What are your apocalypse (formerly “desert island”) albums?

2012 is here — the Mayan calendar is ending — and it is time to re-envision our “desert island” albums.

If the world really did end and you were left alone or with a band of a few neighbors and comrades on a journey to re-begin civilization – which albums would you dig out of the ruins to bring with you?

(Of course many of us have our iSomethings now, but as their storage is not yet infinite, you’ll still have to whittle it down to the most worthy music plus two or three secret Gaga tracks (assuming you get a chance before the skies spontaneously combust).)

The differences between an apocalypse album collection and one you might want on a desert island are not immediately noticeable. But think – you’re not just keeping yourself entertained for however long it takes somebody to rescue you (or however long it takes for the sun to scramble your brain into thinking that palm-leaf raft you built is seaworthy). The world is now dead. You are building the future with these tunes.

These collections of songs are the ones that will inspire everything it takes in order to re-begin civilization and, if you are successful, this will be the only music your children are exposed to (unless the first thing you decide to re-build is MTV). This will be where music begins again – and it will inspire generations of future musicians.

But this isn’t even simply about you and your wasteland family – music is communal and you’re going to be doing many of the same things humans have always done to music: work, walk, run from zombies and breed. This music won’t simply have to stand up to the test of time – it will have to still make sense in a world where nothing exists anymore.

There should be at least one track that could score a rousing speech when all hope has been nearly lost among the tribe.

It will have to send us to the heights of our imagination and, conversely, it will have to employ some functionality. Basically it has to be useful in every way we use music.


Of course, you could also really screw with people if you bring nothing but accordion music and tell your children that polka was the once and only king… But presumably some other successful tribes will be countering your move with their punk or Yanni-loving offspring.

So with that, I present.. um, just a few suggestions. I can’t possibly finish this now…

Apocalypse Albums:

Sublime, 40 oz. to Freedom
Beastie Boys, Check Yo’ Head
Pink Floyd, The Wall
Dandy Warhols, 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia
Beach Boys, Sounds of Summer
Bela’ Fleck and the Flecktones, Live Art
311, the blue album
Radiohead, OK Computer
Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta
Rusted Root, When I Woke
Nirvana, Unplugged in N.Y.
LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
The Doors, Greatest Hits
Queen, Greatest Hits
Violent Femmes
Black Sabbath
Seed, Stardust
. . . and more.

That’s seventeen. I could make a solid guess as to the actual number a guy like me might take at the outset (30-40, sans album cases?), but the fact is – if you’re backpacking across the country with actual compact discs in-tow, you’re probably gonna cut it down to five or six after the first ten miles (and somberly bury those left behind in marked graves).

…This list may have to remain unfinished until I see the skies ripping open.

There are too many questions. How much classical or classic rock music is necessary? Am I obligated to bring some hip-hop even if none of the albums I dig would make my normal top 10 list? Country music will be the first thing I forget when time ends, so that makes for at least one easy question.

The question of greatest hits compilations versus actual albums troubles me greatly. It kills me that I might have to leave behind a complete and beautiful album like Pet Sounds because every Beach Boys greatest hits comp has 45 songs.

My most glaring omission also troubles me — The Beatles. This begs the question: do you trust other people to bring certain things? My own list is very modern-indie and classic rock heavy. Yet, as a kid born after 1980, I trust somebody who lived through it to pick the best Beatles album for a new world.

If you believe the Mayans you have until December.

And if you don’t believe the world is ending… ?

Go ahead and continue not listening to the news.


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  • From a VERY casual fan of Classical in no particular order:
    Wagner -=- Wedding March from Lohengrin (yes, some traditions need to apply in a post-apoc world)
    Bach -=- Air (on a G string), Goldberg Variations, Toccata and Fugue in D minor
    Beethoven -=- 5th and 9th Symphonies, Fur Elise
    Brahms -=- Lullaby, 1st Symphony
    Sousa -=- Washington Post, Stars and Stripes Forever
    Stravinsky -=- Firebird Suite
    Tchaikovsky -=- Nutcracker, 1812 Overature
    Copeland -=- Fanfare for the Common Man, Rodeo
    Mozart -=- Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Requiem
    Williams -=- Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark
    Arnaud -=- Olympic Anthem- Bugler's Dream

    Yes, it's heavy, but, I'm assuming these days you'll be carrying the "Post-Apocalyptic MP3 32 GB player" (TM applied for) instead of the actual discs.

  • In reply to LordDragon:

    Nicely done, LordDragon. I wish i knew more about classical music. As a former cello player i certainly have an appreciation for it. Beethoven's 5th and 9th would def make my list ("Ode to Joy" def fits the criteria). I can actually play "Fur Elise" on guitar, so we'll be rocking that in the new world, for sure! Thanks for checking out the Jam Room.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Looking at this again, i'm digging the comment about certain traditions still needing to apply in the post-apoc world. That's a great thought that might change anyone's list some. Having said that, I'm now taking Tchaikovsky's 1812 for making speeches and, a personal fave, George Winston (because there will certainly be cartoons to score in the future).

  • fb_avatar

    just take an ipod with ALL your music

  • In reply to boris:

    haha.. Wish i could, boris! But i'm usually six steps behind when it comes to technology, so all i've got is a 1 gig ipod shuffle. If it happens i'll probably be fighting my gf for hers the whole time.

  • I certainly agree with Sabbath, Queen, The Doors, Beatles, and even Nivana but I'd pick Nevermind. The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd...maybe. But you forgot ACDC Back in Black, Bon Jovi Slippery when Wet, Head Eat Flat as a Pancake, Fleetwood Mac Rumors, and certainly some Cheep Trick and Rush. I'd also have to take some serious Springstreen, Areosmith, Prince, and of course Van Halen---Hagar style!

  • That's a great list of classics. Having been a teenager in the '90s, i think, is what makes my taste trend towards the popular alternative of the time, indie stuff now and even something like the Violent Femmes in the '80s. I can appreciate that bombastic sound, though -- Back in Black is in my collection, as is some Bon Jovi and Van Hagar. Rumours... there's another album you couldn't let die. I'm not sure where the band ends and album begins though with "Head Eat Flat as a Pancake,"... What was that? LOL. ROCK.

  • The Killers- Hot Fuss
    Incubus- Make Yourself
    System of a Down- Toxicity

  • In reply to Keep:

    Huge fan of Incubus. Thought of Make Yourself for the list. My favorite might actually be S.C.I.E.N.C.E., but... it's a little hardcore for the crowd perhaps. I liked Hot Fuss and Toxicity in their time, as well, but they didn't have as lasting effect on me. Rock on!

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