Ice broken on the ocean

Ice broken on the ocean

By Alex Fiore

There’s some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that you’re hopelessly stranded on a deserted island forever. The good news is that you’ve brought a few things with you to pass the time.

You get to choose three things and three things only: a song, a book and a luxury item.

This is the simple premise of the popular British radio program Desert Island Discs, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary on the air.

First broadcast on Jan. 29, 1942, DID has been a mainstay on the British airwaves. Notable celebrities, musicians, politicians and even royalty have chosen what to bring with them when they’ve been cast away.

There are only a few caveats in the game: the castaway is given the chance to explain eight songs that mean the most to them before choosing just one to bring with. Then they must pick a book (the castaway is given the Bible or religious text of their choosing, as well as the Complete Works of Shakespeare, automatically). Finally, they must pick any luxury item. The item cannot be used to leave the island or communicate with the outside world.

History instructor Sandra Dawson, who grew up in Britain listening to the program, said DID may have been initially successful because it provided Britons with a sense of relief during World War II.

“It started in early 1942 when the radio was very culturally important to Britain, especially during wartime,” Dawson said. “The BBC was very much involved in maintaining citizen morale.”

Dawson said the hardships of overcrowding in urban Britain at the time made the escapist idea of DID alluring.

“For a lot of people, the idea of being on a desert island without a lot of people crowding around you was appealing,” Dawson said.

Dawson said the program gained an audience because it helped create a bond between notable socialites, sports and literary figures and the general public.

“It took people everybody knew about, but it was a very personal thing,” Dawson said. “It was very popular because it was very personal and because it was part of the people’s war.”

Dawson grew up listening to the show in the 1970s, and said that musical taste was a large part of personal identity then and now.

“That might be why it’s still running, because there’s this sense that ‘You are the music that you like.'”

In the United States, the program has taken on a different kind of meaning: the icebreaker.

Dawson suggested the program is taken more seriously in Britain because its inception is associated with a time of more hardship than the U.S.

“Except in the 1930s, the U.S. has never really experienced the same type of deprivation that Britain did for way more years than they should have.”

An archive over 500 episodes is available for free online at

Sandra Dawson’s Desert Island Discs picks

Song: “Ironic” – Alanis Morissette

Book: Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life – George Elliot

Luxury: Gas barbecue grill

Desert Island Discs quick facts

The most requested song is “Ode to Joy,” the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Actor Martin Sheen’s song choice was Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”

Singer Elton John’s book choice was Diary of a Vampire by Anne Rice

DeKalb Scene’s Desert Island Discs picks

Alex Fiore

Song: “Strawberry Fields Forever” – The Beatles

Book: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Luxury: Grand piano

Jessica Cabe

Song: “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” – The Smashing Pumpkins

Book: Shot in the Heart – Mikal Gilmore

Luxury: Guitar

Sarah Contreras

Song: “Mykonos” – Fleet Foxes

Book: On the Road – Jack Kerouac

Luxury: Case of Muga Rioja Reserva 2006

Connor Rice

Song: “Dopesmoker” – Sleep

Book: Watchmen – Alan Moore

Luxury: Writing material

Lindsey Diehl

Song: “Beat It” – Michael Jackson

Book: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. – Chelsea Handler

Luxury: Iced vanilla soy milk lattes

Katie Finlon

Song: “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” – The Beatles

Book: The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke

Luxury: Journal and pen