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  • Writer's pictureThe Hub

BTAM 8GR8 Songs #1

Updated: Apr 30, 2022

Neurosurgeon Simon Stapleton

Picture: Neurosurgeon Simon Stapleton as he greets patients in the consulting room

Credit: Simon Stapleton

The Hub is marking March as Brain Tumour Awareness Month with a series of BTAM 8GR8 Songs blogs and broadcasts on Epsom Hospital Radio.

Starting the series Simon Stapleton, a neurosurgeon at St George's Hospital in Tooting, chooses his eight Desert Island Discs. Saying: "I have finally come up with a list of eight “songs” for my Desert Island after several revisions. One suddenly realises how difficult it is to narrow it down and more recent tracks obviously loom larger in one’s mind but here goes, essentially in time order.

It’s a bit of a chaotic mix. I could do another eight quite easily but I had to come off the fence eventually. If I had to chose one it would be Everything but the Girl and my luxury item would be a piano (with sheet music) since I would have endless hours to practice!"

Simon Stapleton is the Hub's neurosurgeon, co-ordinating with a talented multi-disciplinary team during two successful operations and subsequent treatment. For which The Hub is humbly grateful to Simon and to all involved. You can read a background and listen to videos and a playlist, along with a radio broadcast of Simon's music below.

You can support Simon's work via St George's Hospital Charity and The Brain Tumour Charity's research, advocacy and support for people living with brain tumours by joining voicesforchange.


1. Nocturne in B-flat minor, Opus 9 No. 1

YouTube video: Chopin: Nocturne No.1 in B flat minor, Op.9 No.1

Frédéric Chopin wrote 21 nocturnes for solo piano between 1827 and 1846. They are generally considered among the finest short solo works for the piano and hold an important place in contemporary concert repertoire. Although Chopin did not invent the nocturne, he popularized and expanded the form developed by Irish composer John Field.

The Nocturnes, Op. 9 are a set of three nocturnes written between 1831 and 1832 and dedicated to Madame Marie Pleyel, a Belgian concert pianist. They were the first nocturnes published (in 1932) by Chopin. The second nocturne of the work is often regarded as Chopin's most famous piece.

Image: Marie Moke-Pleyel (lithograph by Josef Kriehuber,1839)

Credit: Public Domain - Eigenes Foto einer Originallithographie der Albertina, Wien

Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1 is a better-known nocturne, with a rhythmic freedom characteristic of Chopin's later work. The left hand has an unbroken sequence of eighth notes in simple arpeggios throughout the entire piece. The right hand moves with freedom, occasionally in patterns of seven, eleven, twenty, and twenty-two in the form of polyrhythms.

The opening section moves into a contrasting middle section in the same key signature, flowing back to the opening material in a transitional passage where the melody floats above seventeen consecutive bars of D♭ major chords. The reprise of the first section grows out of this, followed by a Picardy third ending.

Simon chose a version with Russian pianist, chamber musician and conductor Vladimir Askenazi. You can watch Ashkenazi playing Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1 in a 1983 concert recording.

Simon says: "My father was a classical music enthusiast even though he was no musician himself, so I was brought up in a household with classical music always available. At school I had piano lessons but to my lasting disappointment I did not keep it up once at university.

I love piano music and of course Chopin’s repertoire has some of the most memorable pieces. This nocturne I enjoy and would love to be able to play myself now that my interest in playing the piano again has reignited. Maybe with enough practice on my desert island I might make a better stab at it!"


2. The Great Gig in the Sky

YouTube video: Pink Floyd - The Great Gig In The Sky

Says RollingStone: There are hit albums and then there's Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd's 1973 psychedelic masterpiece. Since its release on March 1st, 1973 the eternally popular song cycle has sold more than 15 million copies in the U.S. and more than 45 million worldwide.

The album marked the band's transition from an experimental, jam-oriented progressive outfit, primarily beloved by college students and assorted “heads”. To a top-echelon rock act. The Great Gig in the Sky is the fifth track with music by Richard Wright and non-lexical (nonsense or non-word) vocals by Clare Torry. The song began as a Richard Wright chord progression, known variously as The Mortality Sequence or The Religion Song.

In early 1972, it was performed live as a simple organ instrumental. Accompanied by spoken-word samples from the Bible and snippets of speeches by Malcolm Muggeridge, a religiously conservative British writer. By September, a piano was the lead instrument. A couple of weeks before the album was finished, the band thought of having a female singer wail over the music.

