Soundtrack Of My Life: Dermot O’Leary

TV and radio host, karaoke zealot

The first song I remember hearing

Nat King Cole – ‘Nature Boy’

“Irish music was a huge part of my upbringing, as were Elvis Presley and Nat King Cole: two of my mother’s favourites. My mum says Cole’s ‘Nature Boy’ reminds her of my dad – although I asked her about that recently and she said, ‘Oh no, that song doesn’t remind me of your dad at all’. That’s a complete lie! My whole life she’s been telling me this is dad’s song.”

The first song I fell in love with


The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’

“This is the first song I properly remember from Top Of The Pops. I’m watching this video of these guys talking about Thatcher’s Britain and urban decay: I can’t have been more than six or seven, but my eyes were out on stalks. That was the first song that I remember thinking, ‘Holy moly’. It’s such a haunting track, and I hadn’t heard anything like it.”

The first gig I went to

The Pogues at Brixton Academy, London, in 1991

“This was my first gig as an adult going on my own, and it was my first time at Brixton Academy. It was just towards the end of Shane MacGowan‘s glory years, and he was about to leave the band. The tour was for the album ‘Hell’s Ditch’, and they did an unbelievable set.”

The song that reminds me of home


Brendan Shine – ‘Catch Me If You Can’

“It’s all very jolly. Most Irish songs are really sad, and those are the ones I grew up on. But Shine was an unapologetically positive guy, and I loved him. My parents got us tickets to see him, but I fell asleep on two plastic chairs. At the very end of the gig, my dad woke me up and somehow got us backstage to meet him. As an adult, I’ve met Brendan a few more times on Irish TV.”

The song I wish I’d written

Bruce Springsteen – ‘Thunder Road’

“It’s all killer, no filler. That and ‘Born To Run’, even though they’re well-known Springsteen tracks, are the two best songs he’s ever written. There’s just no room to breathe in them: every line comes and hits you, especially when you hear the stripped-down versions. My wife and I saw Springsteen on Broadway, and it’s probably the best gig I’ve ever been to.”

The song I do at karaoke

Don Henley – ‘The Boys Of Summer’

“I’m quite a zealot when it comes to karaoke: I’ve no interest in people coming on and not knowing their song, and if you’re gonna do a duet, you need to have it well-planned. ‘The Boys Of Summer’ can’t be sung with a smile as it’s a really sad song, so you need to be full theatrical with it. You gotta give the performance your all.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Elvis Presley – ‘If I Can Dream’

“I recently saw the Elvis biopic, so I’ve been down an Elvis rabbit hole recently. I really like late-era Elvis: ‘If I Can Dream’, which was written by Walter Earl Brown for Elvis, is unbelievable. The context of it is incredible, the way he came back and did this protest song. It’s a beautifully written and paced song, I love it.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Blur’s ‘Country House’ and Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’

“It’s not that they’re bad songs! When you lived through the Britpop era, there are certain songs that were played too many times. I interviewed Noel Gallagher on the Reel Stories show I do, and even he said [it]! There was that big Blur vs Oasis rivalry, and a bit of record label jiggery-pokery meant it was ‘Country House’ vs ‘Roll With It’ in the charts.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Celine Dion – ‘Think Twice’

“We do this Instagram dance segment on my radio show where we pick the most incongruous [track to dance to]. One week, we made an Accidental Partridge: I was like, ‘Guys, you’re a little late to the party, but it’s certainly a badge of honour’. It’s certainly not accidental, we all know what we’re doing here. Whatever song we normally pick as the second song of the show, I try and do a silly berk-ish dance to it. Last week, it was ‘Think Twice’ and it went down a storm.”

The song I want played at my funeral

The Divine Comedy – ‘Tonight We Fly’

“It’s a beautiful song. The last line is: ‘If heaven doesn’t exist / What will we have missed / This life is the best we’ve ever had‘. It’s a really nice, uplifting yet fatalistic look at friendship, love and death. I’d also stick a couple of bangers on, like Springsteen’s ‘Land Of Hope And Dreams’ and Elbow‘s ‘The Night Will Always Win’ or ‘My Sad Captains’, in to bring the absolute house down.”

Dermot O’Leary is on Saturdays from 8-10am on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds; and he presents Radio 2 All Stars on October 15. ‘Reel Stories: Robbie Williams’ airs at 8.45pm on October 1 on BBC Two and is then available on BBC iPlayer

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