Asking someone what they’d take to a desert island is one of the most common questions in interviews. Perhaps we think it’ll give us some deeper insight into a person we are interested in getting to know better. The long-running BBC Radio show, Desert Island Discs, has taken this question and turned it into the premise for a programme that has been running since 1942. More than 3,000 people have appeared on Desert Island Discs, but the format has not changed at all.

Guests are invited to an hour-long interview during which they discuss their lives as hypothetical castaways on a desert island (or an island that has never been inhabited – not to be confused with a deserted island, which may have been inhabited at some point, but has been deserted). Guests choose eight records that they’d take to a desert island, together with a work of literature and a luxury item. Guests on the show are mostly celebrities and other well-known people, but the show has also seen relatively unknown, but interesting people, come and share their stories.

Here is what five of Desert Island Discs most famous guests would take along.

1. Elton John (appeared on 1 June, 1986)


1. Pink Floyd – Shine On, You Crazy Diamond
2. Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You
3. Sir Edward Elgar – Enigma Variations – Nimrod Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Sir Adrian Boult
4. The Rolling Stones – Let It Rock
5. William H. Monk – Abide With Me Choir: Massed Choirs
6. Thelonious Monk – Misterioso Artist: Carla Bley Band
7. John Lennon – Stand By Me
8. Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Book: Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice

Luxury item: Telephone

2. George Clooney (appeared on 23 February, 2003)


1. Hank Williams – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
2. Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall
3. Dinah Washington – Destination Moon
4. Frank Sinatra – Nice and Easy
5. Bobby Darin – Artificial Flowers
6. Bill Withers – Who Is He (And What Is He To You?)
7. Van Morrison – Moondance
8. William Shatner – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Book: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Luxury item: An anchored yacht

3. Nigella Lawson (appeared on 5 October, 2003)


1. The Archies – Sugar, Sugar
2. Mory Kanté – Yeke, Yeke
3. Boney M. – Daddy Cool 2001
4. The Mavericks – Dance the Night Away
5. Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag
6. New Order – Blue Monday
7. Eminem – Cleaning Out My Closet
8. The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy, Hey Girl

Book: Divine Comedy (in Italian) by Dante Alighieri

Luxury item: Liquid Temazepam “…to give me the possibility of a very pleasant exit”

4. JK Rowling (appeared on 5 November, 2000)


1. The Beatles – Come Together
2. The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again
3. Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 ‘Appassionata’ Soloist: Wilhelm Kempff
4. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D major – 1st movement Soloist: Kyung Wha Chung Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
5. R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts
6. Marianne Faithfull – Guilty
7. Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower
8. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Requiem in D minor – Agnus Dei Choir: Vienna Singverein Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Book: SAS Survival Guide

Luxury item: Pen and unlimited paper

5. Margaret Thatcher (appeared on 18 February, 1978)


1. Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major ‘Emperor’ Soloist: Alfred Brendel Orchestra: London Phlharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Bernard Haitink
2. Antonin Dvorak – Goin’ Home Orchestra: GUS Band Conductor: Boddington
3. Giuseppe Verdi – Grand March (from Aida) Orchestra: Rome Opera House Orchestra Conductor: Mechta
4. Bob Newhart – Introducing Tobacco To Civilisation
5. Irene Dunne – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
6. Ludwig van Beethoven – Be Not Afraid Soloist: Gwyneth Jones Orchestra: New Philharmonia Orchestra Conductor: Fruhbeck De Burgos
7. Saint-Preux – Andante For Trumpet Orchestra: Pierre Thibaud Orchestra Conductor: Saint-Preux
8. Pietro Mascagni – Inneggiamo, il Signor (Easter Hymn) (from Cavalleria rusticana) Orchestra: Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus, Covent Garden Conductor: Gardelli

Book: Survival manual

Luxury item: Photo album of her children

Looking for something to listen to on your flight? You can find every episode of Desert Island Discs ever broadcast on the BBC website.