Hey Jude was released in the summer of 1968.
By chance, from the top of a double-decker bus, he spotted Paul McCartney walking along the street, ‘looking quite unshaven’.
Updike came to regard Hey Jude as ‘a great song of farewell… a thrilling piece, showing the Beatles at their most adventurous and offhand at the same time’.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) said he formed an emotional attachment to the song Hey Jude while recovering from an operation to stop him going entirely blind at the age of 17
Castaways who chose Hey Jude are a resolutely unclassifiable bunch: among others, Rolf Harris, John Hurt, Billie Jean King, Brendan Foster, Sue Lawley and the TV chef Keith Floyd.
Looking through my long research list, I relish these bizarre combinations of castaways and their favourite Beatles tracks.
One final quiz: can you match each castaway to their chosen song?
1. Clive Dunn, comic actor
2. Noel Gallagher, rock star
3. Tom Hanks, actor
4. Charlotte Rampling, actress
5. Rowan Atkinson, comedian
6. Tom Stoppard, playwright
7. Geoffrey Howe, politician
8. HRH Duchess of Kent, royal
9. David Owen, politician
10. Dodie Smith, author
a. Let It Be
b. Ticket To Ride
c. Love Me Do
d. There’s A Place
e. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
f. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite
h. Eleanor Rigby
i. Day In The Life
j. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
The answers (listed below) suggest that attempts by even the most diligent social scientists to regiment human beings into categories will always be doomed to end in failure.
Answers: 1g; 2b; 3d; 4i; 5a; 6c; 7h; 8e; 9j; 10f
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