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From The Beatles to Talking Heads: 8 songs Tom Hanks couldn't live without


Tom Hanks is as widely adored as ice cream. The man is not only everyone’s favourite typewriter fanatic, he is also one of the most celebrated film stars of all time. This unique combination of talent, quirkiness and adoration made him the perfect guest for the equally revered Desert Island Discs. He joined the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Marlene Dietrich in the rarefied realm of the esteemed show’s most beloved names. 

In a career spanning over 40 years, he has made us feel guilty about abandoning old toys, caused the greying of hairs in Captain Phillips, and in a particular career-high, he appeared alongside Justin Bieber in the music video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘I Really Like You’. He’s even put one of his cherished typewriters to work and published a collection of short stories, Uncommon Type.

Desert Island Discs has been a cornerstone of British broadcasting since its inception in 1942 when it was created by the playwright, novelist and radio producer Roy Plomley, OBE. The premise is simple, in fact, it’s one we’ve all thought about ourselves even if you’ve never been aware of the show: if you were cast away (no Hanks pun intended) to a desert island and you could only have eight songs will you, one luxury and one book (bearing in mind that for some reason the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible already come complimentary on this island for some reason), then what would they be? In 2016 Hanks answered as best as anyone could and it was typically stirring emotional fare. 

During the interview Tom Hanks was moved to tears when discussing the watershed cinematic moment that he had while watching the title sequence to 2001: A Space Odyssey backed by iconic orchestra overture of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. Hank’s childhood was nomadic and unsettled and the cinema offered a chance for spiritual stability. 

He told the shows incomparably sincere interviewer, Kirsty Young, “This was the ‘wow’ moment of my life going from a kid trying to figure out what’s interesting in this life to young man yearning to be an artist. 

“I started asking myself: ‘How do I find the vocabulary for what’s rattling around in my head?’. Not long after I started going to the American Conservatory theatre by myself to see plays I had no idea even existed.” 

When Young later asked him what those feelings in his head were, Hanks was moved to tears. “What have you done to me?” he proclaimed in a comedic jibe. towards an apologetic Young.

“No, it’s all right, because I put too much thought into this list. What it was, it was the vocabulary of loneliness,” he replied after composing himself. It is the rare sort of moment that only an institution like Desert Island Discs can bring about. 

Hanks delved into emotional territory once more as he discussed his choice of the Talking Heads masterpiece ‘Once In a Lifetime’. By the time that Hanks turned 21 he was married and a father, but by the age of 27, the actor was divorced. Then one day he met the actress Rita Wilson and Hanks explains, “you end up meeting that other person that you’re like, ‘She gets it’. I don’t think I’ll ever be lonely any more, that’s how I felt when I met my wife.” His first date with Wilson was watching the Talking Heads concert film was watching Stop Making Sense, which makes it perfectly clear why they’ve formed such an unbreakable bond. 

Hanks also selected the track ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ by LL Cool J as a nod to learning for his iconic rhyme in the movie Big. During that period the spirit of rap struck a chord. As Hanks explained, “there is something about the anger and joy that is inside this song, I have since met LL Cool J, he is one of the most happy, smiling, delightful people you will ever come across but in this video he had that boxing microphone down and he was screaming into it.” He later added that he believed the message of the song was that, “I am going to do the right thing regardless of the confines that you place on me.”

Elsewhere on the list, Hanks picked up a Beatles record to be whisked off to desert island with. The track in question was ‘There’s A Place’. “This is one of those time and place moments,” Hanks explained,  “[when you get to a certain age] you are searching for that music that is going to be yours and yours alone. This is not one of their big hits, but to me this was the birth of The Beatles.”

You can check out a full list of all eight tracks that Hanks selected below. 

Tom Hanks’ eight favourite songs of all time:

  • Dean Martin & Line Renaud (Leen Reno) – ‘Relax-Ay-Voo’
  • The Beatles – ‘There’s A Place’
  • Dusty Springfield – ‘Doodlin”
  • Richard Strauss Main Title: ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’
  • Alfred Newman, Ken Darby – ‘Main Title: ‘How The West Was Won”
  • Talking Heads – ‘Once in a Lifetime’
  • LL Cool J – ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’
  • Derek and the Dominos – ‘Layla’