“It feels good to play a little music / Tears running down my face ’cause I love to do it”
Adam Yauch – “Root Down”
Beastie Boys – “I Don’t Know”
Adam Yauch who lost his three year battle with Salivary Gland cancer on Friday (4th May) certainly crammed a lot into an all too short 47 years. A Buddhist, Tibet freedom campaigner and concert organiser, film distributor, director, magazine and label owner but above all, the irrepressible MCA, one third of one of the all-time Hip-Hop groups, The Beastie Boys.
Only a couple of weeks ago The Beasties were inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame. Yauch was too ill to attend but sent a letter dedicating the honour to his fellow B-Boys, “who have walked the globe with me“. Ad-Rock and Mike D in turn paid tribute to Yauch, “It was to MCA’s parents’ house in Brooklyn where I remember I would go every day after school to make a damn god awful racket”
The pair declined to perform without their friend and who knows if they ever will again?
BEASTIE BOYS – “INTERGALACTIC (PSYCHEDELIC SINGH REMIX)” – Thanks to Amarik for posting this for me!
Rewinding a quarter of a century and 40 or so million record sales, The Beastie Boys first burst into my consciousness in a flurry of tabloid outrage. The Sun led a campaign to stop the heinous and in their eyes violent trio getting visa’s to enter the UK (although as The Beasties & Run DMC complain in the video below the claims were overblown). Once here, a 20-foot, motorized inflatable penis, and go-go dancers in cages caused a bit of a fuss, and headlines ranging from throwing bottles at their audience to abusing disabled children accompanied their every turn. The youth of the nation responded by gleefully ripping the badges off VW cars in their honour.
Beastie Boys – “Rock Hard” (1985)
The craze even reached the wilds of Carlisle where a 15-year-old me wasn’t quite brave enough to strip cars of their insignia, but Foggy, my mate up the road, built up quite a bounty of shiny VW’s, despite preferring Stock Aitken & Waterman. To my dad’s horror the family Morris Minor was stripped of its badge – thieved presumably by a confused Morris Minor & The Majors fan – while in a bid to halt the mini crime epidemic VW desperately offered to send a badge to any kid who wrote and asked.
Tim Westwood who back then was a Pirate Radio DJ fervently plugging Hip-hop as he still does to a wider audience today posted this fantastic video from the 1986 “Raising Hell” tour. The Beastie Boys along with LL Cool J perform amidst utter chaos, ending with MCA flinging himself head first into the crowd.
It’s also easy to forget just how terrified parents were of The Beasties back then. The episode of Oprah below gives a hint and is worth watching anyway for the simple pleasure of hearing Tipper Gore say “20 foot inflatable penis“.
“In those days hip-hop was truly from the streets and everyone rapping was black and then all of a sudden these 3 punk rock white kids appeared..” Chuck D speaking at Video Vangard Award (Youtube)
Chuck D: “Last night, I took a 14 hour flight to Sydney, Australia from LA, embarking on PE’s 80th tour in 25 years. I just landed to 65 texts with the news. Adam and the Boys put us on our first tour 25 years and 79 tours ago. They were essential to our beginning, middle and today. Adam especially was unbelievable in our support from then ’til now, even allowing me to induct them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I consider myself a strong man and my father says be prepared to lose many in your post-50 path of life. Still, I’m a bit teary-eyed leaving this plane. R.I.P. Adam aka MCA.”
Fab Freddy interviewed The Beasties on Yo! MTV Raps remembers Adam trying to set him up with Drew Barrymore
“I remember when I was at this restaurant and it was a bunch of us hanging out. Then I got a drink from this young lady. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was Drew Barrymore. So I’m sitting there trying to see this lady who sent me the drink, so when I went over there to see what’s up. I was like, ‘Thanks for the drink’ and she said, ‘I didn’t send you a drink, you sent me a drink,’ and I look over and see this guy laughing hysterically and it’s Adam. It’s moments like that that I will miss most.”
Beastie Boys on Joan Rivers show
Public Enemy may have got their first live break supporting The Beasties but by 1989 they were in their pomp and destroying all comers while a day-glo De La Soul had the student halls sewn up. The Beastie Boy’s meanwhile had been written off as a flash in the pan novelty and had split with their label Def Jam and producer Rick Rubin.
What they did next surprised everyone, or at least it would’ve if anyone had been paying attention. With The Dust Brothers producing, The Beasties created “Paul’s Boutique” an ahead of its time soup that melded three Beatles tunes, Chic and Bernard Herrmann among a myriad of samples. Despite or perhaps because of its innovative sound, it was such a commercial flop that their new label Capitol gave up promoting it shortly after its release.
Lyrically it was a half way house between the early and later Beasties, combining hilarious lines like “Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair
So I can climb up and get into your underwear” with the Sly Stone sampling “Shadrach” which refers to the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Shadrach also had an ace music video courtesy of Klasky Csupo, who’d just produced a bunch of teaser cartoons called The Simpsons for the Tracey Ullman show.
