Anthony Bourdain is an author, world traveler, insane eater and a punk rock aficionado. He was attracted to sinister and angry music at an early age, but it was when he discovered The Stooges that his “downward spiral” began. The outspoken TV personality shares favorites from his formative years and more as part of his Guest DJ set. Anthony is the host of the TV show No Reservations on the Travel Channel and a bestselling author. His latest book is Medium Raw.
For More: www.anthonybourdain.net
Liza Richardson: Hi, I'm Liza Richardson from KCRW and I'm here with Anthony Bourdain - world traveler, TV personality, insane eater and master chef. And today, we will be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Anthony, welcome!
Anthony Bourdain: Happy to be here.
LR: Tell me what you brought.
AB: Five songs that were important to me in my life at various points, starting with one of my all-time favorites still - 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians. It would be accurate to describe it, I think, as a pre-punk classic.
AB: Even at age 10, I responded right away to that. Cheesy, evil, roller-rink organ…it laid out for me the possibility for darkness in an otherwise happy landscape of AM radio pop music. This was a very sinister-looking band -- Question Mark, had sort of a Ramone-like bowl haircut and wraparound shades. It's essentially a very angry song about revenge.
LR: That was 96 Tears, it's by ? and the Mysterians, it's the choice of our guest DJ, Anthony Bourdain. You brought some amazing music, what's next?
AB: Still one of the great soundtrack records of all time -- “Pusherman,” my favorite song from one of my favorite records from the soundtrack to “Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield. This song's got it all -- the percussion, that sort of talking drum sound, the strings. It captures a particular moment in the history of film and American history, and yet it’s good and it will always be good. This is still great driving music, you know? Drive around 35 miles per hour, in the evening, listening to this with the windows rolled down…you will be a happy person.
AB: This just tapped into everything -- my new aspirations for materialism, my love for early blaxploitation pictures; this just fit in with my young man's dreams of success. It was sort of a pro-drug movie, I mean the hero was a cocaine dealer, but the soundtrack and lyrics are actually very anti-drug and moralistic. Just the same, it was the early 70s, and I was still of the mind that, you know, cocaine was a good idea. (laughs) I had yet to learn.
LR: So that's “Pusherman,” it's Curtis Mayfield, the choice of our Guest DJ, Anthony Bourdain. What's next?
AB: Well, it was the end of the 60s, and I realized I'd missed it. I was just turning 13, just in time to go out and be a hippie in San Francisco and have all of those good times and free love that I had been promised in the magazines, and it was already over. You know, going off to a commune, didn’t seem like a good idea anymore…hippies clearly had hygiene issues, and I didn't want to share my yogurt with anybody. I was angry, disgruntled, I had nothing to believe in. The entire musical landscape was tired. I think it was 1970, and The Stooges came out with their greatest record ever -- “Funhouse” - about as dark, angry, ugly, socially unredeeming, and utterly wonderful as music could get. It just spoke perfectly to my disillusion, my teen angst in full bloom, my rage at society, my disappointment. When I took the turn down towards The Stooges, I did set myself apart in a way that, looking back now, something of the road to ruin, it's no accident that my life started to take a downward spiral.
AB: It really said something about a person if you showed up with a Stooges album. You turned your back on Eric Clapton, you were over Hendrix, you were over everything you were listening to before. You were in a different, slightly dangerous and untrustworthy place. Stooges fans were not the cream of society, and I identified with that closely right away, I responded very powerfully to this record. It was, for me, the antidote to everything that was going on around me. To me, it made The Doors look like self-indulgent hippies. This was the real thing.
LR: “Down on the Street,” it's by The Stooges, from the album “Funhouse.” It's the choice of our Guest DJ today, Anthony Bourdain. He's the host of “No Reservations.” Next on your list is…tell me.
AB: When you're talking about sheer anger and sort of an update to 96 Tears, another revenge fantasy -- Sonic Reducer by The Dead Boys.
It doesn't get any angrier. The name of the album was “Young, Loud & Snotty,” and they delivered on that promise. It's one of the most pure punk albums, I think, ever recorded and a classic punk song. The musicianship is not the best, they were really one of the ugliest band to ever walk a stage. But in that sense, it really encapsulated punk at its lowest and best.
LR: So that's “Sonic Reducer,” by The Dead Boys, and it's the choice of our Guest DJ, Anthony Bourdain, host of “No Reservations.” I'm Liza Richardson, and you're listening to KCRW.com. You've got one more choice…
AB: Love comes in spurts by Richard Hell and the Voidoids, from Blank Generation. CBGB is remembered for The Ramones and Blondie and Television; to a lesser extent by this band who, for me, typified what was really exuberant about that time.
I think it's significant, this song, for its amateurishness, in the best sense of the word. Richard Hell could barely play his instrument a few years earlier. I don't know that he sang in anything resembling a classical way…and, for the sadly deceased Robert Quine’s sloppily brilliant guitar. It is, to me, one of the most wonderful guitar riffs ever. You don't know if he means it or not…nearly out of control and yet precise. I've never heard anything like it.
LR: “Love Comes in Spurts,” it's by Richard Hell and the Voidoids, it's from “Blank Generation” and it's the choice of our guest DJ, Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations…and anything else?
AB: I've got a new book out - Medium Raw.
LR: Medium Raw! Thank you so much for coming in to KCRW.
AB: My pleasure, thanks, it was fun!
LR: For a complete track listing, and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject.