I chose Give My Regards.
FAME at last: I've done Desert Island Discs! Gulls wheeled, waves crashed and the audience shed shoals of tears as I spun my life story around eight favourite records and a piece of prose before being cast adrift on Wooler's Main Street to await my lift home.
Yes, I did say Wooler. And no, I wasn't spinning discs for millions of BBC Radio Four listeners. Just me and a dozen or so fellow castaways whiling away a pleasant couple of hours yesterday afternoon at the town's splendid Cheviot Centre.
I said "yes" to the local branch of the University of the Third Age without realising how hard it would be to narrow a lifetime's listening to eight tunes but how graphically it would illustrate how life had changed.
A former head choirboy with a top-C soprano voice good enough to squeeze tears from the wrinklies couldn't resist the processional Once In Royal David's City.
But, I wonder, do school music teachers in this age of iPods and laptops still recruit crystal-voiced trebles, dress them in red cassocks, ruffs and spotless white surplices to sing matins and vespers? Or is that as quaintly outdated as John Major's England, where spinsters rode wobbly bicycles to the village green to watch slow-moving men play poor cricket and drink warm beer?
Worse still, would the elderly music mastercum-organist now be required to seek clearance from the Criminal Records Bureau police lest he be suspected of paedophilia?
The Corries' version of Massacre of Glencoe was my next choice, bearing proud memories of my Anglo-Scots heritage from a time before Alex Salmond's Braveheart breast-beating threatened the Union with division and Scotland with derision. The English half of my soul chose the plummy-voiced actor Charles Collingwood ("Brian" in The Archers and a family acquaintance since our girls were at school together) reading Henry Newbolt's epic poem Vitai Lampada.
But these days the voice of a schoolboy chanting "Play up, play up and play the game" to his cricketing companions would surely be drowned out by coarse sledging, while dark, unsporting deeds would dampen the decency the sport once demanded.
I'm glad I don't have Collingwood's polished Oxbridge accent, but I was brought up by my dad to "talk proper" (when, I wonder, did that turn unfashionable?) so I selected Kathleen Ferrier singing What is Life? in memory of my parents.
Ferrier's family called the short-lived musical genius from Preston "our Kath": a Lancashire lass who sang posh as an angel but talked just like me and George Formby in days long before the young were all wannabe EastEnders or finger-clicking rappers.
The list goes on: I chose Al Jolson's Give My Regards to Broadway as a reminder of my years in New York journalism and of an age before political correctness condemned black-and-white minstrel shows but applauded - as recently as three weeks ago - the opening of a play in London which required black actors to wear white facepaint.
Scots emigre Eric Bogle, now one of Australia's great folk singers, invoked memories of my years in Oz with his bitterly beautiful rendering of And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, which perpetuates the cruel myth that in 1916 ANZACS died in their thousands at Gallipoli while we Brits drank tea on the beaches.
I brought my stay on Wooler's desert island to a close with a couple of strange bedfellows:
Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, which allowed precisely six-and-a-half minutes secret sniffling for all the people I've known and loved and lost down the years; and Mick Jagger (as a young reporter I interviewed him for The Journal at the Five Bridges Hotel in Gateshead 38 years ago) reminding me of my determination - despite my wife's wagging finger and whatever the rest of you do - to go on living life the way I was brought up.
After all, as the rubber-lipped rocker belted out, Old Habits Die Hard.
I chose Give My Regards to Broadway as a reminder of my years in New York journalism
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|Publication:||The Journal (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Nov 2, 2007|
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