What seems like an age ago, I wrote a blog on another website (MySpace) about which 8 songs I would choose to be shipwrecked with on a desert island. I wrote it as a script between me and Kirsty Young, hopefully adding to its authenticity. You see, I’ve never been on Desert Island Discs but my Mum used to listen to it every Sunday and ever since I’ve had any kind of taste in music, be it good, indifferent or just plain appalling, I’ve always wanted to go on the show. I now want to go on Who Do You Think You Are? But that’s a different matter and would involve a degree of research into my ancestry I am not willing to do just at present.
Now I apologise to all the Guns ‘n Roses fans, who keep Google searching for Slash and keep finding this site. There are not going to be any G ‘n R songs on this blog. My boyfriend may resemble a mad Morris-Dancing Slash, when he’s in full Stone the Crows regalia but I don’t really like Guns ‘n Roses, although I make an honourable exception for Slash’s guitar solo in November Rain. I also apologise to any die-hard Desert Island Discs fans, who are expecting a full script with Kirsty asking the questions and me answering them. That is not going to happen either. Last time it took an inordinate amount of time and energy to do it and I really can’t be bothered nowadays.
Finally, I also apologise to any Punk fans, who may occasionally read this blog, because this is not going to be a punk fest. A couple of punk songs may make it to the final eight but there’s a lot of competition out there and I do feel that my appearance, albeit imaginary, on the show will have to have a theme, probably my life story, so most of the punk songs I love will be squeezed out by others.
So that leaves me with a choice of eight records and a very abbreviated account of my 45 and a half years on this planet. Oh and a book and a luxury. I nearly forgot those in the excitement of deciding to write this blog. So you can be Kirsty and I’ll be Rennie. You’ll have to try to make the questions fit my answers because I’m not writing them out.
I was born in a rather affluent suburb of London in 1963.
I’m the youngest of three girls but only just. My nearest sister, Panda, is 15 months older than me and I was determined from a very young age not to be left behind. This has actually pretty well affected my whole life because if she liked something, I liked it. She liked horses, so I liked them. She liked History and English at school, so guess what. Yep, I have a degree in Medieval English and History. She liked the Beatles so I liked the Beatles.
Which, of course, brings me very clumsily to my first choice. Made on the spur of the moment. Helter Skelter from the album commonly known as the Double White.
When I was young and by that I mean a little kid, I loved the Beatles’ early stuff: I Saw Her Standing There, Please Please Me, Love Me Do. That sort of stuff. I got older and more mature and Here There and Everywhere was my favourite. Well, now I’m even more mature and I am of the opinion that there is a Beatles song for everybody out there. I’m sure there’s even one our Morris Team could adapt for Morris Dancing. Well, Helter Skelter is the new, mature, Born-Again-Punk Punky Rennie’s Beatles song. It moves and I like songs that move. Paul’s voice rasps and doesn’t grate at all and his final “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” sends shivers down my spine. So although it probably is not my favourite Beatles’ song and it’s definitely not their best, it is my Beatles song so it will have to go to the Desert Island with me.
Moving on, my parents were not old when I was born but neither were they in their first flush of youth. I felt this keenly as a little girl. I think I wanted my Mum to be a similar to some of my friends’ Mums, some of whom were in their early twenties. Dad was frequently mistaken for my Grandad, having gone grey in his early twenties (and no doubt my sisters and I finished off the job for him!). Dad and I thought it was great fun when people referred to him as my grandfather and we enjoyed correcting their misapprehension.
What I think I was trying to say there was at the time there seemed to be a sizeable generation gap between my parents and me when it came to music. Dad admittedly liked the Beatles and had made a tape of most, if not all, of their albums for Panda and me. I can confidently say that is the reason I know the words to so many Beatles songs. Dad was always open to ideas but some of the stuff that came on Top of the Pops on a Thursday turned them both off. In my formative years I liked the glam rock bands: Sweet, Wizzard, Mudd, Slade and. although most people hate him nowadays, I can admit to having liked Gary Glitter. Sorry Gary but my second song is not one of yours. It’s going to have to be by Sweet because I saw their latest incarnation at Rebellion this year and I loved them. Blockbuster was probably my favourite at the time but it’s going to be Love is Like Oxygen because they made it so over the top and included Fanfare for the Common Man when they played it at Rebellion. Marvellous.
