Ten Tunes To Download Before Your Next Trip

| July 17, 2009 | 16 Comments

For many travellers and backpackers, their iPods and MP3 players provide the soundtrack of their trip. Remember way back in the old days—like the 1990s—when music was stored on plastic discs called CDs? Or, even further back to the 1980s, when we carried music around on vinyl?

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Need some songs for your iPod when you hit the road? Here are ten of our favourite.

While the idea of the CD is becoming quaint, vinyl is just downright prehistoric in this age of gigabytes and iPods. And thank goodness. When last Kathryn and I roamed through Southeast Asia—about six years ago—we did it with a CD walkman and a wallet of CDs—technological dinosaurs.

Now you can take your entire music collection with you on the road.

But, if you find the prospect of a near-infinite playlist a bit overwhelming, have no fear—Kathryn and I are going to introduce to you 10 must-have tunes conducive to travel. Ready? Let’s go.

1. One Night in Bangkok

 Ten Tunes To Download Before Your Next Trip
One Night in Bangkok
  • Artist: Murray Head
  • Songwriters: Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson
  • Fact: The song contains a number of references that any backpacker to Thailand would be familiar with, including the “muddy old river” (the Chao Phraya), and the “reclining Buddha” (at Wat Pho ).
  • Great lyric: “One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble / Not much between despair and ecstasy”
  • Why we love it: The music is composed of former members of Abba, so it’s a bit of a dance track—good for bouncing around in the back of a bus to. The lyrics are hilarious—denouncing the moral decrepitude of Bangkok and the relative intellectual purity of Chess. Yes. Chess. One example: “the queens we use would not excite you.” This song has a little bit for everyone.

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2. Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

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Leavin’ on a Jet Plane
  • Artist: John Denver
  • Songwriters: John Denver and Kenneth Browder
  • Fact: Denver wrote the song after his flight was delayed. Next time it happens to you, go ahead and write a hit song. It’s easy!
  • Great lyric: “All my bags are packed / I’m ready to go / I’m standin here outside your door / I hate to wake you up to say goodbye”
  • Why we love it: Oh yes we did. We”ve included some John Denver! Why? Well, it’s the quintessential backpacker paean to the open road. It’s ultimately joyful and full of promise, or full of regret and hurt, depending on which side of the TSA security line you are standing on. Regardless, isn’t the protagonist a bit of a jackass?

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3. Radar Love

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Radar Love

  • Artist: Radar Love
  • Songwriters: George Kooymans and Barry Hay
  • Fact: The song only reached #13 in the US, but has since become a North American rock radio staple.
  • Great lyric: “I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel/There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel”
  • Why we love it: In our opinion, this is the #1 driving song of all time. And as such, it’s earned its place in this list. The opening is so tight—right from the crashing 14 bar guitar-and-cymbals introduction into the drum solo and the the twin guitar responses to each lyrical unit. It makes us drive. Fast.

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4. Amsterdam

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  • Artist: Peter Bjorn and John
  • Songwriter: Bjorn Yttling
  • Fact: Band is named after its current members: Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson.
  • Great lyric: “Baby went to Amsterdam / She put a little money into travelling”
  • Why we love it: The austere synth pop—this song’s got more hooks than a bait and tackle shop. I dig the simplistic percussion and the glassy chorus. The song is so hypnotic that it imprints itself in your cerebtal cortex and you’ll find yourself humming it in the most unlikely locations. Download!

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5. Africa

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  • Artist: Toto
  • Songwriter: Toto
  • Fact: Toto’s most recognizable song, “Africa” scored Number 1 on the Billboard Charts. However, it was almost omitted from the Toto IV record prior to its release. The band hated it.
  • Great lyric: “I hear the drums echoing tonight / But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation / She’s coming on a 12:30 flight”
  • Why I love it: The song’s about a white suburban kid trying to write a song about Africa, despite having never been there. There’s some powerful wanderlust in this song, if you listen for it. Also, if you listen very closely there’s a lot of percussion going on—bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat, two congas, a cowbell, and a shaker. We dig noise.

