Desert Island Discs is a remarkable radio programme. It’s been broadcast for 3,227 episodes, from 1942 to the present day. The premise is fairly well-known: a guest is invited to imagine that they’re on a desert island, and is asked to choose eight songs, a book, and a luxury item that they’d take with them to make their stay on the island more bearable.
Four incidents strike me as particularly remarkable:
- In 1958, the opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf chose her own recordings for seven of her eight songs.
- In 1979, Schwarzkopf was outdone by pianist Moura Lympany, who plumped for herself for every one of her songs.
- In the early 1970s, presenter Roy Plomley attempted to interview the author Alistair MacLean, who wrote Where Eagles Dare, but ended up speaking to a member of the Ontario tourist board with the same name – who, as it happened, had never written a book. The episode was never broadcast.
- In 1971 the outspoken and somewhat gruff Yorkshire show jumper Harvey Smith declined to take a book to the island, on the basis that he’d never read one.