Desert Island Discs reveals a lot about celebs

In wartime Britain, just months after the Blitz, radio producer Roy Plomley woke up in the middle of the night and jotted down an idea for a program: a guest nominates his favorite music and chats about his life. He added an odd twist to this simple formula – the guest had to imagine himself a shipwrecked shipwrecked stranded on a deserted island with eight records and a record player, or as they put it, “a gramophone”.

Roy Plomley, the decade-long creator and host of Desert Island Discs.

Roy Plomley, the decade-long creator and host of Desert Island Discs.Credit:

The first edition was broadcast on the BBC Forces Program in January 1942, and now, eight decades and several thousand castaways later, the programme’s archives constitute arguably the greatest treasure trove of cultural talks in history. The program has over 2 million listeners each week and reaches a wider audience than ever before with more than 2400 episodes available online.

BBC editor John Goudie who worked on it Desert Island Discs For seven years, it effortlessly played major episodes of the show from Field Marshal Montgomery and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Cate Blanchett and George Michael.

John Goudie: Something happens when people hear the music.

John Goudie: Something happens when people hear the music.Credit:BBC

“George Michael in 2007 is a fantastic conversation,” says Goudie. “Very funny, very open. Michael Parkinson hosted the program for a number of years and his conversation with (American writer and activist) Maya Angelou is great, just hearing her voice, her story and her musical choices is really captivating.

“Because of the TV series The crown There was much interest in Princess Margaret’s appearance in the program (1981). She is the longest-serving in terms of closeness to the monarch, the longest-serving queen to appear in the program. The TV drama included a sequence that featured very strong echoes of her performance Desert Island Discs.”

Plomley liked to ask his guests how they would fare on a desert island, how good they were at building shelter and foraging, how they coped with loneliness, and what books and “luxuries” they wanted to bring back.

Five castaways worth catching

Desmond Tutu, 1994

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize winner speaks just months after South Africa’s historic first general election. He admits that building a shelter would be utterly useless and nominates USA for Africas We Are the World among his favorite tracks.

Cate Blanchett, 2022

to have played a conductor tar, the Australian actress has a few classics in her list compiled by Mahler and Richard Wagner. There’s still room for Tell the women by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ Grinderman outfit.

Alec Guiness, 1960, 1977

Way back before anyone heard of a galaxy far, far away, Alec Guinness talks to John Gielgud about his first roles on stage and how he wrinkled his nose at movies until Great Expectations came along. He returns for a second castaway experience when Star Wars is first released.

Freedom, 1960

The pianist explains that on a deserted island he would be more afraid of bugs than wild animals. He also tells Plomley why his clothes have become increasingly extravagant.

Kate Moss, 2022

The supermodel was known to be reluctant to give interviews. British newspapers noted that thanks to Desert Island Discs, we now know what her voice sounds like.

An early episode, unfortunately not recorded in the audio library but recorded by typed transcript, showed a real shipwrecked man, Captain AE Dingle, who in his 22 years as a seafarer managed to be shipwrecked five times, including a three-month stay on an island in India Ocean where the crew survived eating rabbits, goats and fish before being rescued by a French sailing ship. Desert Island Discs reveals a lot about celebs

Jaclyn Diaz

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