Desert Island Discs

Brenda Hillman

What kind of desert island? Does it have a mall? The decision about what music I would take to a desert island would depend entirely upon the conditions of that particular week. I would certainly hope to be the weakest link and get voted off. The music I would take this week is not necessarily my all-time favorite music so I'm going to cheat and give a few lists; the first is the CD's I've had in my little black car for more than 6 months, the second is a list of what I'm listening to right now, and a third is a rather hasty assemblage of some of my necessary categories.

The CD's I have had in my car for more than 6 months:

Joni Mitchell—Blue
Bob Dylan—Blonde on Blonde
Lucinda Williams—Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Wilco and Billy Bragg—Mermaid Ave.
Nine Inch Nails—The Fragile

What I'm listening to this week:

Lucinda Williams—Essence
The Ramones (RIP Joey Ramone)
Guided by Voices—Alien Lanes (a gift from someone)
A compilation tape that was also gift from someone —a sort of Pavement-y/Throwing Muses type blend
A Leslie Satcher CD a friend recommended
Buzzcocks; that's 6, I know.

What I would probably take? First of all, I would insist they give me a tape player too, because much of my best music is on the tapes friends have made for me. If they took my flight bag away and allowed me only 5 CD's I would probably take one CD from each of the following categories (and then put a couple in my pants).

1. Something from the we're-god-we're-timeless-and-we're-in-trouble category—either Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell—it could be Blood on the Tracks or For the Roses rather than those mentioned above. It could be that I would take only music by these people and skip other selections; I just don't know.

2. The good old energy no matter what category or an imitation thereof—The Beatles or Elton John's Yellow Brick Road or Madonna or but it might be The Go-Go's; it might even be Prince, or it might even be The Backstreet Boys. It might be some little piece of post punk fluff with a ska deal like Eve 6 was last year—good for dispelling rage in the dry air while stewing lizards.

3. The we're-girls-and-it's-hard category—That includes much that I love in the last 5 years, Lucinda Williams or Tori Amos (I would make a compilation of favorite Tori songs) or Liz Phair or Sheryl Crow; none of these singers would help me crack a coconut.

4. I would take Beethoven's string quartets—if I couldn't take the box set, at least Opus No. 132. I realize Beethoven doesn't seem to go with my other choices, but actually he does.

5. Maybe something from my-tried-and-true-long- middle-period-rock-favorites category? The Pixies, The Clash, Talking Heads, English Beat, Violent Femmes, R.E.M., or the everything around that era/aura which would include Nirvana, so maybe—oh, never mind. I would probably, as my last act before the island, call one of 3 friends whose judgment I trust in such matters and then make a quick stop by Amoeba Records and get what seems appealing at the moment.

--Originally published in Crossroads, Fall 2001.

More Desert Island Discs

Jennifer L. Knox

Full disclosure: despite my seven-year stint as a third-chair clarinetist, my musical vocabulary is limited to simian gestures, deep nods, and stink-face grimaces. No doubt, if I could describe, in proper terms, how music does what it does, I would be a phenomenally wealthy woman.

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Jen Benka

My great-grandmother Phoebe was French-Canadian. My mother, who was named for her, studied in Quebec for a spell, and eventually became a French teacher. She had several albums by Edith Piaf that she acquired in the 1950s and 1960s, and certain Piaf songs—like the plaintiff yet commanding "Mon Dieu" and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien"— are part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

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