Last month I was interviewed on the Newstalk ZB show ‘Real Life With John Cowan’ where I got to indulge in my multiple obsessions with things like cricket, Malaysia and the Bee Gees. Specifically, how a childhood in Malaysia still shapes me as an adult, how cricket was crucial in making me love New Zealand, and how that mad passion for the brothers Gibb gave me my first start in radio more than 20 years ago.
The feedback to this interview has been awesome – even my mum said she learned things about me she didn’t know! Thanks so much to John Cowan and his team at the CBA (Christian Broadcasting Association) who are always such a pleasure to work with. Thanks also if you’ve listened and taken the time to message me. It’s funny, so many radio hosts say they don’t like being interviewed, preferring instead to always be the one asking the questions. But there was no way I could succumb to that false modesty!
Though that said, as you’ll hear in the audio, the conversation branched out into some interesting and unexpected directions. John is a great interviewer and we touched on matters of faith, as well as of the spiritual pull many of us feel towards islands and the sea. As part of that discussion, we talked about the late Leon Russell and a powerful song of his Elton John raves about in his new autobiography that I’d never heard before:
In Elton’s book he talks about a specific time in his life when he found himself listening to Back To The Island over and over again and bawling his eyes out. Elton! Well, if it’s good enough for Elton, then it’s good enough for me so I fired-up the Spotify and set about discovering the song. While I didn’t end up a blubbering mess, I could see what Elton was on about. Here are the first two verses:
Now the day is gone and I sit alone and think of you, girl
What can I do without you in my life?
I guess that our guessing game just had to end that way
The hardest one to lose of all the games we played
But the time is past for living in a dream world
Lying to myself can’t make that scene
Of wondering if you love me or just making a fool of me
Well I hope you understand I just had to go back to the island
The idea of going “back to the island” to heal and to reconnect with yourself and the things that matter most in life can be as much a state of mind as it is a physical reality. And yet, my island that I go back to and that has a very real pull for me I’m pleased to say does indeed exist: Tioman Island on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia. I’ve been five times since 2008 and it was so special to take my wife there on our honeymoon in 2017. One day we’ll take little Riley Roxborogh too.
The other piece of music John asked me about is what I regard as the absolute finest song the Bee Gees ever wrote. There are so many contenders, but I can never go past Spirits Having Flown from 1979 – all is explained towards the end of the interview.
Thanks again to John Cowan and the CBA – is it bad of me to say let’s do it again!? Click here to listen to the full interview. You can also click here to read my NZ Herald article about what it was like taking my wife to Tioman Island for the first time.
Real Life With John Cowan is every Sunday from 7:30-8:00pm on Newstalk ZB.