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Desert Island Disc Challenge: A ‘Stadium Arcadium’ Memoir

Will this double album’s magical powers be enough to ensure survival?

Adam Shay

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Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to take on the age-old challenge of choosing one piece of music they would like to have with them if they were stranded on a deserted island. It’s an absurd notion, but also irresistible. See all the different approaches they took to the challenge right over here.

It has been eight days since my plane crashed on this deserted Pacific island. Even after eight days of survival, I feel like a Martian on a new planet, wandering about aimlessly. Aside from some rope, a knife, and a few granola bars, a few other items survived the crash: an early 90s’ boombox with the Red Hot Chili Peppers album Stadium Arcadium, and… some batteries.

Thankfully, Stadium Arcadium has been my crutch since it was released in 2006.

As food runs scarce and fresh water begins to diminish, the double sided, 28-song album — running two hours and thirty-one minutes — has kept my hopes alive. For years, these songs have kept me sane through self-loathing and self-doubt, from straight rocking to belting my heart out.

As I scramble to build a fire, those thoughts are reoccurring, reflecting all my memories with Stadium Arcadium: Every road trip with my family, yelling “Charlie” in my kitchen making breakfast, those memories are has what kept me going through eight grueling days.

There are also the subtle memories I keep to myself, like when I geeked out during the movie The Fighter when “Strip My Mind” was on the soundtrack. These memories keep me focused as I reinforce my lean-to shelter against a 500-foot beach-side bluff, preparing for the imminent storm brewing.

While I rest in between sorrow and coconut trees, I realize the album is much more than a Grammy nominated work of art. It’s beautiful and vivid and relatable. It’s an unbroken stream of flawless rhythm and vocals. And as I lay here worrying about every drop of fresh water, or last bite of food, songs like “Slow Cheetah” and “Torture Me” remind me I can build a fortress from anything on this Godforsaken island.

Except the tropical storm coming. I really thought my lean-to would hold up, but it’s proven to be frail. 

In my worst moments, I turn to Track 13 on the Jupiter side: “Wet Sand.” Ironically, this will be the first time, hopefully the last, I listen to this song surrounded by actual wet sand, trembling under a strung together, palm tree blanket.

For years, “Wet Sand” was how I happily ended every day. The melodic build up to an Anthony Keidis scream, followed by a heart pulsating guitar solo from John Frusciante, it makes me feel like I’m back at home. Lyrics like “I’m motivated by the lack of doubt” circulate through my body, reminding it to persevere through all.

The following day is storm free, but not any better.

My skin has fried, lips shattered, but hey, on a side as bright as the sun, the Mars side of Stadium Arcadium is uplifting me. The other 14 songs on the album are less melodic, more rock, and they sustain my borderline positive mood.

Songs like “Tell Me Baby” and “Readymade” can still make this frail body sway with the breeze. I always saw “Hard To Concentrate” as an underrated masterpiece, as the song is a proposal from bassist Flea to his now ex-wife. I envisioned that’s how I would propose to one of my ex-wives one day.

It is official: the sun has beaten me to oblivion and not even can track eight “Make You Feel Better” help me. It always has brought light in my lowest moments, but right now it’s tough to tell what’s reality and what is one my newly acquired hallucinations.

To make matters worse, I’m down to my last batteries, along with no motivation to catch food or find fresh water. The sun is at its highest point, but life is pitch black in my eyes.

I lay motionless under a tree, finishing off Stadium Arcadium. I have accepted my fate and you know, it’s okay.

Despite being alone for now 10 days, it felt like I had an old friend with me, and for that, I am thankful. Thankful for a lot now that I think of it. Thankful for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Thankful for Stadium Arcadium. Thankful for the memories cherished with the album full blast inroad trips. Thankful for now, that I’ll be able to listen to “Turn It Again” once more.

And thankfully, as I gasp for my last oxygen intake, I’ll die with Track 14 off the Jupiter side playing “Death of a Martian.” For the first time in my life, I don’t think Stadium Arcadium can save me…

But it turns out that this Martian will not die today.

I hear helicopters whirring across the horizon. Why on Earth did I think Stadium Arcadium wasn’t going to save my life?

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Adam Shay is a graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, During his four years at EIU, he wrote for the Daily Eastern News for two and a half years, covering multiple sports, news events, and writing feature stories. He was also on the rugby club team for two years, a member of the Society of Collegiate Journalists, and finished third in applying for his commencement speech. Currently, he runs a public relations system for a bar in Palatine, Illinois, and in his free time, he is always learning about music, sports history, and American history.

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