Bruce Springsteen's Desert Island Discs
December 18, 2016 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Desert Island Discs. This BBC radio programme tells guests they're about to be marooned alone on a desert island and asks them to name the eight records they'd like to take with them. In between hearing their choices, we get an interview touching on every aspect of their lives. Guests are also asked to choose a book and a luxury to take with them into exile. Springsteen's episode went out this morning and you can hear it at the link above. Here's what he plumped for:

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
It’s All Over Now – The Rolling Stones
Madame George – Van Morrison
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Outta Sight – James Brown
Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan*
Baby I Need Your Loving – The Four Tops

Book: Woody Guthrie, A Life – Joe Klein.
Luxury: His guitar.

* Guests are also asked which record they’d save if they could save just one. Springsteen picked the Dylan.
posted by Paul Slade (44 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
OT, sorry, but Joke Line wrote a Woody Guthrie book? Now I've seen everything.
posted by rhizome at 12:53 PM on December 18, 2016


Yah I was surprised. Klein's biography of Guthrie is detailed but lacks any broader critical understanding of American music. It's not terrible but it's hardly in Greil Marcus territory.
posted by spitbull at 1:02 PM on December 18, 2016


Of course any book you bring to a desert island is gonna wind up as toilet paper.
posted by spitbull at 1:04 PM on December 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Wait, Joe Klein's known for something else? I'd only heard about the book.
posted by ambrosen at 1:06 PM on December 18, 2016


Here's a link to words if you want highlights. The thought of The Boss as a teenager sleeping with hair clips to get a mod Brian Jones haircut is amusing.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:16 PM on December 18, 2016


This is clearly part of his promotional push for his autobiography (the hair clips / mod look anecdote is in there). But that's OK because Bruce's autobiography is really good stuff, funny & engaging. I had, er, low hopes for it but (about a quarter of the way in) it has had me grinning on almost every page. Bruce is a goofball, but he's a deeply sincere goofball who loves the music.
posted by chavenet at 2:41 PM on December 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


What people aren't sharing their lists?

That said, I'm a bit disappointed that there's nothing new on there. I mean, I expect some classics, but damn. Out of that list and those artists, I think What's Going On is probably the only one I'd choose. But I'm not sure it would be on my list?

Hmm... Hard to choose, of course, but yeah.

Cure - Disintegration
Autechre - Oversteps
Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
Venetian Snares - Rossz Csillag Alatt Született
Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
Alice in Chains - Sap
Dead Can Dance - Within the Realm of the Dying Sun
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland
Nine Inch Nails - Downward Spiral
Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters
posted by symbioid at 2:50 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


According to the rules of Desert Island Discs, are the "eight records" supposed to be singles or LPs? Or is that up to the guest?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:54 PM on December 18, 2016


Did the Desert Island Discs as a concept exist before (IIRC) Tower Records' "Pulse" magazine? It might have been SPIN, but at any rate my learning of it dates to the late-80s early-90s.
posted by rhizome at 2:56 PM on December 18, 2016


According to Wikipedia, Pulse! commenced in 1983; Desert Island Discs commenced in 1942.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Ha - yup, pretty much whatever example of pop culture you want to compare it to, it's a fair bet Desert Island Discs got there first. Not sure what this page will look like outside the UK, but its archives are all available online, right the way back to the 1940s. It's almost as much of a broadcasting institution as the BBC itself. (The archive versions only have short snippets of the tunes, for rights reasons, but the programme is just as much about the interview as the tunes).

According to the rules of Desert Island Discs, are the "eight records" supposed to be singles or LPs?

Eight tunes. There's a tendency for people to go for classics rather than more recent stuff. The programme is so venerated that it has more of a "look back at your life" feel than a "what you listening to just now?" feel. People choose the songs that were seminal to their development, remind them of a lost loved one, marked the start of a particular era of their life etc.
posted by penguin pie at 3:08 PM on December 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh - I shouldn't have posted that without adding a link to one of my favourite DIDs - Martin Sheen.
posted by penguin pie at 3:12 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Awesome, thanks gang!
posted by rhizome at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


He should have picked one of his own songs.
posted by goatdog at 3:31 PM on December 18, 2016


From the link to the transcript/highlights/whatever: “Your formative years, the music that you use to build your identity, always remains very prominent in your tastes.”

