Newgate News

Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The final playlist

This week has presented the fascinating task of playing 'Desert Island Discs' on someone else's behalf, albeit in rather sombre circumstances.

I am, frankly, amazed at the variety of pre-recorded musical accompaniment available for one's last journey - as well as being somewhat baffled at some of the options on offer.

The local crematorium has thoughtfully provided an online catalogue of all the tracks they can play for you. All the usual suspects are there; classical greats and plenty of hymns and sacred music.

So far, so spiritual, but then we come to some odder choices, all of which genuinely feature on the list. One could understand a good film score - after all the work of Vaughan Williams or Maurice Jarre is no less significant for having been attached to moving pictures - but what about TV themes?

There have been some stirring ones, certainly, but would you really want to meet your maker to the accompaniment of the theme from 'Deal or No Deal' or 'Countryfile', let alone the 30-second burst from 'Countdown'? Meanwhile, sporting tastes are catered for with 'Match of the Day', the Wimbledon theme and Channel 4 racing, among others, though, under the circumstances, I assume it would be considered bad form to clap along with the music from the 'Horse of the Year Show'.

And, while one can understand and admire the fighting spirit with which those left behind might choose 'Another One Bites the Dust' or 'Bat out of Hell', it's hard to imagine why someone would wish to be remembered for having the Wurzels' 'Combine Harvester' or Benny Hill's theme as a final goodbye.

And then there's the real puzzles, not least among which is Frankie Laine's 'Jezebel' or Chas'n'Dave's immortal classic, 'Rabbit'; "You won't stop talking, Why don't you give it a rest?", and you really have to wonder about anyone who would be seen to their final repose to the strains of a Rabelaisian offering from the Antipodes entitled 'Mick, the Master Farter'.

In fact, those looking for a light-hearted experience are very well catered for, particularly if they happen to be of a cockney persuasion; it would be possible to conduct a service based on 'Lily the Pink', 'A Luverly Bunch of Coconuts' and 'Knees Up Mother Brown', ending up with a rousing rendition of the 'Hokey Cokey', while Northerners are also catered for with 'When I'm Cleaning Windows' and 'My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock'.

All in all, it's been an enlightening experience and provides some much-needed comic relief from an otherwise solemn business, not least in wondering just how some of the more egregious selections made it onto the list - is the driving force supply or demand?*

And if the latter, what sort of person, I wonder, first approached the crematorium and asked that their loved one should vanish to the accompaniment of  'Great Balls of Fire'.


*Update: I asked them; it turns out that if you have a special request, they will find it for you and add it to the list. Odd as it may seem, someone has specifically asked for all of the tracks listed above.

9 comments:

A K Haart said...

For my father we had Laurel and Hardy singing "The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine".

He was an L&H fan and everyone said how surprisingly fitting it sounded. Fortunately there were no slapstick moments.

Macheath said...

AKH, a fine choice; it sounds like the sort of thing that would strike just the right warm and personal note.

We've opted for some Big Band classics, which got me thinking; given the abundant choice of such music on today's list to cater for those who enjoyed that era, will relatives fifty years hence be offered a wide-ranging nostalgic choice of rap, hip-hop and grunge?

Meanwhile, I woke up in the middle of the night with a worry. The pieces are in strictly alphabetical order - what if the input is one digit out and Artie Shaw's swing classic 'Stardust' is replaced by the theme from 'Star Wars'?

Rightwinggit said...

"Light my fire"
by The Doors.

Macheath said...

Rightwinggit; yep, that's there too - along with a Shirley Bassey version for good measure.

Demetrius said...

Max Bygraves? Guy Mitchell? Marie Lloyd?

Macheath said...

Demetrius, noooo! Not again!

James Higham said...

I am, frankly, amazed at the variety of pre-recorded musical accompaniment available for one's last journey - as well as being somewhat baffled at some of the options on offer.

The local crematorium has thoughtfully provided an online catalogue of all the tracks they can play for you. All the usual suspects are there; classical greats and plenty of hymns and sacred music.

Oh yes - beautiful.

Joe Public said...

If only they hadn't included the incestuous expletive, "The End" by the Doors would be appropriate for many.

At over 7 minutes long, no doubt many mourners would wish it would.

Macheath said...

JH, it was quite a shock to find the chapel has no organ - though I understand there is a keyboard in a side office. Everything's prerecorded these days - karaoke style.

JP, it's there all the same; in fact the relevant section runs thus:

THE DRINKING SONG (THE STUDENT PRINCE) Mario Lanza
THE DRUGS DON'T WORK The Verve
THE ELEMENTS Tom Lehrer
THE END The Doors

As eclectic a selection as you could wish for, I think you'll agree...