iPrisoner: Compiling The Ultimate Prison Playlist

When my mate told me he was going to be doing a bit of porridge and asked if I had a spare mp3 player, the least I could do was fill an iPod with music and books to help him through his stretch...
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When my mate told me he was going to be doing a bit of porridge and asked if I had a spare mp3 player, the least I could do was fill an iPod with music and books to help him through his stretch...

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What's the biggest responsibility ever bestowed upon you by a friend?

Being the best man at his wedding?; Babysitting her whinging little kid for the night, while she tries to reclaim five hours of her life back, away from the thankless task of feeding, changing and playing with her darling little brat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Well you should count yourself lucky, when you compare it to what was required of me.

I received my summons last Wednesday via a private message on Facebook.

“dont suppose u still have that mp3 u were gunna sell me do yu? might b gettin sent down on friday n gunna need some tunes!”

Those are the words of a very good friend of mine, who was writing to inform me that he was due to be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on Friday, and after much deliberation with his solicitor, had come to the realisation that it was very likely that he was going to be sent down.

I had no time to weigh the scales of morality, for my friend was in trouble and needed my help. I had the iPod; I had the CDs; and I still had some money left in my itunes account.

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I'm not going to go into the details of what he did, suffice to say that someone got hurt quite severely. You could argue that the guy deserved it; you could argue that no one should ever assault anyone regardless of what they've done. I and his solicitor know that there are a plethora of mitigating circumstances surrounding this case that could potentially result in a suspended sentence; but as this wasn't his first offence - his solicitor solemnly informed him that he could be looking at a custodial one.

I can't imagine there will be many readers who will feel sorry for my friend; many of you will be glad that he's going to be locked away; and I expect any Daily Mail readers reading this will be hoping they throw away the key. When someone admits battery and affray, it's hard to empathise with them. Unless they're telling you they've just had a power cut in their house, and wondered if you had a spare battery for their torch, because they're affrayed of the dark. Then you might empathise.

I had no time to weigh the scales of morality, for my friend was in trouble and needed my help. I had the iPod; I had the CDs; and I still had some money left in my itunes account. Can I do something rather special and make a very good friend's time in clink a somewhat more bearable affair, by creating the perfect iPod?

 I need to be safe in the knowledge that my friend is able to hear the mellifluous and motherly tones of the fairer sex whenever he needs to.

Anyone expecting a list of amusing prison-related song titles will be disappointed, because as many of you who have read this far will realise – I am taking this very seriously. So no, Prison Sex by Tool won't be on the list. Neither will any of the records by Living in a Box. Although, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies will be, but for entirely aesthetic reasons, I assure you.

There are three key areas I need to cover when creating this prison playlist for my friend

Music that he likes

This is easy. He's a metal head, and I share a lot of the same tastes when it comes to heaviness. But it’s imperative that I get the right balance of brutal, death metal, and thoughtful, melodic metalcore. Too much death metal is bad for anyone. I love the occasional bit of Decapitated, Suffocation and Cryptopsy; but once you've got to the end of an album, the shredding guitars, incessant machine-gunning of the double kick drum, and the incomprehensible vocals begin to leave one feeling slightly nauseas.

On the other hand, too much Poison the Well, Misery Signals and their ilk could lead to an over exertion of his melancholia glands, causing him to fall into a downward spiral of over-reflection and general solipsism. He's got to try and stay mentally as well as physically strong in there.

Regardless of what pronouncements polite society now makes about Ace of Base, I know that you secretly love them.

The feminine touch

I don’t like the thought of being in the company of an exclusively male population. And let’s face it: prison is a sausage-fest. So I need to be safe in the knowledge that my friend is able to hear the mellifluous and motherly tones of the fairer sex whenever he needs to. And there is one woman whose presence I know will get my buddy through; a woman whose indisputable talent and beauty can raise the spirits of any man of our generation. Who am I talking about? Yes, you’ve guessed it: Linn Berggren, one time lead vocalist of ‘90s Europop sensation, Ace of Base.

Regardless of what pronouncements polite society now makes about AoB, I know that you secretly love them. And whenever you’ve got the house to yourself, you put “All That She Wants” and “The Sign” on in quick succession. I just hope you've remembered to change your Spotify settings so your Facebook friends don’t find out. Though, they’re probably relieved to find that someone else is having trouble with letting go of the past too.

Linn Berggren was the first prepubescent crush for many lads of my generation. I remember seeing the video for “The Sign” and coming over all flustered and confused. “What’s happening, mummy? Why am I tingling all over?” Being at an age where you can lust at smut but not bust a nut is very strange indeed.

Not long after the band's chart success in the early nineties did Linn Berggren decide to entirely change her image and position in the band. Much like her lookalike and fellow European pop princess, Nico, of The Velvet Underground fame, she decided that she needed to stifle her sexiness and fade into the background, so she could show the world what a serious and brooding artist she really was. Bless her.

I’m banking on my pal having the same memories as me of Linn, so when he sees that I’ve stuck some AoB on there, he doesn’t think I’m taking the piss.

As I gave him the iPod, consoling him, telling him that he'll “probably just get a suspended sentence and a few hundred hours of community service, so don't worry about it and I'll meet you for a pint on Saturday”

Audiobooks that will educate and amuse him

God is not Great, by Christopher Hitchens.

We all know what crazy things people do in a time of crises. Fat, middle aged men on Harley Davidsons; uneducated, fame hungry idiots on Big Brother; etc. A more modest approach is sometimes taken in the form of joining a cult. They think it will bring comfort and stability to their lives, and keep them on the straight and narrow. The most successful of these cults in this country is called Christianity. Christopher Hitchens' brilliant polemic on the evils of religion will hopefully keep the wolf in sheep's clothing at bay for the duration of my mate's time inside. It will also work as a great lesson in how to dazzle with the English language. As will my next choice.

Fry's English Delight, by Stephen Fry.

Amusing, educational and wonderfully English. Fry's English Delight will teach my friend all there is to know about syntax, structure and diction as well as giving him a fascinating and fun lesson on the history of commonly used phrases, idioms and colloquialisms. A real treat, this.

The Ricky Gervais Guide to..., by Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington.

Due to the fact that the iPod I will be passing on is old and comparatively small in size, it doesn't hold podcasts. Annoying for so many reasons, such as cost. But also because it means that it won't contain the first three series of the Ricky Gervais Show. So I've had to spend a bit of cash, investing in their latest series of audiobooks. They're called audiobooks because you have to pay for them, basically. Well you get what you pay for as they say, and this is well worth the money. I haven't got space here to list all the hilarious quotes from the comedy trio. Suffice to say these audiobooks are jam packed with them. I've laughed myself to sleep to every one of these, and knowing my friend's terrific sense of humour, I'm sure he will too.

So there we have it. An iPod fit for a king, bequeathed to a mate teetering on the edge of the English judicial system. I received his message on the Wednesday, handed the iPod over on the Thursday, and he is due to be sentenced on the Friday. As I gave him the iPod, consoling him, telling him that he'll “probably just get a suspended sentence and a few hundred hours of community service, so don't worry about it and I'll meet you for a pint on Saturday”, I knew by looking at his face that this might be the last time I saw him for a very long while.

So I said my goodbyes, then jumped in my car and drove away. Many thoughts and feelings were sailing round my head as I made my return journey: sadness, hope the judge isn't too hard on him, etc. But then one thought popped into my mind that made my blood run cold...

“Where the hell is he going to charge it?”

He received a 12 month custodial sentence.

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