Bruce said that.

The programme is so venerated that it has more of a "look back at your life" feel than a "what you listening to just now?" feel. People choose the songs that were seminal to their development, remind them of a lost loved one, marked the start of a particular era of their life etc.

Penguin Pie said that.

Well, a classic has been defined as a work that stands the test of time, so by that definition, "what are you listening to now" wouldn't even make the desert island longlist. (Unless you listen to the same fucking records every day. Husker Du said that.)
posted by scratch at 3:38 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


He should have picked one of his own songs.

It's been done.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:49 PM on December 18, 2016


Poor Bruce. No female voices? His hand will have to move up an octave.
posted by Thella at 4:58 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


This island, does it have a record player?

Eight tunes. There's a tendency for people to go for classics rather than more recent stuff... He should have picked one of his own songs.

The first songs on Bruce’s list clock in at barely 2 minutes. Stuck on that island, you’d get a lot more mileage out of, say, Chameleon, Voodoo Chile, or even – my favorite, that time I saw Springsteen in a small college gym now 40+ years ago – the live version of Rosalita.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:14 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Has Bruce ever performed Madame George? I'd like to hear what he hears in it.
posted by grounded at 5:20 PM on December 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised there was no Roy Orbison.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on December 18, 2016


So the discs are 45s? I was thinking LPs or CDs.
No female voices?
Indeed. My list would all be Sinead O'Connor and Joni Mitchell and Bjork. Madam George I approve though.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:55 PM on December 18, 2016


Of course any book you bring to a desert island is gonna wind up as toilet paper.

"I'm going to want 'Open Seas Navigation for the Novice' and 'The Smartass’s Big Book of Large Waterproof Origami Boats'".
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:54 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I always thought "yes, 8 dvds of mp3s would probably be about ok."
posted by nevercalm at 7:34 PM on December 18, 2016


He should have picked one of his own songs.

He brought his guitar, he can sing them himself.

Mine are all old, because I am old. Lots of Joni because I am Canadian.

Born Under Punches, Talking Heads
Hell's Bells, AC/DC
California, Joni Mitchell
Coyote, Joni Mitchell
Court and Spark, Joni Mitchell
The Green Manalishi (live in Japan version), Judas Priest
Are Friends Electric?, Gary Numan
Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes

I am leaving a lot out, but I cannot get rid of any of the Joni Mitchell stuff, eight is not enough.

posted by Meatbomb at 7:36 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


He brought his guitar, he can sing them himself.

I'm picturing Bruce doing some self-help, a la High Fidelity.

Bonus: the context is a 'top 5 list'!
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:54 PM on December 18, 2016


I was very confused by the format; it's uncertain whether it's eight records or eight songs. This is relevant, of course, because if it's actually records, I want eight copies of The Monkees' Head.

But when I sat down to listen to the segment, when she finally asks Springsteen the question, what she actually says is, "Which eight tracks would you bring?" And I don't even know if any music I want is out on eight track.
posted by darksasami at 8:11 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just finished listening to this with The Daughter. Being one those "kidz these days", her first reaction was to check out Bruce's Wikipedia entry. "That's a long article", she said.

I actually found the commentary more interesting than the songs - which as I think about it is probably the whole point of the show.

Every Christmas I compile a mix CD for The Daughter as one of her gifts. When she was younger I admit that it was largely to reduce the rotation of "children's music" (which with a few exceptions I found desperately insipid) on the car stereo, and later it was partly to inoculate her against "Bieber Fever" and similar ailments. But I've come to realize that the main reason has always been to share with her the music that has always meant the most to me.

I've always included a Springsteen tune (for the record the first one was "Rosalita"). One day a couple of years ago we were both on the computer and I had iTunes running in the background. A song came on that she had almost certainly never heard, and she asked "Is that Bruce Springsteen?" (it was). My immediate thought was "My work here is done...". (This was confirmed when another song by another artist popped up and she said "That's Howlin' Wolf, isn't it?")
posted by e-man at 8:22 PM on December 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Madame George – Van Morrison
Has Bruce ever performed Madame George? I'd like to hear what he hears in it.


I'm not aware of him having covered it, but I'd love to hear him do this song. Personally, I can barely get through Astral Weeks without crying. To my mind, a lot of his Wild, Innocent, E Street Shuffle-era songs have a strong Astral Weeks flavor. Sandy and Madame George have a lot in common.

