Over the weekend I was hanging out with a few friends (including DM’s own Ron Kretsch) playing Left Center Right and someone put on Check Your Head and then Paul’s Boutique. Those two albums hold up as well today as they ever did, I tell you.
Check Your Head is swell, but Paul’s Boutique is the masterpiece IMO. I went looking for some info about the album and found this great clip in which the Beastie Boys are being interviewed by a German-speaking crew—an off-camera voice says something about “die Fotos will er haben” (“he wants the photos”) after zooming in on MCA holding up two Polaroids; the first words out of any Beastie’s mouth is “Lederhosen.”
The setting is Los Angeles, the date September 1, 1989. The trio are in high horseshit mode, selling the interviews an elaborate picture of the role of “Paul” in the “neighborhood”: “He does a lot of stuff in the community, so we figured ... help him out, you know?” says Ad-Rock. Then MCA pipes up that “Adam used to go out with Janice—Janice, she’s the manager. Paul doesn’t even hang out at the place too much. He like—he’s maybe like the financier.” Of course, there never was any Paul’s Boutique, not on Manhattan’s Ludlow Street, where the album cover was shot, and not “in Brooklyn,” you can’t call 718-498-ten-something and “ask for Janice.” Paul’s Boutique exists only in your mind and mine. [Oooops. Turns out there once was a Paul’s Boutique in Brooklyn, at 758 Linden Blvd. We can only guess if Adam ever dated Janice, or if there ever was a Janice.]
When the interviewer innocuously inquires about “B-Boy Bouillabaisse,” the twelve-plus-minute “medley” at the end of the album, the gang improvs an elaborate comparison to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—after all, Beethoven was deaf when he composed that, whereas the Beastie Boys are merely “stupid.” Ad-Rock pulls a Tufnel when he insists that Ludwig could have skipped the Ninth altogether and just composed the Tenth, while MCA riffs, “Just imagine if my man Beethoven had a fuckin’ sampler!” In no time flat they’re referencing Walter Murphy’s disco-tastic “A Fifth of Beethoven.”
I don’t think I can embed it, or else I would, but if you haven’t seen the marvelous “Paul’s Boutique: A Visual Companion,” you really need to check that out too, it’s a kind of album-length compilation designed to give every song on the album its own visual montage.
Mass culture machines love the status quo—a salesman, after all, is fattest and happiest when he knows what’ll sell and how to sell it. So when a sudden zeitgeist shift catches them with their pants down, it can be illuminating to watch them try to pull them back up. When the reset button got pushed in the early ‘90s and cult figures whose worldviews revolved around aggressive abnormality suddenly became the new rock royalty, things could get pretty damn funny.
One noteworthy moment was when Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore guest hosted MTV’s late night alternaghetto 120 Minutes. In the 1980s, that show featured some legitimately outré artists, but by 1994 watching that show was no longer significantly different from listening to commercial radio. Because of Moore’s untouchable underground bona fides, featuring him injected a fresh dose of off-the-path credibility into that show, and his interview with the then newly-rising Beck was pretty hilarious. Watch it here, it’s worth a few minutes of your life.
But weirder still is this bit of insanity from the same broadcast—Moore, Beck, and the Beastie Boys’ Mike D collaborating on a noise jam. This is what happens when you let the freakshow into the big tent—Dada in mass media. Rigoddamndiculous.
Ah, 1984, back when hardly anyone knew who the Beastie Boys and the Butthole Surfers were, and even a lowly New York City cable access show like The Scott and Gary Show could snag them—because nobody else was booking them yet! This is some kind of retrospective episode of the show (lasting about 30 minutes) in which Scott Lewis and Gary Winter reminisce about some of the show’s most memorable moments. The Beasties appeared in January 1984, not long after their pranky single “Cooky Puss” had made the rounds, and the Buttholes’ appearance dates from October 1984—their first visit to New York. (They popped up on MTV the next day.)
The Beastie Boys were two solid years away from the release of Licensed to Ill, and if I understand their history correctly, they hadn’t really considered doing rap in any serious way yet. Meanwhile, the Butthole Surfers had a single solitary EP to their name when they appeared on the show.
The Beastie Boys are frankly pretty terrible, prompting the thought that a lateral shift from feckless hardcore to feckless rap was a pretty good career move! Mike D. is in charge of the vocals, Ad-Rock is on the guitar, and MCA gamely tries to keep up on the bass. The drummer is Kate Schellenbach, who would later be in Luscious Jackson. Actually, Schellenbach probably has the best moves of anyone here.
