There isn’t an essential musical accolade Duran Duran’s John Taylor hasn’t been awarded, from last year’s Rock Hall induction, to Grammys and Brits and Ivor Novellos, to numerous “Lifetime Achievement” honors. Not to mention over 100 million records sold, multiple gold and platinum certifications, and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Yet the bass player is a consummate connoisseur of essential new music. I used to send him care packages of advance cassettes and CDs some 20 years ago and he listened to them all. Everything Taylor and his fellow Duranies ingest feeds into their own albums, which show no sign of slowing down. Their most recent essential studio album, 2021’s FUTURE PAST, was a self-referential revelation produced by the visionary Erol Alkan (with a couple of songs produced by the legendary Giorgio Moroder). Marking Duran Duran’s 40th anniversary, Future Past hit the Top 40 in over 20 countries and the group has been on a never-ending tour ever since its release.
On August 19, Duran Duran performed a special sold-out benefit concert for their former member, Andy Taylor and the fight against prostate cancer, with which he is afflicted. That show is part of a slew of tour dates that take the Fab Five through North America until the end of summer. Also this month, Duran Duran’s feature-length docu-concert film, A Hollywood High, will be released on DVD and Blu-ray with exclusive bonus material. A Hollywood High, which was filmed atop The Aster in Hollywood against the backdrop of the Capitol Records tower, began streaming exclusively on Paramount+ earlier this summer.
With everything he has going on, Taylor found the time to run down his essential favorite things of the moment, which range from art galleries to obscure albums, podcasts, books, and meditative martial arts.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Hauser & Wirth, anywhere really. Modern Art gallerists that are genius at integrating cultures. Always great food and restaurants, bookstores and beyond. I’m not usually turned on by gardens, but in Somerset, the work by Piet Oudolf blew my mind. He also did the High Line in NYC.
Barbie Movie Soundtrack
I so wanted to avoid jumping on the Barbie bandwagon, but the soundtrack kicks ass. Great Mark Ronson productions on tracks by Dua Lipa and Lizzo, although my favorite is the ‘80s era masterjam “I’m Just Ken.”
“Spartacus Love Theme” by Alex North
Sometimes a piece of music comes my way that presses so many nostalgia buttons I just want to drown in it. I have to firmly adult myself away from listening to it on repeat. This happened recently when I heard the “Spartacus Love Theme” by Alex North. Don’t ask me to play it for you, this is a private thing.
Generation Sex at the Dog Day Afternoon Festival in South London
From the moment Steve Jones played the opening lick to “Pretty Vacant” to the epic closer “My Way,” I was enthralled. No better way to reconsider the power of English punk rock than seeing this band live.
Hugh Cornwell’s Film/Music Podcast MrDemilleFM
I always liked his voice and songwriting skills with The Stranglers, but he turns out to be a superb concierge to obscure corners of the film/music world. Suggest you begin with episode 13 and his interview with Brian Eno.
When I came home from the last Duran tour, I reckoned I was going to need hip replacement surgery. It’s that time and I’m that old. But tai chi is teaching me to heal the body from within. No knives. I wish I had started earlier.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Sticking my neck out: this is the book of the year. To describe it, as it was described to me as, “a retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield set in contemporary Appalachia amidst the opioid epidemic” does not sound encouraging, but it is…a masterpiece. Funny and sad, quite depressing at times but utterly redemptive and transformative. My kind of story. Oh, and the audio [book] is great.
Eno’s Solo Albums
Before the sublime Another Green World, Brian Eno took aim at Roxy Music’s pop audience with two albums that have really stood the test of time. Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) are dazzling works that weirdly anticipate punk, but, more precisely, post-punk. Clever, organic, and always groovy.
Henry Taylor, Painter
Not just because we are from the same tribe, I fell heavily for Henry’s show at MOCA in LA. Thoughtful, funny and emotive. No concept, straightforward human painting.
Khatia Buniatishvili’s Motherland
Another album to drown in deliciously. A superb mix of piano pieces from Brahms to Ligeti, with lovely segues. Turns the most clinical hotel room into your mother’s womb. Great to do tai chi to.