He should have picked one of his own songs.

I am no Springsteen but I am enough of a musician to know that nobody needs to listen to any more recorded versions of their own songs. It's not possible to just enjoy them.

Interesting to learn about the long long history of Desert Island Discs. I happen to know that a local radio station was doing a listener-contest three-song version of this challenge by the mid-1980s, because my dad won our first CD player by entering his picks.
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm picturing Bruce doing some self-help.

If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not picture that.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:40 AM on December 19, 2016


I heard Stephen King on Desert Island Discs a few years ago. He picked the Old 97's Barrier Reef as one of his tracks, which I enjoyed enough that I started listening to their music. Last year they played a very small gig in London and I managed to have a long enough conversation with Ken Bethea that I could tell him this was how I'd heard of them!
posted by crocomancer at 4:02 AM on December 19, 2016


This list is a bit too iconic for me. The only song on here that interests me (and that I take to be an actual, rather than a 'this is what you expect me to say' pick) is Madame George. It is weird that there are no women. What's Bruce's relationship with Patti Smith like these days?
posted by OmieWise at 6:36 AM on December 19, 2016


People approach choosing their list for DID in a lot of different ways. Springsteen's approach seems to have been to choose the eight songs which played the biggest role in forming his musical taste when he was young. For anyone his age, Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones would be inescapable on those grounds.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:48 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is weird that there are no women.

I can understand where he's coming from; as Paul Slade says, these were his case studies for the potential of rock'n'roll. The 'no women' thing is interesting to me mainly because of the absence of Motown. Both he and Little Steven have talked so much about the influence of the young women vocalists of Motown on their style as a bdn that I am a bit surprised he didn't reference a single one (and even though their artistry was mostly limited to vocals and performance, not songwriting, there are certainly any number of prodigious talents there to draw from).

The thing this makes me wonder, though, is what does he listen to now? It may be that we're catching him in a 'life review' mood, in his early 60s and having just completed an introspective autobiography and all. And I can see that these songs played a big role in his life and art. But I have heard, for instance, that he loves Arcade Fire. I'd love to see another 8 picks all post-1990, say.
posted by Miko at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2016


From way upthread: Here's a link to words if you want highlights
"But this was the music that electrified me and galvanised me into changing my life in some way.”
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:32 AM on December 19, 2016


Yes, I understand the formative thing. I am suggesting that I'm not really sure that those songs were the most formative for Springsteen. Was "I Want To Hold Your Hand" really the most electrifying and galvanizing Beatles song in Springsteen's life, even his young life? He was 14 when it was released. I don't know, but I'm skeptical.
posted by OmieWise at 11:03 AM on December 19, 2016


Was "I Want To Hold Your Hand" really the most electrifying and galvanizing Beatles song in Springsteen's life, even his young life?

I'm in the middle of his biography, and yeah, I think it was. He describes hearing it and immediately running to a payphone to call his then-girlfriend just to ask if she'd heard it yet. It seems like it was a big moment for him.
posted by Miko at 2:05 PM on December 19, 2016


Managed to Google up one of the relevant quotes re: Beatles - this is part of a longer section but I don't have the book with me: “I first laid ears on them while driving with my mom up South Street, the radio burning brighter before my eyes as it strained to contain the sound, the harmonies of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’"
posted by Miko at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2016


Was "I Want To Hold Your Hand" really the most electrifying and galvanizing Beatles song in Springsteen's life, even his young life? He was 14 when it was released. I don't know, but I'm skeptical.

I'm not really surprised to hear this. I've lost count of the number of accounts I've read/heard over the years, of people (artists and otherwise) for whom hearing that song really was a turning point in their lives.

And it doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with Springsteen's subsequent artistic path. Hearing/seeing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' for the first time (at age 15) was probably the single most startling and electrifying moment of my own musical journey. But that doesn't mean that I've remained a Nirvana (or heavy rock) fan - the music that has characterised my journey for most of the subsequent 25 years has been late 60s/early 70s Beach Boys.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:10 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's hard to pick 8 songs that'll get the job done.

