Let’s get something clear from the outset: this is not a dedicated list put together by an international team of musos who spend all day every day listening to cutting-edge music through ludicrously expensive Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones. It’s a personal list of songs that – for one reason or another – I must have in my ears at some point while travelling.
20. Carter USM – The Impossible Dream
Trust Jim Bob to turn an all-time favourite showtune into an overblown drunken karaoke singalong spectacular, as gleefully demented as Sid Vicious’s take on My Way. Fitting perfectly with the Quixotic nature of The Odyssey Expedition, this was my go-to track whenever things weren’t going my way.
Did you know this got nominated for a Grammy?! Who knew?!!
Killer line: And the world will be better for this…
19. Morrissey – I Will See You In Far-Off Places
While it’s not one of his best, this is probably Ol’ Misery Guts’ most prescient song when it comes to my life (although Last of the Famous International Playboys comes a close second). And, yes, this came true again and again on my journey, with me meeting up with or running into people I knew in some exceptionally far-off places indeed.
Killer line: If the USA doesn’t bomb you…
18. Cake: The Distance
One-and-a-half hit wonder Cake here with one of the more bizarrely upbeat songs of this Top 20, about a guy who just will not quit, no matter what. Inspirational much?
Killer line: The sun has gone down the moon has come up…
17. David Bowie – Heroes
Oh Bowie. Why did you have to leave us? There’s a dark delight to the futile urgency of Heroes; one man, desperately screaming into the void that we can do this. It often feels that way when you’re on the road, attempting to do what others have already written off as impossible (see #10). Just stick with me, we can do this. Or maybe we can’t. But we can at least try, nobody can fault us for that.
Killer line: I wish I could swim…
16. Blur – This Is A Low
Jeez Damo, could you write a song that makes me feel more homesick? This ditty, based on Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast, takes the listener on a boat trip around the British Isles from the Dogger Bank to the Bay of Biscay and back for tea. This song made me smile on those long boat journeys, just thinking about ol’ Queenie going round the bend and jumping off Land’s End.
Killer line: And so into the sea…
BONUS: Here’s me flying about the place before I thought it might be more fun not to fly (I may have been wrong).
15. Louis Armstrong – Moon River
Oh Audrey, I’m sorry to muscle you out, but I’ve got to give the mic to Satchmo for this one. A timeless melody that (quite rightly) won the Oscar for best song back in 1961, Harry Mancini’s simple lullaby succinctly sums up the aspirations of everybody who feels the urge to grab a backpack and see for themselves what lies beyond the river’s bend.
Killer line: Two drifters off to see the world…
14. Black Box Recorder – I Ran Away The Way Home
When I returned, girlfriendless, to Sri Lanka in the late summer of 2012, this was all I listened to on repeat. I was sick of this stupid journey. I regressed into a rather childish mentality. Happily I was rescued by a passing ship, just like she dreams of in the song, so that worked out alright.
Killer line: Send a message to a passing ship…
Sadly I can’t find it on YouTube so you’re just going to have to take my word for it. In the meantime, here’s England Made Me by the same band. You’ll get the gist.
13. Bright Eyes – We Are Nowhere And It’s Now
A waltz for the dispossessed, this jaunty ditty of alcohol and despair might not at first seem to fit with the typical travel narrative, but talk of passenger seats and the world passing by utterly qualifies it in my book. Plus the title was how I felt on more than one occasion. Sometimes you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got, m’kay?
Killer line: I haven’t been gone very long…
12. The Aliens – Honest Again
There’s a moment when you’re alone on an overnight bus and you’re winding through the mountains and you look up at the sky and the stars are clearer than you could ever imagine and all you want in the world is for somebody you love to be sitting next to you so you can hold their hand and share the experience, but no, you’re all alone. This song is the soundtrack to that moment.
Killer line: How long will it be till I see you again…?
11. Elbow – On A Day Like This
Yes it’s another indie song about alcoholism, but come on, Team GB picked this as their Olympic anthem for a reason – it’s bloomin’ wonderful! It’ll always remind me of being awake in a grotty bus station at some ungodly hour and getting that intangible buzz that one only feels at the start of some new adventure, watching the sun rise through the dust and the smog and deciding there and then – against all reason – that all is right with the world.
Killer line: Throw those curtains wide…
BONUS: Here’s my video of Team GB mooching around London with all their lovely medals.
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