Picture: Knebworth 1990 - Clare Torry performing The Great Gig in The Sky

with Pink Floyd for the first time since 1973

And I am not frightened of dying Any time will do, I don't mind Why should I be frightened of dying? There's no reason for it, you've gotta go sometime If you can hear this whispering you are dying

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Rick Wright

Session singer Clare Torry struggled to divine what the band wanted, but was inspired to pretend she herself was an instrument. The band was deeply impressed by Torry's performance, yet she left the studio with a standard £30 flat fee, thinking her vocals would not make the final cut.

She only became aware they were used when she saw the album at a local record store, spotted her name in the credits and purchased it. A 2005 out-of-court undisclosed settlement gave Torry a vocal composition credit. The linked RollingStone article has a video of the 30th June, 1990 Knebworth concert where Torry performed with the band (11:03 - 15:54 mins) for the first time since a one-off 1973 benefit performance with Soft Machine.

Says the article: "Over the years, Pink Floyd and Roger Waters have played the song with numerous backing singers. They’ve all put their own wonderful spin on it, but none can quite compare to Torry’s original rendition. The royalties she now receives are well-deserved."

Simon says: "At school we lived for Pink Floyd and would obsess over every detail of their music. I remember when Dark Side of the Moon came out and I would play the record at full volume with the album posters on the wall in my room. I don’t think I knew what it was all about but it was great fun!"


3. Sara

YouTube video: Fleetwood Mac - Sara (Official Video)

Sara is a song written by singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, released as a single from 1979 Tusk double LP. The song peaked at No. 7 in the U.S. for three weeks, No. 37 in the UK for two weeks, No. 11 in Australia, and No. 12 in Canada.

Speaking in a radio interview for the Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance in the early 1990s, Stevie Nicks said the song was partially written about her good friend, Sara, who married Nicks' ex and bandmate, Mick Fleetwood.

Nicks' former boyfriend Don Henley claimed the song is about their unborn child. In 1979, Nicks said, "If I ever have a little girl, I will name her Sara. It's a very special name to me." In a 2014 Billboard interview Nicks said, "Had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named her Sara... It's accurate, but not the entirety of it."

In the sea of love Where everyone would love to drown But now it's gone They say it doesn't matter anymore If you build your house Then please, call me home

Sara You're the poet in my heart Never change, and don't you ever stop Now it's gone No it doesn't matter anymore When you build your house I'll come by

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Stevie Nicks

Sara lyrics © Welsh Witch Music

In his 2014 autobiography, Mick Fleetwood agreed with the suggestion the song referred to an affair with a friend named Sara which ended his own relationship with Nicks. Fleetwood and Nicks had been involved in a romantic relationship in the late 1970s. The lyrics, "and he was just like a great dark wing/within the wings of a storm" refer to Fleetwood being an emotional comfort zone for Nicks following her breakup with fellow band member Lindsey Buckingham.

Although the relationship was not exclusive on either side, Fleetwood states Nicks became upset when she learned of Fleetwood's relationship with her best friend, Sara. This relationship effectively ended the romance between Nicks and Fleetwood.

Simon says: "In the early 80s at university listening to music on the record player was an activity requiring dedication, the record needing to be turned every 20 minutes or so. Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” came out then and I remember listening to this in halls. “Sara” is my favourite of their songs and brings back memories of my time at medical school."


4. I Must Confess

YouTube video: Everything but the Girl - I Must Confess

I Must Confess is track 11 on 1984 album Eden by Everything But The Girl.

You kissed my head as you stood in the door And then you said: "don't want to see you no more" All I could say as you walked out on me

Was how I hoped you'd remembered your key Took one last look Took the phone of the hook

I must confess I agree All o those days when I went through a phase Of missing the love that you bore

In retrospect there's something I can't neglect I was missing a love but not yours The love that you bore that thing that I once adored

Was no gift that you gave me each time Thinking again, what a fool I was then It was a trophy of yours and a burden of mine

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Ben Watt I Must Confess lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Simon says: "Everything but the Girl’s album “Eden” is full of the most emotive songs for me. As a junior doctor they were one of the few bands I managed to go and see whilst working over a hundred hours a week in the hospital. There are so many of their songs I could have chosen but this one makes me smile. I love Tracey Thorn’s languid voice."


5. Vuelvo al Sur

YouTube video: Gotan Project - Veulvo al Sur (Live)

Simon's fifth choice Veulvo al Sur by Argentine tango group Gotan Project brings a change of mood, scene and language.

Vuelvo al Sur, como se vuelve siempre al amor, vuelvo a vos, con mi deseo, con mi temor.