For me it's probably:

Johnny B Goode - Chuck Berry
Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones
Layla - Derek and the Dominos
Machine Gun - Jimi Hendrix
Trouble No More - Allman Bros Band
Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
Get Rhythm - Ry Cooder
So Close, So Far Away - The Derek Trucks Band
posted by wabbittwax at 7:48 PM on December 19, 2016


I also can't really pretend to be shocked there are no women. It's par for the course and I'd really expect nothing else from any Boomer man or even a man of my generation. Growing up in the 80s as a girl rock fan, learning to play guitar and always, always being the only girl taking rock guitar lessons and the only girl browsing in the music store, playing in pickup bands and college groups, I was continually very conscious that examples of women in rock were there, sure but few and far between - still the exception, never the rule. My rock idols as a teenage musician were all male artists and all-male groups, and that was twenty years and more after Bruce's upbringing. I mean, I liked and respected Heart and Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks and most of all Chrissie Hynde, but I never revered them the way I did Led Zeppelin and the Beatles and the Stones and The Who. And I was female, and really consciously aware of trying to carve out my little corner of space for women in rock, pre- the small explosion that was women in rock in the early-to-mid '90s with Alanis and Belly and the Four Non-Blondes and all that.

Even today, if I were asked to make a list of only 8 tracks, and I was coming from a really rock perspective and focused on talking about iconic artists and influences, I'm not sure how many women would be on that list. Emmylou Harris, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton - they might make the cut, but even in those cases I'd be talking about more of an Americana/roots lean than a straight-up rock radio type lean. Not a lot of other women would even be in contention to be on that list, and I mean not Janis, not Joni, not Kate Bush, not Souixsie, not Debbie Harry, etc. This is not because those women aren't great or there aren't other great women. This is because the most lasting, resonant, return-to-it-forever, tracks by artists whose work defined and furthered the genre of album-oriented guitar-and-bass-and drum-driven rock music in the late 50s through 1980s definitely, for a variety of historical reasons probably more than familiar to all of us, has been overwhelmingly male.

I say this as a feminist and as a fan of rock music: there are a lot of good women rockers, and there should have been many more, and most never got the chance to have a shot at iconic status because they were discouraged from even picking up an instrument and then discouraged or distracted at every other single step along the way. But though there are a lot of great women musicians, there are not a lot of woman Elvises, Beatles or Stones. I'm not defending that fact or happy about it; Western culture did not cultivate and favor the notion of rock rebelliousness for women and that's a huge part of the reason - but it's there. Unless you expand the musical genres you want to reference as iconic influences more than I think Bruce is trying to here, it's a bit of a reach to include more than a couple of female artists.

Like I said, I do wish Bruce had included a female Motown artist or gospel singer, because no question those are among his biggest influences, but I get where he's coming from a lot more than I wish I did. Despite his dalliances in folk-influenced genres, Bruce is a rock guy, and rock has never been a genre that warmly embraced the female artist and raised her as readily to stardom - and that's even before you get into all the many social hurdles it took to cross into that genre before the 1990s. A woman playing folk guitar or moody piano or light pop or R&B was fine; a woman presupposing to play rock had a lot more opposition to overcome. And for all the associated reasons, it's easy to make and offer a legitimate list of top rock tracks that has zero women on it.

On reread, the oddest pick in the mix is the Four Tops. That could easily be replaced with something from the Supremes or Martha and the Vandellas.
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


spitbull: "Of course any book you bring to a desert island is gonna wind up as toilet paper."

Lots of water for washing all around; why the heck would you repurpose your only book?
posted by Mitheral at 8:29 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Lots of water for washing all around;

We're clearly assuming a desert tropical island.
posted by Miko at 9:32 PM on December 20, 2016


Western culture did not cultivate and favor the notion of rock rebelliousness for women and that's a huge part of the reason - but it's there

Yeah, like you say there was an easier path for women in soul, jazz or blues. One might wonder why there wasn't more crossover with rock, but even nowadays when You ain't nothing but a hound dog is on, it's almost always Elvis rather than Big Mama though the latter is more substantial.
posted by ersatz at 11:06 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


One might wonder why there wasn't more crossover with rock,

Yeah, pretty interesting. Rock and roll famously rendered black music white, but also rendered female music male. R&B, soul, and jazz never lost a connection with the black community and particularly its church traditions in which women musicians were commonly accepted and encouraged. Hmm, more to think about there.
posted by Miko at 5:33 AM on December 21, 2016


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