Soundtrack Of My Life: Richard Branson

Super-rich dude and founder of Virgin Records

The first song I remember hearing

Elvis Presley – ‘Love Me Tender’

“I was brought up in the countryside, near Guildford. We weren’t allowed to watch television, but we were allowed to borrow friends’ scratchy records – and this was most definitely a scratchy old single. I just loved his music; Elvis was the man. I was under 10 and he was someone people my age identified with.”

The song I do at karaoke

Madonna – ‘Like A Virgin’

“I do it at the work dos – it always gets a laugh. I’ve done it on the wings of planes and I’ve even done it when Madonna’s been in the room; I serenaded her.”

The best gig I went to

Sex Pistols – The 100 Club

“Having seen them live, I was determined to sign them even though they had already signed with EMI. I called the company’s president and said, ‘If you want to get rid of the Sex Pistols, I’m happy to step in.’ He said, “No, I’m very happy with them.” Anyway, that night they went on The Bill Grundy Show [where the band caused a national scandal by swearing on-air] and he called my home number and said, “We’ll hand over the contract at 6am tomorrow.” Malcolm McLaren, being very Machiavellian, signed the band with A&M the next day and got more money. But Sid Vicious threw up all over the A&M office [so the company changed its mind] and we finally got them in the afternoon. The Sex Pistols gave Virgin an edge.”

The album that changed my life

Mike Oldfield – ‘Tubular Bells’

“This was the first piece of music that Virgin Records put out. [Oldfield] was 19 years old and had recorded every single instrument on the album. I went to eight different record companies and nobody would put it out, so we decided to create our own record company and put it out. It literally sold millions of copies [‘Tubular Bells’ has sold more than 15 million copies to date]. That led on to us signing people like Peter Gabriel, Janet Jackson and the Spice Girls. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic may not be here today without ‘Tubular Bells’.”

The song that reminds me of losing my virginity

No song

“I didn’t actually need a soundtrack because the lady’s orgasms were so great. I was feeling really full of myself – I was about 16 – until she whispered the words, ‘Asthma attack! Asthma attack!’ and I realised it had nothing to do with me whatsoever. I had to get an ambulance to take her to hospital.”

The song I wish I had written

Peter Tosh – ‘Legalize It’

“This is a very beautifully written, beautifully crafted song. Peter Tosh wrote some of The Wailers’ songs and I remember going to Jamaica many years ago and sitting outside his house, trying to persuade him to sign to Virgin. After a couple of days, he took me inside and the house was filled with enormous boxes of ganja. He would roll spliffs that were about 2ft long and I had to suffer a whole day of initiation, a baptism of fire. I had to smoke with him to keep up. I don’t actually smoke, so I was laid flat on the floor when he finally agreed to sign with us.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Bob Marley – ‘No Woman, No Cry’

“I live in the Caribbean [on Necker Island] and any Bob Marley song would be delightful. I’d have a Caribbean funeral with lots of good reggae bands. I’ve been living here since my 20s, when I found this lovely island. I bought it for just under £100,000 and we’ve been offered over £100m – but it’s priceless.”

Richard Branson’s second autobiography, Finding My Virginity, is out now