Fast forward a few years now and my not particularly affluent parents have sent me and my two sisters to boarding school. My eldest sister went to one school and Panda and I went to another. By this time, I had “grown out of” glam rock and been thoroughly brain-washed by my two older sisters from any possibility of liking either the Osmonds or the Bay City Rollers. In retrospect it was an act of kindness. In their place I had Prog Rock, although I wasn’t particularly well up on this genre. I did get to like Trick of the Tail by Genesis but then, to me it’s not proper Genesis, is it, after Peter Gabriel has left? I still like Trick of the Tail and I have it on CD and listen to it from time to time but I would take a song from a different Genesis album to a desert island. A song that would last longer, has Peter Gabriel on vocals and one I could marvel at time and time again. I think Firth of Fifth fits the bill. It is a song of many parts with a fabulous piano part (which I have never bothered to work out, although I should have done). If you can, stick with it. It’s worth it.
One of the benefits of going to that school was the musical education I received there. The music department was second to none, headed by a charismatic teacher, who taught me from the third form on. I also continued with my piano lessons and had to practise daily, although sometimes some of the pianos were vandalised by other, older pupils. I sang in both school choirs: the big one and Small Choir, which was pretty select and you had to audition for it. I got chucked out of Small Choir because I didn’t bother going to Big Choir practises. I wept buckets at the time but my charismatic music teacher did not relent. I also learnt the Cello for about 4 years and managed to get my ABRSM Grade 4. One year I had a piece written by William Lloyd Webber, Lord Andrew’s father to learn for the exam. To be brutally frank, I was absolutely crap at it. Bloody dreadful. The school put me in for the exam but when it transpired that the composer of the piece and the Peer-to-be’s father was going to do the exam, I chickened out and lost my parents the price of the exam as it was non-refundable (check the website to find out how much that was in today’s prices).
Anyway, back to the desert island. I think it would be nice to have a reminder of some of the music I have played myself. I haven’t played the piano for probably about 2 years and I haven’t played it properly for about 12 years but there is one piece I came back to time and time again and would do again if I had a chance. It features in a really lovely Australian film, The Getting of Wisdom (unfortunately not available on LoveFilm.com). It’s Schubert’s Impromptu in G Flat Major (D899 Number 4) and it brings tears to my eyes.
While I was at school, I discovered Punk. This part of my life is well documented in another blog, well, actually a few of them, seeing as I’ve been a big fan of the music ever since. We were lucky because there was a cafe in the town that had plenty of punk singles on the jukebox (including for a short time only Walk on By by the Stranglers, which was supposed to be played at 33.3 rpm and therefore sounded strange at 45 rpm and was quickly replaced by Top of the Pops by the Rezillos). Panda and I used to go to the cafe to have a cup of tea and a fag (we were supposed to be doing after school games at the time but we opted for the walk option and walked to the cafe). While we were there, we would put our favourite songs on the jukebox, including Top of the Pops, Holidays in the Sun by the Pistols and Denis by Blondie. We would be joined by others from our School and kids from town and we got on famously until we had to go back to school for tea.
After I left school, I used to go into Central London most Saturdays and walk along the Kings Road, where punks used to congregate. I used to go into the punk boutiques and look longingly at the clothes I couldn’t afford. I got stuff from various sources, including charity shops and adapted them for punk wear. I think a Punk song on a desert island would have the duty of keeping me happy and there is no band better at making me smile than 3CR. Therefore, my fifth record is I Fell in Love with a Minger by 3CR. Fabulous!
I am fast running out of songs and I’m not even half way through my life yet so I think I’m going to have to skip a fair few years and you will find me married, with kids and living in Lancashire. In the previous few years I had discovered Rock and Roll, Indie and Opera. A bit of a strange mix, I know, but it’s amazing what an ex who had been a Teddy Boy, Radio and Spitting Image can do. I’ll skip the Rock and Roll part. That particular man deserves a whole blog to himself and oneday I might write it (and he might read it, that would be good). Indie probably came to my notice when I was at a friend’s house and watching Supergrass travelling across country on a double bed. Very catchy and it fired my interest. I bought a Lightning Seeds CD after hearing them on an Indie Compilation but I do find them very bland nowadays. I love singing along to Parklife and Oasis definitely have something but it has all faded back to insignificance as I’ve got older and my tastes have veered back to the extreme.
