Credit: Gage Skidmore

From Pixies to Nick Cave: 8 songs actor Daniel Radcliffe couldn’t live without

In his comparatively short career, Daniel Radcliffe has quickly become one of Britain’s most beloved actors. While his role as the titular wizard in the film adaptation of Harry Potter will be forever imprinted on the collective consciousness, Radcliffe has pushed hard to artistically excel outside of the cultist fandom.

It’s this pursuit of artistic and creative purity which has seen Radcliffe seemingly successfully negotiate the trappings that had befallen so many child stars. It’s also this pursuit which sees Radcliffe consume art as he does make it and this list of his eight favourite songs of all time shows that in abundance.

Of course, we’re talking about Daniel Radcliffe’s appearance on the iconic BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs. The show is an undoubted British institution and with Radcliffe nearing his own immortal entry into the annals of UK history, it seems a perfect place for the actor’s love of music to truly be expressed.

The show has been a cultural touchpoint since its inception in 1942. Ever since it has welcomed guests with one simple premise; if they were trapped on a desert island which eight songs would they choose for company. It’s an idea which has captured the minds of the nation for nearly 80 years.

As well as their eight discs, a complimentary collection of the complete works of Shakespeare and a bible, the star in question also gets to choose one luxury item and one book. It offers a crisp insight into the life and times of our most notable figures through some often personal choices. On March 15th this year, it was the turn of Radcliffe who sat down with Lauren Laverne and shared his experiences on set and being the most famous wizard in the world.

But let’s start where we feel most comfortable, with the actor’s first track, Morecambe & Wise’s happy-go-lucky charmer ‘Bring Me Sunshine’: “I think it’s one of the most joyous songs ever recorded,” the actor said. “I don’t think you need to know Morecambe and Wise to appreciate them but if you don’t I envy you because you’ve got a huge treat in store. They were a part of what I loved about comedy. A huge amount of my sense of humour is derived from them. They still make me laugh and ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ is the most iconic song they sang.”

It seems as though laughter was always inherent in Radcliffe’s journey saying he often credits The Simpsons for his education, “My mum and dad did take me to a lot of plays and a lot of musicals,” he explained. “The house was full of books but honestly, my first relationship with something that really fired my imagination was The Simpsons. The reason I know so many things – like I will often be doing a random quiz and I will know a piece of information and I will instantly be able to trace it back to a Simpsons episode where I learned that.”

His second pick also held some of the same comedic sentiment as he picks a comedy writer who was introduced to him by his parents, Tom Lehrer and his song ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’. “To have written songs that long ago that are still funny and still kind of edgy and subversive now is truly stunning.” Saying that it’s nihilistic optimism represented his worldview.

Radcliffe’s third song comes from “one of my favourite bands” the Pixies and their mega-watt anthem ‘Where Is My Mind’. About the track, Radcliffe reminisced: “I was able to see them live at Reading a while ago which is good ‘cos I barely go to live music ever anymore.” Quite accurately, the actor says that it certainly isn’t his favourite song but couldn’t bring himself to listen to his actual favourites ‘Something Against You’ and ‘Broken Face’ from Surfa Rosa on a desert island.

“This is by a band called Grandaddy,” says Radcliffe picking his fourth record of the show. “It’s a song called ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot’—they’re a band I’ve loved for a long time, this is a song that I think when I first listened to it, it just burrowed into my brain and it’s long, beautiful and can kind of match your mood.”

The conversation then turns towards Radcliffe’s sobriety, something he can proudly say he has been for 10 years now. It’s a choice that he reflects on saying: “There are many questions in my life where you can say ‘Is this thing, thing X, the way it is because it’s in you to be that way or is it because you got famous and were in this slightly crazy situation?’ That’s not just the sense with my drinking, it’s a few things where you go ‘I wonder if that’s because of Potter or I would have been that way anyway?’ I’ll never know.”

With an impressive record collection already growing, the Potter actor has another indie gem from The Hold Steady as his connecting fifth song: “This is a song that I was listening to on the way back, in my friend’s car, from a truly terrible weekend or a weekend that had ended terribly. I was hungover and coming back to reality and this song played and it just hit me at a very specific moment—y’know bands, films, writers—everyone makes drinking look super cool most of the time. The Hold Steady were the first band that I ever heard, sort of talking about the aftermath of drinking.”

Radcliffe also picked out Joanna Newsom “an artist who gets more weird and wonderful every time she comes back,” and her song ‘Emily’ which he calls “a really beautiful song”. The actor also picked up the composition ‘Atta Boy’ from a range of composers but most notably from Yo-Yo Ma with the star, stating: “I think I could listen to it anywhere and make me both nostalgic for the past and excited for the future.”

One more song to complete the set and Daniel Radcliffe, the boy wizard, picks one of our favourite artists and favourite songs, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and their timeless song ‘Into My Arms’. About the track Radcliffe said: “I’m sure there are many people who have many different entries into the ‘What is the best love song of all time?’ argument—this would be mine. It has the effect on me that almost nothing can have which is that it makes me want to be religious.”

Daniel Radcliffe’s eight favourite songs:

  • ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ – Morecambe & Wise
  • ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’ – Tom Lehrer
  • ‘Where Is My Mind’ – Pixies
  • ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot’ – Grandaddy
  • ‘Killer Parties’ – The Hold Steady
  • ‘Into My Arms’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • ‘Emily’ – Joanna Newsom
  • ‘Attaboy’ – Yo-Yo Ma

You can listen to the full episode below via Spotify or here through the BBC Sounds. We’ve also pulled together a wonderful playlist of the tracks (excluding Newsom) too, to provide an insight into the whirring mind of Daniel Radcliffe.

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