“Shadrach,” from the Beastie Boys’ psychedelic collage masterpiece Paul’s Boutique, should have been a hit. The band made a gorgeous rotoscope video for the song and featured the tune prominently on the EP An Exciting Evening at Home with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but “Shadrach,” with its sample from Sly and the Family Stone’s “Loose Booty,” its mystical wisdom, and its defiant tone, proved just too stupid fresh for the suits at Capitol to get behind.
When the Beasties paid their second and last visit to Soul Train (see their first appearance here), they wanted to perform “Shadrach” live, but host Don Cornelius said no. From Dan LeRoy’s book on Paul’s Boutique (my favorite number in the 33 1/3 series, which last year spawned a sequel co-authored by the excellent Peter Relic):
The Beasties got revenge, says [their friend] Max Perlich, by preparing a special version of “Shadrach,” which included the soundbite, “Do the Don Cornelius.” “He freaked on the spot, because he thought it was live,” remembers Perlich. “And he stopped the taping. But they said, ‘No, this is on the record.’ So they got away with it.”
In other words, forced to mime their mighty jam on TV, these world-class practical jokers modified “Shadrach” (doesn’t it almost rhyme with “Ad-Rock”?) to at once sound live and to poke fun at Cornelius, who was left believing that the Beastie Boys’ latest single paid him tribute. At least, I think he was; he seems a little confused during the interview that follows the song, which departs a little more from the recorded version than LeRoy suggests. You’ll see. It’s nuts.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why the Beasties are rapping about three characters from the Book of Daniel, LeRoy says that their split with Def Jam is not so neatly identifiable with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s righteous refusal to bow down before the image of Nebuchadnezzar as you, or they, might be tempted to think; he also reports that Adam Yauch “was then spending lots of time ‘taking acid and reading the Bible,’ according to his girlfriend, Lisa Ann Cabasa.” I wish he was still around.
When Danger Mouse released The Grey Album, his notorious—and quite illegal—mashup of Beatles tunes and Jay-Z’s a cappella wordplay in 2004, EMI Records immediately issued a cease and desist order. The album became a bit of a cause célèbre, with the “information wants to be free” types providing download links and seeding torrent files all over the Internet. Take that, evil EMI!
Cut to today and the mashups genre has a pretty well-established presence on the Web and, well… yawn. Who cares, right? Most mashups are clunky ear-bleeders, better read about than actually listened to, the main joke being, “Hey, I remixed Patsy Cline with Black Sabbath” or “Hey I mixed Glen Campbell with Sunn O)))!” or whatever zany thing those crazy kids on the Internet will think of next. Amusing? Kinda of, in a very last decade sort of way, but do you actually want to listen to it?
But sometimes—not often—something wonderful happens when two great tastes that shouldn’t necessarily taste great together get mashed up anyway. In 2010, an Englishman named Tom Caruana decided to take some Wu-Tang raps and painstakingly construct a new song using Beatles samples on his Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers project. And what’s even more surprising than his flagrant flaunting of EMI’s copyrights is that the resultant mashups are really good! If Wu-Tang’s resident geniuses ever decided to delve deep into the Beatles catalog instead of soul obscurities for inspiration, this is the album they might have come up with. While most mashups sound like horrible musical Frankenstein monsters created in Pro Tools, this one sounds less like a mashup and more like an actual Wu-Tang record that uses Beatles samples. You can hear the Beatles, clearly, in the mixes (as well as Beatles songs covered by orchestras and “easy listening” combos) but it’s more covert than overt in this case.
KEXP steps inside Paul’s Boutique, June 24th, 2015
Independent Seattle radio station, KEXP will be digging deep into the Beastie Boys celebrated 1989 record, Paul’s Boutique during a marathon twelve-hour broadcast on Friday, July 24th.
The broadcast starts bright and early at 6:00 AM PST with the much loved KEXP morning DJ, John Richards who will start the Beastie Ball rolling with the first few tracks from Paul’s Boutique, as well as some of the 100+ songs that were sampled on the record. The meticulously curated broadcast will continue until 6:00 PM, running through both KEXP’s Mid-Day and Afternoon shows.