Llevo el Sur, como un destino del corazon, soy del Sur, como los aires del bandoneon.

Sueno el Sur, inmensa luna, cielo al reves, busco el Sur, el tiempo abierto, why su despues.

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Astor Piazzolla / Fernando E. Solanas

Vuelvo al sur lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC, Tratore

Simon says: "The next three songs are more recent and represent a new direction in my musical taste. I have travelled extensively in Asia but have never been to South America.

I would love to explore that continent with my wife one day especially since the music of the tango is so evocative and sensual. The Gotan Project music (“Tango” syllables reversed as is colloquial in Argentina) is so varied and alive it makes even me want to dance!"


6. Ven a Gozar

YouTube video: Ven a Gozar - Fishbelly Black

Ven a Gozar is the opening track on 2002 album Crusader by funky jazz outfit Fishbelly Black from Washington DC. Fishbelly Black was originally a 1993 studio project, founded by producer and writer George Mitchell - guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and all other noises and manipulations. After numerous requests to take "the band" overseas, Mitchell formed a group of top notch players.

The group started with the single Spontaneous Combustion in 1993, followed by The Muse in Summer 1993. The band quickly made a name for itself overseas, playing throughout Europe. A review of Crusader described the band's third album as bringing "back the energy".

"The big Hammond B3 sound on "Ven A Gozar", the funky Chic-LeFreak rhythm on "Brick House", the Herbie Man attitude on "Grapevine", some Incognito feeling on "Crusader" or "Call Me Kiki", a "Spontaneous Combustion" follow up. There is much great music on this new album. Fishbelly Black was in earlier time an opener for The James Taylor Quartet on their US tour, this time their new album is far better than JTQ's new one."

Simon says: "I have spent many an evening and weekend driving my gymnast of a daughter and my thespian son around the country to training sessions, competitions and performances. Jazz funk as represented here by Fishbelly Black makes the perfect background to driving and it is impossible not to tap along with the beat."


7. Dragonflies

YouTube video: Dragonflies (Cantoma remix) - Josè Padilla & Kirsty Keatch

Phil Mison is a London based DJ, composer and music producer who releases solo work under the name of Cantoma. Simon's seventh choice is Cantoma's mix of Dragonflies by DJ Jose Padilla and Kirsty Keatch.

Influenced by listening to legendary chill out DJ Jose Padilla, Phil started his DJ career at London’s Milk Bar in 1991, playing chilled Balearic warm up sets. A chance meeting there with Jose would lead to a two year residency at Ibiza’s Cafe Del Mar, sound tracking a thousand sunsets with his vast collection of sun kissed records. It was his sets there that led him to play at Full Circle, Bugged Out and to become Leftfield’s tour DJ.

His huge knowledge of the chill-out genre earned Mison a chance to put out his first compilation "Original Chill Out" in 1995. With its beatless, mood-friendly approach to mixing electronic music, it was something of a groundbreaking collection.

Since then he has gone onto release a further 15 compilations, including 5 volumes of the hugely popular "Real ibiza" series,"Soundcolors" and volume 6 of "Originals".

Simon says: "I have included “Dragonflies” with Kirsty Keatch for similar reasons (to Ven a Gozar). Her voice is so fresh and effortless it is a pleasure to immerse oneself in it."


8. Somewhere Only We Know

YouTube video: Lily Allen - Somewhere Only We Know

The final song is Lily Allen's cover of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know. Her version was the soundtrack to John Lewis' Christmas advert in 2013.

The video link above shows Allen singing Somewhere Only We Know on French television against a dramatic Mediterranean backdrop. Actress Marion Cotillard is among the appreciative audience.

I walked across an empty land I knew the pathway like the back of my hand I felt the earth beneath my feet Sat by the river and it made me complete

Oh simple thing, where have you gone? I'm getting old and I need something to rely on So tell me when you're gonna let me in I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Rice Oxley Timothy James / Hughes Richard David / Chaplin Thomas Oliver Somewhere Only We Know lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Mgb Ltd.

Simon says: "Lily Allen’s version of “Somewhere Only We Know” is so simple and delicate it really does carry you away to such a place somewhere that we would all love to go."


Listen to Simon's Radio Show

You can listen to the broadcast of Simon's Desert Island Discs on The Hub's Radio Marsden The Theme Show on Sunday 6th March 2022 by clicking on the links below.


Listen to Simon's Music

You can listen to a playlist of Simon's Desert Island music by clicking on the link below.



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