10 Albums to Take to a Deserted Island

deserted island music

by John Ellis

While claiming to be a beach connoisseur may be a stretch, having grown up in Florida does give my opinions about all things beach related some validity[1] – likewise, if someone grew up in Canada, I’ll defer to their opinions about the best types of snowshoes and maple syrup. In other words, growing up in Florida means that I’m probably better qualified than most to determine which items should be taken along in the event that an individual finds himself or herself exiled to a deserted island.

The concept for this list is fairly self-explanatory – if I were banished, for whatever reason, to a deserted island and I could only take along ten albums, which ten would I choose? But, I did give myself one rule – I’ve limited myself to albums that I currently own; which doesn’t necessarily narrow it down since there are over six hundred albums in my music library. I’m also operating under the assumption that whatever equipment needed to play the albums will be on the island. I mean, it would be a Geneva Convention violating level of torture to show up to the island with ten albums in tow only to find out that there was no way to play them.

The list is not a list of my favorite albums, although several of them would make that list, too. As I thought about the question “which ten albums would I take to a deserted island?” my favorite albums were definitely considered, but I also considered the possible moods I may be in or even want to be in as I sat on the island. Which types/genres of music I would miss if I didn’t at least have a representative sample was a consideration, too. Unfortunately, ten albums aren’t enough to cover all genres – sorry hip-hop, punk, and classical[2].

But, before I get to the list, the omission of two bands may require some explanation – Led Zeppelin and the Beatles[3]. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Beatles; over the last few years, however, I’ve increasingly become more of a fan. I really dig Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, and Abbey Road[4], but not enough to include any of them on my list. I love Led Zeppelin. In fact, Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin IV (Zoso) would all receive consideration if I were compiling a list of my all-time favorite albums. But, and I understand the gravity of what I’m about to write, it doesn’t take long for me to become tired of listening to Led Zeppelin. That’s out there, and I feel better for having said it.


Achtung Baby – U2

Achtung Baby was the easiest selection for this list; I didn’t even have to think about it. U2’s 1991 masterpiece is my all-time favorite album; so much so, that if I could only choose one album to take to a deserted island, it would be Achtung Baby. Nuff said.


Chet Atkins Plays Back Home Hymns – Chet Atkins

If you stumble across any reviews of this 1962 release, chances are a good number of the reviews will not be favorable, a fact that I find bizarre[5]. To be fair, the not-quite-favorable-yet-not-totally-negative reviews do highlight the obvious that Atkins’ guitar playing is beautifully rendered on the album; the problem, as it seen most often, is that Chet Atkins Plays Back Home Hymns only serves to leave the listener wanting more. That’s not a problem; the album can always be played again. And, on my island exile, like at my home, Chet Atkins Plays Back Home Hymns will be played quite a bit.


Kind of Blue – Miles Davis

In my Pop Presidents series, which I haven’t finished, Kind of Blue is in the running[6]for the #1 slot when I write, finally write, the last article in which I rank all the albums included in the series. Kind of Blue is an almost perfect jazz record; which is to say, Kind of Blue is an almost perfect record. When the topic of jazz comes up, it’s rare that eyes don’t light up and I’m not asked, “Have you listened to Kind of Blue?” Why, yes, yes I have. I don’t want to be stuck on an island without some jazz music, and what better representation than Kind of Blue?


At Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers Band

Speaking of the Pop Presidents, Pink Floyd fans went apoplectic that I ranked At Fillmore East number one on Nixon’s list instead of Dark Side of the Moon. I’m assuming that they’ll react in a similar manner after finding out that I left Dark Side of the Moon at home while packing At Fillmore East. But there’s not a chance that I’m sitting on a deserted island without the greatest album from the greatest Southern rock band of all time. You see, as much as love well-done prog rock, I will always choose well-done Southern rock first.


Exodus – Bob Marley and the Wailers

If you ever stumble across me on a beach and I have earplugs in, there is a very excellent chance that I will be listening to Exodus. That makes the inclusion of Exodus a no-brainer for me.

The Stone Rose – The Stone Roses

Outside of Achtung Baby, the most played album in my house is The Stone Roses. That should probably be enough of a reason for me to take it to the deserted island, but the seminal album from the Madchester music scene’s seminal band is a must-have in any music library – whether that library is on a deserted island or not. Plus, The Stone Roses hypnotic alternative rock would cause the long days on the island to seem like they were flying by.

The Wall – Pink Floyd

Beyond just great music, and The Wall is great music, Pink Floyd’s double album from 1979 is also a great story. A story, after twenty years of listening to it, I have yet to tire of hearing; and I highly doubt that I’ll tire of hearing it just because I’m stuck on an island.

