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The eight songs Michael Caine couldn't live without


Michael Caine is an institution in the guise of a man. The mere mention of that name has the power to bring some of cinema’s most memorable lines to the mind, all delivered in that lovable cockney lilt. From the classic, “I only told you to blow the bloody doors off!” to the downright foreboding “Some men just want to watch the world burn”, Caine is up there as one of the most quoted and highly respected actors of his generation.

Born Maurice Micklewhite, Caine took his screen name from the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny, which was released the year after he started his career as a stage actor in 1953. Three years later, he sidestepped into the world of motion pictures, showing off his dexterity by playing a variety of roles in British productions, including A Hill In Korea (1956), Zulu (1964) and The Impcress File (1965). But it wouldn’t be until the release of Alfie in 1966, for which he received an Academy Award nomination, that Caine would truly make his name. The next few years saw him star in some of his most successful features, including the legendary 1969 action thriller The Italian Job. His success continued throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Then, in 2005, he was cast as Albert in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, the first of three movies that marked the beginning of a Caineissence throughout the 2000s.

In 2009, Caine was invited for an interview on another British institution, Desert Island Discs, during which he was asked to name the eight tracks he would take with him if he were castaway to a desert island, tracks he couldn’t live without. After batting away the assumption that his selection would be made up of “Anne Zeigler & Webster Booth or something,” he introduced his first selection: ‘Viva la Vida’ by Coldplay. “I’ve always been a big disco fan,” Caine began, “So anything I choose is liable to have a bit of a beat to it, and I love Coldplay. This is a bit of a disco one for me. I know it’s not disco, it’s much better than that”.

Moving on to his second track, Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’, Caine recalled how he discovered the song while watching Glastonbury highlights during some downtime between projects. “On they came, and I thought: ‘who the hell is this?’ And it became my favourite song because I love the build on it…It’s my favourite song,” he clarified. The next track on Caine’s list is similarly orchestral but marks a change of gear from the pop hits we’ve heard so far: “This is me as a very patriotic Englishman,” Caine said. “I’m very English – very patriotic about the whole country. And if I’m on a record show and I want to put across that represents how I feel about my country, it would be ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Caine’s fourth selection is the first of two chill tracks on his list, a genre of which he has a surprising amount of knowledge. “It’s by a group called Chicane and it’s ‘No Ordinary Morning’,” he began.”It’s a very romantic song – got a bit of a beat to it”. Released in 2000, ‘No Ordinary Morning’ formed part of double A-side alongside ‘Halycon’, both of which were released on Behind the Sun in the summer of that year. The second of the chill-wave tracks on the actor’s list is ‘Swollen’ by Bent, also released in 2000, which helped all those ’90s ravers to battle their way through the cultural hangover that was the early 2000s.

Another romantic track now. For his fifth selection, Caine chose Phyllis Nelson and her 1985 single ‘Move Closer’. “This is a song that they always did in the discotheque,” said Caine. “When it came to the end of the evening, they sort of gave everyone a little romantic chance before they moved off into the night, and they always used Phyllis Nelson ‘Move Closer'”. As you’ve probably worked out by this point, many of Caine’s most treasured songs have connections to his time in Paris -— and his seventh selection is no exception. After explaining how he met his idol, Frank Sinatra, for the first time, Caine said: “Years before, I was in Paris and I was friends with a singer called Claude Francois and Claude Francois recorded this song called ‘Comme d’habitude’. Many years later, I’m watching a show and Sinatra starts singing, and I think: ‘I know this song’. And Paul Anchor, who was there with us said: ‘I wrote this lyric.’ So this is Paul Anchor’s fantastic lyric to ‘Comme d’habitude’, but it’s also called ‘My Way’.

Considering Michael Caine was asked to select his eight favourite tracks on Christmas day, it’s no wonder he chose a festive hit to round things off. “My final one is a carol,” he began. “It’s by John Lennon, who I knew and liked very much. We both went to the Canne Film Festival, drinking a little too much, and so I sort of got to know him like that there. And I noticed he always introduced himself, to anyone, as ‘John Lemon’ – anyway, we won’t go into that. It’s John Lennon, and his Christmas carol is called ‘Happy Xmas’. And there’s a little bracket after it, and the line is: ‘War Is Over’. Of course, it isn’t, but we all wish it was.”

See the full list of Michael Caine’s favourite songs, below.

Michael Caine’s eight favourite songs:

  • ‘Viva la Vida’ by Coldplay
  • ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow
  • ‘Nimrod’ from Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar
  • ‘No Ordinary Morning’ by Chicane
  • ‘Swollen’ by Bent
  • ‘Move Closer’ by Phyllis Nelson
  • ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra
  • ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by John Lennon

Stream a playlist of the songs, below.