How did I miss what an incredible ham/camera-hog Mike D. is? I don’t think I knew that before, I always thought that Ad-Rock was the hammy one. Well, there’s a reason that Mike D. has the mic here, and in the interview portion afterwards, he obstinately refuses to cede control to Scott, forgetting that he’s supposed to speak into the mic he’s clutching for it to function properly. (Side note: It was interesting to hear Mike D. confess that he attended Vassar briefly. I went to Vassar a few years later, and we would whisper this “rumor” that one of the Beasties had dropped out of Vassar…. this was all a couple years before Paul’s Boutique came out.)
The best adjective for the Butthole Surfers segment is “sweaty.” The Buttholes’ segment is a salutary reminder of the effectiveness of using two drummers—man, that shit works really good. If you have two drummers going at it balls-out, you can flail around on the guitar and throw yourself all over the stage, and it’s going to sound good. (I think Kid Millions has already figured this out.) Also, disrobing is a viable strategy. Gibby has spectacular polka-dotted boxers, and supports someone named Gilbert A. Rodriguez for county treasurer. By the time they’d gotten to October, Scott and Gary had figured out how to superimpose images, so sometimes the footage of the band will fade to an image of a mushroom cloud or something, it’s all pretty rad. Afterwards, Scott asks the audience, “Where else are you gonna see the Butthole Surfers?” and receives the reply “Uganda,” in return.
The commonality between the two clips is obviously Scott’s lack of authority as the host, which is actually kind of charming.
Saturday was the third annual MCA Day in New York City, a day of remembrance for the most enlightened Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch, who succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer on May 4, 2012, at the age of 47. A group of Tibetan monks decided to honor Yauch, who over the last couple decades may have done more than any other celebrity to put Tibet’s liberation struggle into the consciousness of twentysomethings, by breakdancing in Union Square. They look pretty good to me.
An energetic New Yorker wants to have the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where the remarkable 360-degree album art for the Beastie Boys’ classic 1989 album Paul’s Boutique was photographed, renamed “Beastie Boys Square.”
Here’s some of the news report, from DNAInfo’s Serena Solomon:
A Brooklyn resident wants to name the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington streets after the hip-hop trio, marking the corner shown on the cover of their groundbreaking 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique.”
“I think the Beastie Boys represent New York in a certain way,” said LeRoy McCarthy, 46, who earlier this year proposed a street co-naming for rapper Biggie Smalls in Clinton Hill.
“They grew up here. They are New Yorkers.”
McCarthy, a film location scout who previously worked for a record label in Atlanta, has gathered nearly 20 signatures so far on a petition for the Beastie Boys co-naming, including eight of the nine businesses on Rivington Street between Ludlow and Essex streets and many of the apartments on the block, he said.
He hopes to present his proposal to Community Board 3 soon.
“I think that the Lower East Side, what it used to be, is a good place to honor the Beastie Boys,” said McCarthy, who fell in love with hip-hop as a child.
“It represents New York. New York is always changing, New York is always on the move, New York is dirty [and] it is beautiful.”
McCarthy is also looking to do something similar for Wu-Tang Clan “in the Park Hill neighborhood of the hip-hop group’s native Staten Island.” I definitely support this idea, but (speaking as a resident of Staten Island, even if only for another forty-eight hours) I propose renaming the “Spirit of America,” the only Staten Island Ferry boat currently in service that is not named for a human being, after the obvious choice: RZA. I would certainly sign a petition to that effect, and in fact I think if you jump ahead 25 years or so, it’s almost inevitable. Because RZA rules.
Here’s a very good interview from the AV Club with Jeremy Shatan, who took the original 360-degree photo. The interview is very informative, I’m a Paul’s Boutique nut but there were things in here I didn’t know.
Goggle-eyed comedian Mantan Moreland is most famous for being chauffeur “Birmingham Brown” in the Charlie Chan movies, for his supporting role as one of Lucifer Jr.’s “idea men” in Vincente Minnelli’s all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, and for playing the hapless mailman in the “sick humor” cult favorite, Spider Baby. You know how some people are just so naturally funny that the minute you see them, you’re primed for laughter? Mantan Moreland has always had that kind of effect on me.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have inflicted King of the Zombies on unsuspecting friends in the 1980s. It’s a terrible, terrible film, but his scenes are hilarious. I’ve watched it a lot. Too many times!
