New Labour, old records for Desert Island Blair

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The Independent Online
What do the '70s rock band Free, the American composer Samuel Barber, a little-known Cambridge band called Ezio, and The Beatles have in common? They are all, The Independent can reveal, top of Tony Blair's personal charts.

The Labour leader yesterday went to Broadcasting House to bare his musical soul to Sue Lawley. The public will be able tune into Desert Island Discs at 12.15pm tomorrow to find out why particular tunes won Mr Blair's vote.

Sources at the BBC revealed that the castaway's selection included Barber's Adagio for Strings - possibly one of the most emotional pieces of classical music ever written and the theme tune to the films Platoon and The Elephant Man.

But Mr Blair bats more than an eyelash at rock 'n' roll. "Cancel Today", a song noted for its "saccharined romanticism" and sung by a Cambridge- based pop duo called Ezio, and "Wishing Well" by Free feature in his selection of eight tunes. Free's most famous song is "All Right Now". "Wishing Well" is described in the recently released Rough Guide to Rock as "Rodgers' [the lead singer] heartfelt plea to Kossof [ the lead guitarist who was on drugs] to pull himself together".

Mr Blair - at Oxford the lead singer in a band named The Ugly Rumours - is understood to have chosen at least one Beatles song, at least two other songs from the `60s and `70s and only one or two classical tunes.

There is, however, a notable absence of any Rolling Stones or David Bowie. Mr Blair has admitted that he finds Mick Jagger an inspiration, and earlier this year he presented Bowie - at the singer's request - with his Brit Award.

Desert Island Discs likes to record a couple of weeks in advance, but the BBC confirmed that yesterday was the earliest date Blair could make. Speculation has grown over whether Peter Mandelson, Mr Blair's chief aide, has given the records his own spin.

In 1995 Mr Blair declared: "Rock music is the love of my life," and this sentiment is reflected in his choices.

In contrast, John Major, who went on Desert Island Discs in January 1992, selected mostly classical tunes. He also included "The Happening" by Diana Ross and the Supremes, "The Best is Yet to Come" by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, and cricket commentary by John Arlott. Mr Blair's luxury item remains a secret. Mr Major asked to be stranded with a full-size replica of the Oval cricket ground and a bowling machine.

Margaret Thatcher, as leader of the Opposition in 1978, asked for a family photograph album. The former Labour leader, John Smith, chose a case of champagne, while his predecessor Neil Kinnock asked for the luxury of Radio 4.