During the course of the broadcast KEXP will air brand new interviews with the co-producers of Paul’s Boutique, The Dust Brothers (John King and Mike Simpson), as well as exclusive archival chat with the Beastie Boys. KEXP has really been hyping this broadcast, and it’s not hard to understand why. I spoke to John Richards via email and asked him some questions about the Beasties, and the experience of pulling the twelve-hour marathon together.
John Richards - Morning Show Host & Associate Program Director of KEXP
Dangerous Minds: KEXP is known for its massive music library and I know that DJ’s routinely bring their own records in to play on their shows. Given the depth of musical knowledge that KEXP collectively possesses, how difficult was it to track down all the music that was sampled in Paul’s Boutique for the show?
John Richards: There are some specific songs that have been a challenge for sure but I’d say between KEXP’s amazing library and DJ’s libraries that 90% of it was found in the early planning of the show. After that we were able to get the other 10% within a few days. Our goal was to play as much in its original form as well so for sure you’ll be hearing the snap crackle and pop of vinyl on Friday. KEXP on a daily basis will play vinyl, CDs, streams, wave files, mp3s in any given show. I’ve had to mix a YouTube stream with a record into a mp3. I’m surprised we don’t mix reel to reel and cassettes while we’re at it.
What were your first impressions of Paul’s Boutique back in 1989?
John Richards: Like a lot of people they discovered the Beastie Boys first when “Fight For Your Right…” came out. I remember getting the tape at a very young age based on that song and it putting in the rest of the songs on there blew my mind. It was nothing like that novelty song and really was a gateway to me for them, for sampling, even hip hop. So when I got Paul’s Boutique it made sense to me listening to the other songs from the debut that this was the next step for them. I didn’t know sampling like this was new as it was just new to me at the time. It was radically different then anything I had heard and really those first two albums were “where were you when you first heard them” releases. In both cases I was walking through the soccer field next to my house studying the liner notes, art work and song titles and thinking I was the only person on earth listening to this right now. It was one of those rare moments when a release changes your entire thinking about music and how its made.
While you were culling artifacts for this incredible undertaking (such as interviews, sound-clips, etc), did you discover anything about the record that as a fan, was new to you?
John Richards: I learned a lot talking to The Dust Brothers about the record. One thing was that they were really trying to make a hit with the Beastie Boys (and said they easily could have) but that the Beasties were against it, they wanted a cool record that people would discover years from when it was made. Turns out, that’s exactly what happened and continues to happen. Maybe not in crates but for sure on stations like KEXP.
Paul’s Boutique mural at the corner of Rivington and Ludlow on the Lower East Side of Manhattan by Danielle Mastrion
There are not many artists who inspire the nearly universal reverence and adoration from music fans that the Beastie Boys do. Headbangers, alt-rock kids, electronica geeks, classic rock relics; you name the genre of choice, and I guarantee that the vast majority of the people who cling to them will also be fans of the Beasties. Perhaps nothing speaks better to this point than the huge assortment of diverse samples the Beastie Boys used in the recording process for Paul’s Boutique.
From the score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, to music from the 1974 film Deliverance (not to mention the dozens of pop-culture references mentioned throughout the record including a hilarious and timely swipe at Donald Trump on the track “Johnny Ryall”), if it appears on Paul’s Boutique , you will hear it during KEXP’s broadcast.
If you’re not in Seattle, don’t worry. You can stream the broadcast live via your mobile device or computer. KEXP also archives its wide variety of content, so if you miss any part of the broadcast on Friday, you can come back and stream it whenever you want. And I for one can’t think of a better way to spend a few (or twelve) hours than listening to a magical record that almost killed the Beastie Boys’ career back in 1989.
It’s going to be tastier than a “5-Piece Chicken Dinner.”
“Ain’t it Funky” James Brown (from Ain’t it Funky, 1970). One of the 100+ samples on Paul’s Boutique
NYC advertising creative director Cecilia Azcarate has an apparent fondness for the art of the Renaissance and a gift for connecting it to the present-day. Her Tumblr Ikea B4-XIV cleverly identifies centuries-old analogues to Swedish housewares in Renaissance paintings, and she curates a Twitter feed that’s heavy with the art of that era as well. But she’s hit on a rich vein of astonishing material with her Tumblr B4-XVI, wherein she highlights “an invisible conversation between hip hop and art before the 16th century.” The connections Azcarate identifies between painted portraits from the Renaissance and photographic portraits of 21st Century rappers are, at times, frankly amazing.