Lady Sings the Blues – Billie Holiday

I don’t know of any singer that could better interpret whatever emotions I would experience on a deserted island than Billie Holiday. Besides the fact that I absolutely LOVE Lady Sings the Blues, I know that Billie Holiday’s voice will unravel my tangled feelings in ways in which I didn’t even realize they could be untangled. I almost want to be exiled to a deserted island just to find out.

Nevermind – Nirvana

I actually like In Utero better, but as I thought about which Nirvana album I would miss the most, Nevermind came out on top, which may sound contradictory – more on that in a moment. I actually listen to less Nirvana than most people would probably guess, including myself. It’s somewhat surprising to me that I don’t listen to Nirvana more; I love Nirvana; I love grunge, which shocks no one. And, as soon as I began compiling this list, I knew that I would want a Nirvana album on the island with me. Why Nevermind in place of my favorite Nirvana album? Well, for one thing, since I listen to Nirvana far less than most people would expect, I’m not sure if I would miss a specific Nirvana album. For another thing, I would miss more specific songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” and “Something in the Way” from Nevermind than I would songs from In Utero, which I think is a more complete album. Complete album vs. specific songs. The nostalgia factor for Nevermind is what gave it the final edge.

Keep the Faith – Bon Jovi

Possibly the most surprising selection on the list, but I can explain. With only one more album to choose, I contemplated questions like, “What if I want to dance?” and “What if I want to be sad in a sappy, cheesy way?” as well as “What if I want to headbang?” Well, very few albums do all three, and more, than does Keep the Faith. Seriously, who among us, over the age of thirty five, hasn’t shed a tear or two at the sappy, cheesy brilliance of “Bed of Roses?” Or danced along to the title track? And, of course, headbanged (hair-metaled headbanging version, of course) to “If I Was Your Mother?” Not to mention the brilliantly bloated and gleefully unnecessary navel-gazing of “Dry County” – possibly the greatest song to never ever be up for consideration for greatest anything. I will alternately dance, weep, and ponder my existence as I proudly (since no one else will be there to know that I’m doing it) and loudly listen to Bon Jovi’s Keep the Faith.

Albums that I’m going to really, really miss for a variety of reasons – The Joshua Tree, U2; Zen Arcade, Hüsker Dü; Music from Big Pink – The Band; Horses, Patti Smith; London Calling, The Clash; Blue, Joni Mitchell; Remain in Light, Talking Heads; The Soft Bulletin, The Flaming Lips; Night of a Thousand Candles, The Men They Couldn’t Hang; Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog.

Which albums would you take if exiled to a deserted island?

[1] We won’t talk about how I’ve had sun poisoning twice due to the fact that I didn’t believe that it was necessary for me to put sun screen on while lying on Pensacola Beach.

[2] And by “classical,” I mean ANYTHING recorded prior to 1950. That includes Beethoven, Mozart, and Dick Robertson.

[3] The Rolling Stones are missing, too; but I’m trolling their fans. While, in my experience, fans of the Stones are the quickest to voice their displeasure at the fact that I rarely included Jagger and co. on my lists, it’s a scientifically proven fact that fans of The Rolling Stones do not read footnotes. At this very moment, an elderly Stones fan is sputtering out his grape nuts at the fact that in the body of this post, not once do I mention The Rolling Stones.

[4] I still don’t have The Beatles (The White Album). I’ll probably get it for Christmas.

[5] There are good reviews out there. My acknowledgment of that should save some of you the trouble of posting good reviews in the comment section.

[6] The front-runner, I might add, but don’t tell anyone; I want it to be a surprise



4 thoughts on “10 Albums to Take to a Deserted Island

  1. […] Music and books are great and all; but, without beer, does the presence of either on the deserted island really matter? That’s a question with an elusive answer that I never want to have to answer. Thankfully, on my hypothetical deserted island exile, whoever exiled me has graciously allowed me to stock the island with ten beers, so I can avoid the question. For now. This raises, however, an equally important question – if I’m going to be stuck on a deserted island for the foreseeable future, what ten beers will I be unable to live without? And that, my friends, is a much more difficult question to answer than I imagined when I first thought of it. […]


  2. Love – Forever Changes
    Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
    Jean Sibelius – Symph #2
    Scary Monsters – David Bowie
    Ella Fitzgerald – Some huge box set of her 40-60’s stuff
    Pink Floyd – Animals
    King Crimson – Larks Tongues in Aspic
    King Crimson – Red
    Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
    Hoodo Gurus – Mars Needs Guitars

    Liked by 1 person

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