A man in his pyjamas

Another interesting article, this one by Paul Donovan in The Times. How a man in his pyjamas invented a radio classic is the story of Roy Plumley’s Desert Island Discs, prompted by the fact that Sue Lawley is (at last!) stepping down as presenter and Kirsty Young is taking over in August (hooray!).

[BBC Radio 4’s] Desert Island Discs’s antiquity is such that its first castaway, in 1942, was a Viennese comedian who had fought alongside his fellow Austrian Adolf Hitler in the first world war. Despite that uneasy conjunction — delicate in a country that at the time was fighting Hitler — the programme’s creator Roy Plomley was unperturbed.

He conversed in a bomb-damaged Maida Vale studio with the comedian Vic Oliver in the cosy and above all collaborative manner that became his hallmark for the next four decades, during which he sent Princess Margaret and 1,700 others off to his mythical isle and made it a national institution.

But I was intrigued to read the following:

Because Plomley was a freelance, Desert Island Discs became his copyright. After his death in 1985 it went to his wife, Diana Wong. She still owns it but is now in her eighties and their daughter, Almond, acts for her.

Mother and daughter and the BBC agree on the need to have Plomley mentioned in the credits and the corporation pays Diana an annual sum (£5,000 in 1996, so probably more now). However, the family and the BBC cannot agree on the availability of the show after its weekly broadcast. This is why it is not available to listen to via the BBC’s website. Anybody hoping for that is greeted with this terse message: “For rights reasons, Desert Island Discs is not available as a listen again item.”

I’d always assumed that the programme was not available for repeat because of the prohibitive cost of royalities to the artists of the 8 chosen tracks. How wrong I was. But I’m sure that this has been discussed on the BBC’s Feedback programme too? Well anyway.

Now it’s your turn

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to choose:

  • Your 8 desert island discs.
  • Your chosen book. The Bible [or The Koran or your religious text of choice] and the Complete Works of Shakespeare is waiting for you on the island.
  • Your one luxury item [which must be “inanimate and have no practical use”].

Tip of the day: If you’re looking for inspiration on the luxury item it might interest you to know that Norman Mailer wanted marijuana, Oliver Reed wanted a blow-up woman and Princess Michael of Kent wanted a cat. George Clooney chose War and Peace (Zzzzzz) and an anchored yacht. I bet women across the country were swooning in delight at the thought of being anchored along with George when that programme was broadcast…

As for book choices, Engelbert Humperdinck requested one of his own recordings and his autobiography, What’s in a Name?. Egomaniacs are us. Ah no, that title should perhaps go to Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, infamous for selecting 7 of her own recordings.


The iPodically challenged amongst us will cheer at not being discriminated against for not owning one of these new-fangled magic music boxes required by the latest meme :-)

5 Responses to “A man in his pyjamas”

  1. chasingdaisy.com » Blog Archive » Desert island discs
    July 10th, 2006 00:36

    […] I’ll go first then, shall I? […]

  2. briggy
    July 11th, 2006 11:15

    no more sue?

    … at last, a little good news to lift my spirits right now!

  3. Nancy
    July 11th, 2006 13:25

    The meme reminds me of a game I used to play with a friend in high school. We would take turns copying down obscure lyrics from songs we heard on the radio for the other to guess during the day at school. It was fun. And possible then, when I listened to music pretty much all the time, and was likely to know anything new.

  4. Suzy
    July 12th, 2006 00:24

    Late as usual…are the discs songs or whole CD’s?

  5. daisy
    July 12th, 2006 09:46

    Heh, good question Suzy – they must be single tracks and I’m really looking forward to reading yours!

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