About four and a half years ago–on the plane to Boston for our 2003 Toad The Wet Sprocket Road Trip, to be precise–my brother Scott asked me a question:

“If you were going to be stranded on an island for the rest of your life, and you could only bring three songs with you, what would they be?”

The question is similar to the classic Desert Island Discs poser, but limited to three songs instead of eight “pieces of music”. Does this make the decision any more difficult? I’m not sure, because I had never considered the question before then, and in the FOUR AND A HALF YEARS since then, my brain has not been able to get past figuring out what those three songs would be. Seriously, I don’t think a month as gone by without me lining up a couple of tentative “THREE” playlists to see how they felt.

At work, I have a reputation for being a “completionist.” I have no idea why.

I have had so much trouble finding the (or at least, “a”) right answer because I live on a diet of new music. I have bought or downloaded 67 CDs so far this year (yay for eMusic). I don’t consider myself a “muso”, but I love variety, and I love falling in love with new sounds and new bands. Being limited to just three tracks for the rest of my life would be a kind of Hell. (Worse than being stuck with nothing but Dutch radio, even.)

So the three tracks have to be really spectacular — songs that I never grow tired of, no matter how often I hear them. Songs that consistently bring a smile to my face, get my blood moving, make me tap my feet and bash the air drums. Tracks with bite, texture, and enough complexity that I still find new things in them even after hundreds of listens. Songs that in thirty years’ time I won’t be cursing my younger self for selecting.

It’s this long-lasting criterion that has made it difficult for me to trust the staying power of recent songs. In fact, the first two tracks I have finally chosen are both from 1971: they’re older than me. I have never known a world without these two tracks in it, and they still sound great. Earlier this year I decided that they were definitely part of THE THREE.

The third track worries me because it’s from 2004 — only three years old. But I really have listened to it over and over again since it was released, and it never sounds anything less than awesome. After all this time dithering over the perfect track list, do I dare commit myself to a lifetime of it? I think I’m finally ready to say yes.


  1. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
  2. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
  3. Ash – Orpheus

Do I really need to comment on numbers 1 and 2? They’re timeless classics. There is no better funk groove than Shaft, and there has never been a better rock scream than Roger Daltrey’s. But does Ash really stand up there with these greats? I think so.

The sheer energy and joy that pours out of every moment in Orpheus is energizing and infectious. Rick’s drumming is driving and furious, Tim’s yells of “go” and “yeah” launch the second half of the bridge like a starter’s pistol, and Charlotte’s cascading “ooh-ooh-aah-aah” backing vocals give me shivers every time. Crashing guitars, memorable melodic hooks, and possibly best of all for the Desert Island scenario: a sense of escape and freedom.

This is the song that would keep up my hopes of some day getting away.