These were among the last conversations I had with Stuart.
He was in hospital and on palliative care by the time we exchanged our choices for Desert Island Discs. We chose 12, not 8 as in the radio programme. We both knew how unwell he was and our phone calls for the previous few weeks had turned to trivia and memories of good times shared, trying not to be maudlin.
On August 15th we agreed it would be nice to each do a list of desert island discs. He was in a rush to get it done and I had other ideas thinking we could spread it out over a few weeks. I never was very perceptive. Anyway, we agreed to do it to his timescale.
August 25th 2021
1. My Love is like a Red, Red Rose – Kenneth McKellar
He remembered it being played in the house, and also his uncle singing it.
2. Needles and Pins – The Searchers
It was the first pop record he could remember listening to.
3. Thank You – Led Zeppelin
A reminder of the first concert we ever went to on February 17th 1970. It had been rescheduled from February 7th.
It was at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. We sat in the very back row of the upper circle and thought we had the best seats in the place. We were so excited, having travelled on a bus with students from Dundee Tech College .
4. Child in Time – Deep Purple
We were great fans of Deep Purple and saw them many times live in Dundee. Stuart had bought the album and we listened to it constantly. Four of us used to mime to the records playing a workbench (organ), a Bex Bissell floor mop (lead guitar), a wooden golf club (microphone), and light shades and boxes (drums). This was one of our favourite songs to mime to.
5. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
It reminded Stuart of listening to records in my house. Ozzie’s vocals and the opening chords were favourites. Probably the first heavy metal music to be successful.
6. Magic Bus – The Who
From “Live at Leeds”, one of the greatest live recordings of all time. We adopted the phrase “Magic Bus” as a sign of our approval. When we were drunk we would re-enact the interplay between Daltrey and Townsend; we knew the timings and were word perfect.
At this stage the call was interrupted by Stuart’s medical needs.
August 26th 2021
Stuart’s voice was even weaker than yesterday and it was difficult for him to speak, but he was determined that we finish what we started.
7. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
13th December 1975 was a big day he remembered. We had gone to Perth in the afternoon to see Dundee play St Johnstone and were dropped off at the Students’ Union in Dundee after the game. We had a few pints then headed to the Caird Hall to see Queen live. On our way to the gig we saw the band leaving their hotel and boarding the tour bus.
This song was probably their biggest number, and one which is still played most often.
8. Moonage Daydream – David Bowie
This was his number one song that he would take to the island with him. He regretted not having seen Bowie live as he loved his music, and in particular this album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”.
9. Sheep – Pink Floyd
He said he needed to have a Pink Floyd song in his list as they had been a part of his life’s soundtrack and he loved this track. (I thought he would have chosen Comfortably Numb).
10. Racing in the Street – Bruce Springsteen
This reminded him of the holiday six of us took to the USA in the early eighties. Four of us on that holiday are on the Hike; Derek, Lindsay, Steve and me.
He remembered me wanting to hire a Camaro while we were in Los Angeles. Sadly we never did.
We often finished evenings at his house listening to music and this track always featured.
11. Let Down – Radiohead
Stuart loved Radiohead and saw them a number of times. This song brought back memories of a trip he made alone to see them in Germany. On his way there he saw Thom Yorke at the airport.
12. Black – Pearl Jam
This song reminded him of his daughter Ellen and his trips to Norwich to see her. He didn’t know why it held those memories for him, but it did.