By 1991, even the most retrograde of old fogies was starting to suspect that rap music was not going away anytime soon. Advertisers began mining it for every bit of cultural capital they could, and soon hip-hop would be used to sell everything from breakfast cereal to high fashion. It became shorthand for “relevant,” and a nifty cultural touchstone that was sure to resonate with the youth… right? “Cutting-edge” and “hopelessly dated” are not mutually exclusive categories—a lot of groundbreaking things simply look silly in retrospect. Dan Aykroyd’s Nothing but Trouble however, was just completely, unjustifiably bad from the beginning.
The Razzie-winning box office bomb actually had a lot going for it in terms of star-power. In addition to John Candy and Demi Moore, Aykroyd was just coming off the Ghostbusters sequel, and Chevy Chase had finished his final National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. Unfortunately Aykroyd’s success may have have burdened him with a bit of artistically unproductive hubris. He directed the film, co-wrote the screenplay with his brother and co-starred in the movie (almost never a good sign). For a little perspective, this was a movie with the $40 million budget—massive for that time—and the box office take didn’t even reach $8.5 million.
Aykroyd also decided that Oakland hip-hop group Digital Underground (you know, the guys who did “The Humpty Dance”) could spice up the movie with a musical number—with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase’s ultra-white guy characters as the enthusiastic audience. Most notably, this means a cameo by a young Tupac Shakur in the most undignified role of his short life. I’d be absolutely shocked if anyone predicted a future in music for Shakur based on this performance—it’s literally one of the worst moments in hip-hop history.
Emil Amos (Holy Sons, Grails) and Alex Hall’s Lilacs & Champagne their mutant instrumental hip-hop hybrid, finds inspiration in psychedelic Eastern European porno movie soundtracks, B-movie funk, Madlib and J Dilla, space age bachlor pad library music, radio samples and… just about anything. Their third album, Midnight Features Vol. 2: Made Flesh is released on March 17 via Temporary Residence Ltd..
Lilacs & Champagne are currently touring Europe with an expanded live lineup that includes Jay Clarke (Ash Black Buffalo) and Zac Reno. All dates also include Watter and Holy Sons on the bill.
Feb 4, 2015 Bahnhof-Langendreer, Bochum, DE
Feb 5, 2015 Trix, Antwerp BE
Feb 6, 2015 La Zone, Liege, BE
Feb 7, 2015 Birthdays, London, UK
Feb 8, 2015 Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK
Feb 9, 2015 The Oobleck, Birmingham, UK
Feb 11, 2015 Rossli - Reitschule, Bern, CH
Feb 12, 2015 Stadwekstatt, Liz, AT
Feb 13, 2015 Mame Club, Padova, IT
Feb 14, 2015 Lofi Club, Milan, IT
Feb 15, 2015 Arena, Vienna, AT
The success of the This American Life spinoff podcast Serial, which in Season 1 has been looking at the facts surrounding the incarceration of Adnan Masud Syed for the murder of a former girlfriend named Hae-Min Lee, has been a major story in the world of podcasting. It’s been a #1 in the iTunes store for weeks, and if you’re a loyal This American Life listener, you’ve probably been gushing about the case with your friends since the podcast’s inception. As viewers of HBO and AMC have learned of late, the pleasures of the serial form of story-telling can be profound, something the consumers of The Perils of Pauline, Fantômas, and the death of Little Nell decades or centuries ago didn’t need to be told.
To honor a show obsessed with murder, New York-based producer Fafu decided that the thing to do was to mash up the tinkly Serial theme song (composed by Nicholas Thorburn, available here) with something a bit heavier—the Notorious B.I.G. track “Somebody Gotta Die.”
Face it—listening to a murder case week after week has made you feel like a gangsta—now you have a soundtrack to match.
How wholesome do The Sugarhill Gang look right here? It’s kind of surprising that parents weren’t rushing out to buy their kids some records by these nice boys.
I have to say—I was pleasantly surprised by this 1981 20/20 feature on rap music. Not only is it overwhelmingly positive, touting the artistic merits of black youth culture, it really does a decent job describing the phenomenon to people new to the concept. There’s a little bit of history on spoken word black music and the viewer gets a mini-tour of Harlem and the South Bronx. Plus you hear some samples and comments from legends like Kurtis Blow and (of course) Debbie Harry.