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6. Mud Football (for Moe Lerner)

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Brushfire Fairytales

  • Artist: Jack Johnson
  • Songwriter: Jack Johnson
  • Fact: Maurice E. “Moe” Lerner was the owner of the Haleiwa Joe’s Restaurant in Jack’s home town in Hawaii.
  • Great lyric: “We used to laugh a lot / But only because we thought / That everything good always would remain”
  • Why we love it: Nothing complicated here. Just fun music with a good vibe. We first heard Jack Johnson’s album Brushfire Fairytales beachside in Koh Lanta Yai. It was playing over the stereo at a bar we frequented. Went out and bought it that afternoon on the island. Been listening to it since.

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7. Casey Jones

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Casey Jones

  • Artist: The Grateful Dead
  • Songwriters: Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter
  • Fact: Inspired by the story of an actual engineer named Casey Jones, an American railroad engineer whose train crashed. His dramatic death trying to stop his train and save lives made him a folk hero.
  • Great lyric: “Driving that train, high on cocaine, / Casey jones is ready, watch your speed. / Trouble ahead, trouble behind, / And you know that notion just crossed my mind.”
  • Why we love it: Well, we’ve had our driving tune and we’ve left on a jet plane, but we have yet to take the train. Hop on board with the Dead. When travelling by any means music by the Grateful Dead is a must. They themselves were consummate traveles, and were well-known for constantly touring throughout their long career—playing more than 2,300 live concerts.

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8. A Case of You

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A Case of You

  • Artist: Joni Mitchell
  • Songwriter: Joni Mitchell
  • Fact: Some critics and Mitchell biographers believe that the song may have been inspired by her love affair with Leonard Cohen. This, however, has never been substantiated.
  • Great lyric:On the back of a cartoon coaster / In the blue tv screen light / I drew a map of canada / Oh Canada”
  • Why we love it: Well, Kathryn and I love this tune because it’s a hurting ballad of love that’s quintessentially Canadian. And it belongs in this list because Kathryn and I still remember it being lovingly sung to us by a British backpacker we met with while touring around Southeast Asia. Every time we here the song now, it evokes a strong sense of place and feeling. Any tunes do the same for you?

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9. Down Under

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Down Under

  • Artist: Men At Work
  • Songwriters: Colin Hay and Ron Strykert
  • Fact: We don’t recall this, but apparently Men at Work played this song at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, alongside other Australian artists.
  • Great lyric: “Traveling in a fried-out combie. / On a hippie trail, head full of zombie. / I met a strange lady, she made me nervous.”
  • Why we love it: Did you read that lyric above? The song is about an Australian backpacker on the hippie trail. What could be more perfect on a traveler’s playlist? Among other things, one of the verses refers to Vegemite sandwiches. Vegemite is quintessiantially Australian. And, essentially disgusting. It’s a sandwich spread made of yeast. Regardless, best song ever.*

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Hope you enjoyed the list as much as we enjoyed putting it together! Picking the perfect song playlist for your travels can make a trip more enjoyable—whether you’re chilling on an airplane listening on your headset or bouncing around in the back of bus.

But wait! This list comprised only 9 songs—and we promised 10! There’s a reason this list is so asymmetical—we’re asking our readers to submit a favourite in the comments below to help us round it up to 10.

So, please, let us know which tune deserves a place in this list. Have at it!

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A Better Blog!

This posting was inspired by Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Bloga downloadable e-book designed to help you revitalize your blog by giving you 31 tasks that will all help to improve! Darren’s book essentially provides one action or activity to do per day for a 31 day period—and a lesson around why it should be done. Today’s ‘list post’ was the second activity from the work book, the first was our post on building a better travel blog. We’ve been working through the activities that Darren has suggested and will include a note whenever a post is inspired by his program. For anyone who hasn’t checked out Darren Rowse’s eBook already, we highly recommend it. In addition to providing substantive recommendations on how to improve your blog, there is an excellent community built around his methods.Highly recommended—check it out here.