Opera was down to Spitting Image and Diva. Spitting Image ended once with the Pearl Fishers’ Duet and I loved it. Panda got me watch Diva when I was staying at hers once and Wilhelmenia Wiggins’ rendition of Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana blew me away. I bought a Cassette on the strength of these two small bits of Opera and it was entitled Golden Opera. It introduced me and also my then husband to Verdi, Mozart, Puccini, Bizet and others. We became interested to the point of ravenous in hearing the major Operas. My husband loved Verdi and Puccini; I went for Bizet and Puccini. We borrowed them from the library, we bought them on Cassette and then CD. We bought videos and went to watch the local amateur operatic society and saw English Touring Opera. It died down a little after a while but I have an abiding love for Puccini, Verdi, Bizet and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. My sixth record, though, harks back to the beginnings for me and it is the Pearl Fishers’ Duet, although, to my utter chagrin, I could not find Spitting Image’s version on You Tube, so you’ll have put up with professional Opera singers instead.
As my kids grew up, they developed their own taste in music. None of them liked punk (although my older daughter, Charlie, is not averse to accompanying me to Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks and Goldblade gigs). My eldest, Harry, first got into the more modern form of Metal at first; Rage against the Machine, Korn, Metallica and others whose names I cannot call to mind. His taste broadened as he got older and he got into Prog, including the well known bands like Genesis, Camel and Van der Graaf Generator and also into more modern Prog: Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and others, while still listening to Thrash and other types of Metal. My older daughter likes 80s music (Nik Kershaw, Erasure), Emo (My Chemical Romance, The Used) and her perennial favourites, Inme and Westlife. My youngest, Bobbie, likes practically anything except punk!
I’m always open to new ideas and I was happy to listen to the music they liked. This was particularly good for Charlie and me because we had a few rough years during her adolescence where we simply did not get on and I can honestly say that were it not for Slipknot, one of us would not be around today. Slipknot, Rammstein and Linkin Park and various others brought Charlie and me together. They gave us common ground and made us realise that the other was human after all. Maybe singing along to Livin’ on a Prayer at the top of my voice with Charlie is taking mother-daughter bonding to extremes but it brought us closer. However, my seventh song will be Wait and Bleed by Slipknot because it reminds not only how bad things were before but also how good things got afterwards because of the men in strange masks.
So I’ve finally got to my eighth song and I’m really not sure what it should be. Things have changed a great deal over the past 12 months. I left my husband and kids just under a year ago. It was probably for the best that the kids stayed with their Dad, as I wanted to leave the area but did not want to uproot them. I’ve now got a lovely boyfriend (referred to earlier in this blog) and things do seem to be looking up. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is my taste in music. Everything has been assimilated now (I’m a bit like the Borg in that respect) and I have a deep well of music to draw on to suit every occasion.
A few months ago, Darcy got himself Guitar Hero on Playstation. It’s a good game to have and we put it on sometimes when we have visitors. If my kids come round, Bobbie always has a go because she is pretty good at it. If someone hasn’t played it before, we can all guffaw as they miss the notes and twangy noises issue from the television. This is where I’ve decided my eighth and final record will come from. I discovered the song on Guitar Hero and loved it straightaway. There are other songs that I hadn’t heard before on the game but this one really spoke to my heart. I also got four stars on my first attempt, which was bound to make me biassed. So, in true award ceremony fashion, my eight song is Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson, a Guitar Hero favourite for me.
I skipped all the bits about how I would survive on a desert island (I wouldn’t) and if I would try to get off (I wouldn’t) but I will include the book and luxury bit. I would get a Bible, although I am not a Christian and haven’t been for many years, and the complete works of Shakespeare. Actually, I think I would ask not to have the Bible and to have a decent Pagan book, The Shining Paths by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, so I could spend my time usefully. I would probably read Shakespeare’s Sonnets first and then move on to his tragedies. The book I would choose would be the twelfth book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (which, admittedly, has not been written yet) because I’ve read the other eleven and I’m dying to find out what happens to all the characters I’ve come to love.
The luxury has been difficult for me. I would love a piano because I might be able to remove the rust from my playing and actually get half decent at Schubert’s Impromptu featured earlier. I imagine I would have problems, though, because I would need piano music and a piano stool and I don’t know how co-operative Kirsty would be. If I couldn’t have a piano, piano stool and music, I would ask for Chinese takeaways every night so I wouldn’t starve. I don’t know if they would be able to agree but I can live in hope.
Finally, there is always the question in Desert Island Discs, where Kirsty asks which record you would save when a large wave came and washed the collection away. I think it would be Cliffs of Dover. It’s still very much a novelty to me and it’s really upbeat and I would need as much upbeatery as it is possible to have if I was stuck on my own on a desert island. It was a close call because Boggy singing I Fell in Love with a Minger is also very upbeat but Cliffs of Dover has it by a whisker.
So there you are. Punky Rennie on Desert Island Discs. Informative as ever.