The only real gaff that I suspect is the reference to the “big boxes”—I have a feeling they mean to say “boom boxes” but something got lost in translation. That part of the segment actually includes a woman criticizing the aversion to boom boxes as a racist bias. (Edgy!) “Big boxes” aside, I say well done Steve Fox! You accurately predicted the longevity of a now institutionalized art form, and you have a great early 80s mustache!
British artist Lucy Owen put herself through a crash course on America’s most amusingly violent subculture, the magnet-bedazzled Juggalo “family” that regularly congregates around events run by Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, better known as Insane Clown Posse. The annual convention of the band’s facepainted fans has become a riotous annual tradition in the Midwest known as the Gathering of the Juggalos, complete with bands, standup comedy, Faygo, wrestling, helicopter rides, crystal meth, and, at a guess, third-degree burns?
Owen became intrigued by an online forum encounter with a self-identified Juggalo who claimed to be ridiculed and mocked constantly—something I just did myself. Quoth Owen:
“The negative reaction from the other people on the forum was so intense, I was wondering if he’d just admitted to being a child molester or a mass murderer. ... So I started to research it. What I found was a subculture so profoundly bizarre—at times shocking, and other times plain funny—that I felt compelled to start exploring it through my work.”
Owen immersed herself in ICP’s music and headed for Detroit, the band’s home base, and not only attended the Gathering but also followed the band on tour for dates in the Midwest. The fruits of her research can be seen in the 27 paintings of Where the Juggalo Roam, a show that opened last Friday at Start Gallery in Detroit; it runs until December 20.
I have to say, these paintings are quite deftly turned out, a darn sight better than (no offense) whatever image the phrase “Juggalo paintings” was likely to call up.
It’s been over ten years now since Danger Mouse’s notorious Grey Album—a brilliant full length CD that mashed up a capella tracks from Jay Z’s Black Album with remixes of Beatles songs from the White Album—became a cause celebre due to EMI’s attempt to suppress it over the unauthorized use of the Beatles’ material. That move Streisanded all over the place, turning the extremely limited underground release into one of the most-downloaded albums of 2004, one that went on to rank #1 in Entertainment Weekly‘s year end best-of list, and to show up in the Village Voice‘s Pazz and Jop list. It’s so typical—left alone, the album would have remained an insidery bit of DJ culture esoterica, but the effort to bury it instead brought the mashup phenomenon in remix culture to the mainstream.
Since then, many DJs have endeavored high-concept mashup albums, but most have fallen short of Danger Mouse. Hippocamp Collective and DJ BC put out at least three Beatles mashup albums between them, with varying levels of inspiration. A duo called The Silence Xperiment did an album called Q Unit, combining 50 Cent’s rapping with Queen remixes, which was pretty good, though the world had already known since Vanilla Ice that Queen’s grooves are sufficiently potent on their own that they need a special kind of suckage on top to make a lousy song out of them. There’ve even been mashup tributes to unlikely subjects like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and the practically ancient Australian entertainer/sex criminal Rolf Harris. (Actually, The Rolf Harris Mashup CD is beyond bonkers, and kinda totally rules.)
And still, ten years after Grey, contenders continue to appear. Someone using the name Aesop Waits released Tom Shall Pass this year, with remixed Tom Waits music beds underpinning vocal tracks from rapper Aesop Rock’s acclaimed 2007 album None Shall Pass, and I’ll be damned if it ain’t half bad at all. Since Waits’ old-timey rhythms and timbres don’t easily lend themselves to hip-hop treatment, the DJ here had to go to some effort to make this combination work, and to my reckoning, he (she?) did a good bit better than 50/50—the demented circus-falling-down-a-flight-of-stairs stylings of Waits’ music complements Aesop’s complex and impressionistic lyrics better than I’d have guessed. The best include “Reeperlawn,” “Undercomb Kids,” “Singapore Harbor is Yours,” “Knife Dance for the Whole Family,” and “Dark Heart of Istanbul.” (Each title is itself a mashup of the titles of the combined songs, if you didn’t catch that.) The tracks that fail are the ones that lean too heavily on extraneous drum loops, basically stomping all over the grooves inherent in the Waits samples, prompting wonder at what the point of even using them was in the first place.