Sunday, 19 June 2011

James Bond's Desert Island Discs

Ian Fleming was the ‘castaway’ on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs on the 5th August 1963. In it, Fleming, like all guests since the programme’s inception in 1942, was asked which eight records, along with a book and luxury item, he would have if alone on a desert island. The BBC recently placed the archives from the programme online, and though the recording of Fleming’s appearance is not available, his choice of music, luxury item and book are listed. Anyone listening in 1963 who had also read the Bond novels would have had an inkling about some of Fleming’s music choices.

James Bond would be hard-pressed to come up with eight records, as he is not much of a music aficionado. He knows the song ‘Belly-lick’ and the rude words to go with it (The Man with the Golden Gun, chapter 10), and is vaguely familiar with the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor ('The Living Daylights'). One of his discs, though, might be ‘La Vie en Rose’, which he recognises being played on an electric guitar in the casino’s nightclub at Royale-les-Eaux (Casino Royale, chapter 14). The tune was also Ian Fleming’s choice. The version by Edith Piaf was his third disc.

There is also music in The Spy who Loved Me, although any thoughts about it are those of the novel's heroine, Vivienne Michel, rather than James Bond. She is alone in the Dreamy Pines Motel and has the radio on for company. She hears the Ink Spot's 'Someone Rockin' my Dream Boat'. Vivienne knows the song, and it prompts her to recall a past relationship, which ultimately leads her to the motel in the Adirondacks. Fleming was a fan of the Ink Spots. The popular vocal group of the 1930s and 1940s features in his Desert Island Discs, though the record he chooses is 'If I didn't Care'. Later, Vivienne hears some Dixieland jazz. Fleming would have approved. Joe 'Fingers' Carr, a Jazz pianist, was Fleming's eighth artist, and his piece, 'The Darktown Strutters Ball', the 'castaway's favourite'.

Ian Fleming's luxury item was a typewriter (a luxury also chosen by Bond scriptwriter George MacDonald Fraser), while his chosen book was Tolstoy's War and Peace. What might James Bond's luxury and book have been? I expect the two items would have been related – a pack of cards accompanied by Scarne on Cards, or perhaps a set of golf clubs and Ben Hogan's Modern Fundamentals of Golf.

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