Paul’s Boutique release party 1989
By Check Your Head (1992) and Ill Communication (1994) the boys had travelled a long way from the days of being chastised by LL Cool J for their lewd behaviour (youtube) or of Yauch telling Playboy that Southern girls were renowned for their dick sucking abilities. On the opening track “Sure Shot” Yauch delivers what could be construed as an apology for earlier misdemeanour’s.
“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/ The disrespect to women has got to be through/ To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”
In ‘92 I finally had enough money to buy some turntables and I’d while away hours scratching up two copies of the Frozen Metal Head EP. The B Side Original Original version featured Yauch in a cutting frenzy on the Technics, and allowed even a terminally hopeless DJ like myself to sound like a genius.
Beastie Boys – “Jimmy James (Original Original Version)“
There’s a bootleg album “Double Check Your Head” that overlays The Beasties with all the tracks sampled on Check Your Head.
Download – Double Check Your Head LP
Of course Ill Communication also contained Sabotage, better known for possibly the greatest music video ever. When it lost to REM’s Everybody Hurts at the video awards Yauch dressed as Nathan Hornblower predated Kanye West’s strop, getting on stage to protest at director Spike Jonze missing out on an award. Danny Boyle was apparently such a fan he based the opening of Trainspotting on it, although that may be an urban myth..
You can download an audio commentary of The Beasties talking about each track on Ill Communication from their website for free.
Yauch converted to Buddhism in ’94 (article) and co-foundered the Milarepa Fund, which presented the Tibetan Freedom Concert series.
After the attacks of September 11th, The Beastie Boys not only headlined a benefit concert “New Yorkers Against Violence” but penned the perfect love letter to their home “Open Letter To NYC”. It’s also a celebration of the racial diversity and immigration that makes NYC, and indeed cities like London what they are. On hearing of Yauch’s passing the NY Mets paid tribute by playing a Beastie’s track each time they walked to the plate.
Beastie Boys – “Open Letter To NYC”
In the 2003 outraged by the Bush administration’s 9/11 fuelled war on Iraq they released “In a World Gone Mad,” as a free download in protest with MCA rhyming, “In a world gone mad it’s hard to think right / So much violence hate and spite /Murder going on all day and night / Due time we fight the non-violent fight.”
To The 5 Borough’s contains 3 tracks directly attacking Bush, as well as tackling issues like gun control, with Yauch addressing Bush’s post 9/11 acts in an interview with the Toronto Sun “I already thought he was jackass but that definitely took it to a whole other level, the things he’s done since then”. 2004’s B-side “This Government Needs A Tune Up” continued the theme.
YAUNCH – THE FILM MAKER
Often going under the name Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch was a film lover and film maker, founding Oscilloscope films, distributing films along with producing over 50 titles including Banksy’s documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”.
He directed The Beasties “Awesome; I F–kin’ Shot That!” concert film as well as the 30 minute “Fight For Your Right (Revisited)” parody featuring a roll call of celeb guest appearances, like Will Farrell.
Adam picks his favourite 10 films for Criterion.
Beastie Boys – “Breezeblock Mix on BBC Radio1” (MP3)
The samplers become the sampled with many an artist plundering The Beastie Boys back catalogue for sounds. MCA told Wired magazine how the Beastie’s approached sampling and his view on others pilfering from them:.
“It’s totally context. And it depends on how much of our song they’re using and how much of a part it plays in their song,” he said. “We might take a tiny little insignificant sound from a record and then slow it way down and put it deep in the mix with, like, 30 other sounds on top of it. It’s not even a recognizable sample at that point. Which is a lot different than taking a huge, obvious piece from some hit song that everyone knows and saying whatever you want to on top of that loop.”
The Pharcyde brilliantly nicked the phrase “mmmm drop” from Ill Communications “The New Style” – Incredible video too by Spike Jonze (who also produced Sabotage for the Beasties)
The Pharcyde – “Drop”
Kathala 72 Vs The Beastie Boys
The Beasties last performed live together in 2009 at Bonnaroo, closing with Sabotage, and then cancelling their headline set at Lollapalooza to allow Adam to have treatment.
Yanch is survived by his daughter and wife Dechen Wangdu, who he met at a speech by the Dalai Lama. When they married in 1998 Yauch sprung a wedding surprise by asking Dechen’s favourite band, Rancid to play.
“I think every person has the ability to effect change. I think we’re often led to believe that it’s just celebrities have some ability to effect change but I think that what’s important for us to realise is that everyone of us affects the world constantly through our actions, through our every smallest action, through our every thought, our every word, the way that we interact with other people we’re constantly affecting the world”
MORE TO READ:
Adam “MCA” Yauch: Rest In Peace – Former Def Jam director of publicity Bill Adler eulogises Adam Yauch, remembering how he evolved from angry young man to agent of peace. – Complex
MCA (What Does It Mean?) – Questlove and Respect To The End – The Roots’ ?uestlove shares some Beastie memories. – Okay Player