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Category: Dan's Blog

About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

Comments (16)

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  1. How about, “Life is a Highway”, by Tom Cochrane. The harmonica on this song is so instantly recognizable, to those who listened to rasio in the early-90s, at least! How could you not love the cheesy line “from the Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights?”. Cheeky.

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Steven. But, respectfully will have to decline. CanCon (Canadian content rules for radio) have made me absolutely detest this song. I think I have heard it on radio 179,000x since its release. Enough already! I realize Canada doesn’t have a lot of international hits, but…

      Had it not been for Canadian radio ruining this song for me, I would happily include it in the list, as it fits the bill perfectly. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. You guys, I’d suggest “Throw It All Away” by Zero 7.

    Por ejemplo:

    Cash it in and throw it all away
    Never needed any of it anyway

    So you crash, and you burn
    Sometimes the road will twist and turn
    Some of this, less of that
    Forget all about the map, California Rose

    Now if that doesn’t say “RTW” to you…

    • Daniel says:

      Hey cool—thanks TravelsWithTwo. Which disc is this on? I have both ‘When it Falls’ and ‘Simple Things’ — but checked in my iTunes and couldn’t find it. Oh I see, it’s from ‘The Garden’. Hmmm perhaps I should download? I really like Zero 7, and think that ‘Simple Things’ is a classic album, but a lot of online music nerds/critics seem to hate them. Ah, their music is good. Love the downtempo stuff.

  3. Jen Laceda says:

    Oh…I never understood what Toto’s Africa song was about. Never really thought about it, but thanks for clarifying. Darn, I even saw them in concert. It was a first date with this boy in my college that I really, really, really liked :)

    And One Night In Bangkok, classic!!!

    I would download Joe Jackson if I were in New York City getting ready for a night out!! It kinda just reminds me of NY City lights!!

    By the way, I responded to your question on my blog :)

    • Daniel says:

      You saw Toto? On a date? That’s cool! Something about that song that I’ve always liked. Still can’t put my finger on it.

  4. There’s a song by Lemon Jelly called Ramblin’ Man which is thoroughly enjoyable. Most of the song just involves a man speaking the names of different places around the world (listed here). But the tune is wonderful, his voice is really fantastic, and it’s rather dreamy to think about visiting all of the places he names (or saying “We’ve been there!” when he names a place you’ve already visited). :)

    • Daniel says:

      Oh. Thanks for the ‘Lemon Jelly’ suggestion. Hadn’t heard of them before, but reviews have compared them with Boards of Canada, which I adore. Downloading now!

    • Daniel says:

      Well—I’ve been listening to Lemon Jelly’s album for a while now and adore it, as well. Thanks for the suggestion, Jessica! I remember that guy’s vocie from my childhood. He must have narrated film strips or something like that. I just can’t place it!

  5. Dave and Deb says:

    Well, I already have most of those on my ipod, I like your taste, so I will check out Amsterdam. I don’t think that I know it. I can’t help it whenever I am in Bangkok, I always have One Night Bangkok running through my head. It drives me crazy, but I love that song.

    • Daniel says:

      Peter Bjorn and John are highly recommended. Honestly, ‘Writer’s Block’ has been a standard for the past couple of years (in my MP3). And really puts me in a travellin’ mood! It’s a very solid album, in my opinion.

  6. DAVID HAWKE says:

    Metalica’s Where ever I may roam

    • Daniel says:

      David — I hope you’re still traveling when Kathryn and I start our adventure! We’ve gotta meet up. I like your style. Got your email too, and checking out plugins and the like for embedding google maps into your blog.

  7. DAVID HAWKE says:

    Hope I never stop traveling! About 16 month on the big one then back to the Antigua Guatemala area to find a new home base, absolutely fell in love with that area last winter, miss it & the friends I made there but a lot of world left to see.

    Will still have all of South America, the South Pacific, India, South Africa not to mention Antartica but plan them in shorter trips of a couple months so should have a few years yet. LOL

    Mucho gracias for checking on my google glitch.

  8. DAVID HAWKE says:

    Just came across another one for when you get to missing Canada “An Ode for the Road” by Stompin’ Tom Connors.

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