“Without experimentation a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static” — Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain is a figure who became synonymous with non-conformity. Whether through his progressive food, his dedication to the dive bar and all its inhabitants, or his adoration of all things punk, Anthony Bourdain was a bastion of anti-establishment splendour. It was a style of delivery and authenticity that endeared him to so many hearts and minds across the globe and made him a mega-star.
While he spent most of his time in the limelight on TV, music is perhaps the lifeblood of Bourdain’s world. Here we take a look back at parts of the connective tissue music provided between moments and people in his life with a brand new playlist of some of the iconic chef’s most treasured songs.
It is well-known that Bourdain was a champion of New York’s punk movement; the acclaimed chef was somewhat coincidentally at the forefront of the scene as it bubbled away in the cauldron of NYC’s backstreets—both he and the bands swirling their own stews. In fact, Bourdain was often cited as saying that both chefs and musicians worked in similar undulating patterns. They were nightwalkers, the working men of the dark streets of New York’s bubbling underbelly.
It was a theory that Bourdain took with him wherever he went. Whether he was reviewing a restaurant—often commenting on the music being played in the dining room as much as the food—or speaking with the numerous musicians and icons that littered his show Parts Unknown, Bourdain was always an authentic lover of music and was not shy about how it had affected or soundtracked his storied life.
Over the course of a few interviews and radio shows, Bourdain has given us a plethora of songs to call his ‘favourite’ and to make a kicking playlist out of them too. While we can’t be sure on his definitive list, sadly leaving us before any such choice was made in any grand sense, this list is a mirror of the icon’s burning past and reflects a life led in the subversive shadows. It’s a playlist that can fill an entire room.
The chef seemingly connected with songs with a charge of electricity running through them, the quaking moments of unknown terror permeating through every note. These were the song he connected with. First on the list is Brian Jonestown Massacre’s ‘Anemone’, which Bourdain said was “drenched in opiates and regret, I heard this song once and became besotted by it. It sounds like lost love, past lives, unforgiven mistakes and transgressions,” fitting acclaim for the song’s creator and Bourdain’s friend, Anton Newcombe.
The chef also had a place in his heart for the downright dirty New York Dolls and their hit ‘Personality Crisis’, which Bourdain says was “an answered prayer,” before adding: “The antidote to all the lousy music of the era. Loud, unapologetically sloppy. Johnny Thunders guitar made life worth living again and permitted everything good that followed, like New York punk. Joyously nihilistic.” A theme that sadly runs throughout the playlist.
Bourdain was punk rock until the end, never-wavering from his unstoppable mission, never dropping his gaze from you or anyone else who crossed his path without the proper papers. Anthony Bourdain was one of the realest motherfuckers this world has ever seen, and we’re proud to have been able to share in his love for music along with him. It was a badge of honour that he had sewn into his sleeve, alongside his heart, and one that permeates the music with which he feels most connected.
From Roxy Music’s ‘Do The Strand’ being described as “two years of college and this was all I remember”, to the subversive moments of Curtis Mayfield, about which he says: “Ahhh…cocaine. I wanted it. And even though the Superfly soundtrack (unlike the film) is decidedly anti-drug and cautionary, it sure made coke sound desirable to me. The lush arrangements are timeless, whatever your position. This is still in heavy rotation on my iPod long after I gave up the powders.” Bourdain was always open and honest, upfront and unabashed, something he and his favourite musicians always shared.
Below our chef selects the most veined, fat-dripping chunks of meat for us to sink our teeth into with Talking Heads, Bob Dylan and the Stooges all adding extra weight to the megawatt playlist below.
It’s all the confirmation you needed to know that Bourdain wasn’t just a rock ‘n’ roll chef but a serious music lover and art enthusiast. This is the work of a real fan.
Anthony Bourdain’s favourite songs:
- ‘Anemone’ – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
- ‘Pusherman’ – Curtis Mayfield
- ‘What’s Going On’ – Marvin Gaye
- ‘Do the Strand’ – Roxy Music
- ‘Once In A Lifetime’ – Talking Heads
- ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ – Bob Dylan
- ‘Chinese Rocks’ – The Heartbreakers
- ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ – Public Image Ltd.
- ‘Personality Crisis’ – The New York Dolls
- ’96 Tears’ – ? and The Mysterions
- ‘Down on the Street’ – The Stooges
- ‘Sonic Reducer’ – The Dead Boys
- ‘Love In Spurts’ – Richard Hell & The Voidoids
- ‘Fight For Your Right’ – Beastie Boys
- ‘Pay to Cum’ – Bad Brains
- ‘White Lines’ – Grandmaster Flash
- ‘Riot Act’ – Elvis Costello & The Attractions