Being interviewed in almost all situations (I’m excluding being interviewed by the police here which I imagine is not a particularly pleasant experience) does, despite the often stressful nature of such encounters (job interview, other people listening…) have one very nice aspect. In life we don’t often have the chance to talk about ourselves endlessly without it being seen as rude or at the very least egotistical. The whole point of an interview is to transfer as much relevant information from one person to another without a great deal being reciprocated. In this context, my chat last Monday with Martin Kelner on BBC Radio Leeds, despite being a little stressful, was a also a lot of fun. He was very affable and easy to talk to and hopefully his relaxed, professional style comes across in the programme. If you haven’t yet had the chance to listen, you can do so until 18th March via the BBC iPlayer.
When I was contacted by the producer a few days before the broadcast she described the hour long ‘One On One‘ segment of Martin’s show as ‘Yorkshire’s answer to Desert Island Discs‘. I was asked to choose ten pieces of music although there would probably only be time to play six or seven of them. In my case, we only managed to squeeze in four. Apologies to all music fans out there. Seeing as though I did spend much of the train journey from Leeds to London (and back) last Saturday trying to decide what my ten pieces of music would be, it seems a shame for all that thinking to be wasted so here, in all its musical glory, is my list of Desert Island Discs. I have included the short commentary that the BBC asked me to write giving a reason why I had chosen each piece. They are in no particular order but numbers 1, 2, 3 and 6 were the ones to make it on air.
- The Streets of London / Ralph McTell. “Although I’ve only ever performed a song on the guitar once in my life, I can knock out some decent songs having learnt to play when I was 10 years old. Like riding a bike, once you’ve learnt to do it you don’t forget and I occasionally (privately) strum my way through The Streets of London, one of the first songs I learnt.”
- Voulez-Vous / Abba. “This evokes memories of the late seventies and early eighties. And for a kid growing up in West Yorkshire during that time how more exotic could you get than a song sung by a Swedish pop group with a French title?”
- A New England / Kirsty MacColl / Billy Bragg. “We used to listen to this song when I worked on the campsites in France. Even though France isn’t exactly a million miles from England, I think we thought it was at the time!”
- Good Morning Baltimore / Cast of Hairspray. “I am most definitely a morning person and I can’t think of a song that sums up that positive morning feeling better than this.”
- Ride of the Valkyries / Richard Wagner. “Cycling to southern Italy in 2010 was, quite often, comically wet. In the book I describe how the dramatic experience of cycling into the valley of the Meuse in France in a torrential downpour should have been set to this piece of music.”
- The Road (Official Anthem of the Grand Deépart) / Alistair Griffin & Kimberley Walsh. “The Grand Départ brought together many things that I love: France, cycling, Yorkshire, nonsensical pageantry… It was wonderful. I have never before experienced such a wonderful community spirit as that on the Col de Greetland in Elland. The irony of having lived in France for many years and never having seen the Tour de France until the day it cycled up the road where I was brought up in Yorkshire didn’t escape me.”
- Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 variation no. 18 / Rachmaninov. “I have no story for this piece of music other than to say it is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.”
- Proud / Heather Small. “In July 2005 when it was announced that London would host the Olympic Games I was determined to play a part and I did, as a volunteer GamesMaker. We proved all the cynics wrong and put on one heck of a show and I’m proud to have played my small part in events. This song, the anthem of the bidding process, sums up that feeling perfectly.”
- Misirlou / Dick Dale. “This music was the theme tune to a series of French films directed by Luc Besson called ‘Taxi’*. The films are comical nonsense but if you are 12 years old and love car crashes they are perfect. As a French teacher I must have seen the second film in the series (it’s a certificate 12!) dozens of times at the end of the school year when ‘proper’ lessons seem to get abandoned for something ‘fun’. The kid in me still enjoys it every single time.” (*As well as in Pulp Fiction.)
- You Raise Me Up / Westlife. “My iPod is full of cheesy songs from the last thirty years of pop. I’m a sucker for that ultimate sign of cheesiness which is the unsubtle change of key half way through the song. There is no finer example of the corny key change than in this song.”
Just on job interviews (“The whole point of an interview is to transfer as much relevant information from one person to another without a great deal being reciprocated …”) – this won’t really work if the interviewer / interviewing panel wants to make a good appointment; it has to be reciprocal!
In my earlier life as deputy head of a large comprehensive school, I was often on the panel and usually asking the simple questions attempting to get the candidate to open up and talk about themselves. If we were appointing a French teacher, I had no expertise. (The head of languages would do the section in the target language – sometimes an eye-opener!) Instead I would ask, “What’s your favourite part of France?” Surprisingly, that sorted the candidates out. I’m sure you would have waxed lyrical about the Meuse valley in a downpour or areas where you’d worked on a campsite. Some candidates were so disappointing! You’d get the impression they’d never been to France!!