Desert Island Punks

This post is about a classic BBC Radio 4 programme that has been going for more than 70 years. The idea is that a well-known person is asked to choose 8 recordings that they would like to take with them to an imagined desert island.

Starting in 1949, most guests picked classical recordings, and the original host, Roy Plomley chatted amiably to get some biographical information and then the guest chose a book and luxury object. Since 2006, the host has been Kirsty Young, and more recently Lauren Laverne. As time has gone on, more and more rock and pop records have been chosen by the so-called ‘castaways’ on the programme.

Kirsty Young told The Guardian:

“Guess what? Rock ‘n’ Roll happened, pop happened, punk happened … and we’re going to play that stuff because it’s important to people.”

Comedian Jo Brand (pictured above) chose ‘Smash it Up’ by The Damned as well as tracks by Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Tracey Thorn picked Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria.

Image result for desert island discs tracey thorn
Tracey Thorn on Desert Island Discs

But punk songs don’t feature on Desert Island Discs anywhere near as often as Beethoven, Elgar and Mozart. A nerdy perusal of the stats page shows that The Clash rank 44th of all albums, with The Jam 74th, The Cure 85th and Elvis Costello 97th.

The only punk single to be chosen more than a couple of times is ‘Teenage Kicks’ by The Undertones, which is the 91st most popular single on Desert Island Discs. Younger guests seem to choose Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison or The Smiths, Pulp, Radiohead. It’s like nothing happened in music between ’77 and ’87.

Now to business. In well over 3,000 episodes, there have been few female musicians and only one guest who could be called a punk – Ian Dury. The nearest we get to punk girls are Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox and, in 1986, Suzie Quatro. In fact, it’s the female comedians and writers who are making that link with punk music.

So, Desert Island Disc Producers, Kirsty and Lauren, we set you a 2019 challenge to increase the numbers of punk-influenced women on the show. Here’s a list for starters:

Viv Albertine, Siouxsie Sioux, Alannah Currie, Gee Vaucher, Debsy Wykes, Helen Reddington, Lesley Woods, Toyah Wilcox, Hazel O’Connor, Chrissie Hynde, Rhoda Dakar, Lora Logic, Gaye Advert, Pauline Murray, Vivienne Westwood  …. Just read our blog and get some inspiration!


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