The Beastie Boys must’ve been Mantan Moreland fans, too, as there is a particular punch-line from one of his rude-n-crude “party records” of the 1970s sampled in a song called “B-Boys makin’ with the Freak Freak” from 1994’s Ill Communication album. The line—“Shit, if this is gonna be that kind of party, I’m gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes!”—is (inexplicably) hilarious on its own, but here’s the entire routine from Mantan Moreland’s album “That ain’t my finger!”
It starts a bit slow, but stay with it.
Below, Moreland is basically the star of King of The Zombies, but he’s not given top billing, the white actors are. My favorite scenes are when he gets hypnotized into believing that he’s a zombie and the scene where he leads the zombies into the kitchen to be fed. He says a line in the scene that begins at the 54:00 minute mark that I have used as a “catchphrase” for decades: “As I member, I has privileges.” No one ever knows what I mean when I say that, but I laugh.
And it’s pretty clever and cool! Available in blue or red, the print is done the style of a French Country Toile, but depicts the imagery of Brooklyn. There’s Biggie Smalls, Coney Island’s famous Cyclone Roller Coaster, pigeons, and even a Hasidic Jew!
I’m sure a few curmudgeons will scoff, but come on; Mike D is actually Mike Diamond, a 47-year-old father of two. He’s been married to the same woman for 20 years—a music video director who wrote a vegetarian cookbook. He was born to an upper middle class Jewish family and he went to Vassar. How has he not already designed a wallpaper?
The idea was his, but it was executed by Vincent J. Ficarra and Adela Qersaqi of Revolver New York. Flavor Paper produced the design as wallpaper. The product is eco-friendly, and available for as low as $7 per square foot. That seems pretty affordable for an accent wall, right? (I have no idea, my walls are all crumbling drywall and exposed brick.)
Talking to [Kenzo creative director] Humberto [Leon], I wanted to honor what he was inspired by: American hardcore like Black Flag, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks but then I wanted to update it, or maybe couldn’t help put to update it… I have been listening to a fair amount of trap records and I think that found it’s way into things on this for sure… I definitely shared Humberto’s passion for American Punk and that raw energy and I think that informs the collection and the soundtrack I did.
Animated version of a 1985 interview the Beastie Boys did with Rocci Fisch for ABC News Radio in Washington, D.C. Topics include touring as Madonna’s opening act, nearly being arrested for saying “motherfucker” and “being stupid” in general.
Okay, this is an excellent way to end the workweek: A tribute to Paul’s Boutique by DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and DJ Food.
3 years in the making, 3 DJs working with over 150 tracks to recreate one of the seminal sampling albums of all time, at last Cheeba, Moneyshot and I can reveal ‘Caught In The Middle Of A 3-Way Mix’. Our tribute to the classic Beastie Boys album ‘Paul’s Boutique’ remixed and re-imagined from all the original samples plus a cappellas, period interviews and the Beasties’ own audio commentary from the reissued release.
See a list of all the samples used after the jump…
It’s still sinking in here that MCA-aka Adam Yauch- has died, and that, in effect, the Beastie Boys are no more. What a fucking bummer.
It’s an inescapable fact that the Beastie Boys are one of the bands that define my generation. If you were a child at any point from the mid 80s up until the late 90s you cannot have escaped their influence. And I’m not just talking about their music; their aesthetic reached everywhere, from film and music videos to magazine publishing and clothes lines.
I feel like my generation (and I use that term loosely) don’t have a singular iconic figure they can point too, like a Prince or a Bowie. You know, that one person that unites an entire age group through sheer talent and poise. Well, the Beasties may not have had the incredible album-a-year productivity rate of Prince or Bowie at their prime (in fact they were legendarily slow at making music,) but their extra-musicular activites more than made up for that, and meant that when their albums did drop it was a major event.
More than just the music on its own, more than the Grande Royale magazine and record label, more than fantastic the art work or the trend-setting X-Large clothing range, it was the Beastie Boys incredible videos that set them apart, and brought their diverse fan base together. They really knew how to work in different media while retaining their core identity, making them some of the first and most successful rap music entrepreneurs, and this placed them right at the centre of the 90s golden age of both hip-hop and music videos. And there steering the helm of most of those awesome Beastie Boys promo clips was Yauch himself, often in the guise of Swiss director Nathanial Hornblower.
My God, looking back now it’s startling to think of how these videos have influenced my life and my addiction to (and perception of) pop culture.
I caught the raunchy video for ‘She’s On It” on TV when I was about 8 years old and the image of Mike D sliding an ice cube down a bikini-clad model’s back has been seared into my brain ever since. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in that shot at the time (hey, I was too young and too sheltered) but there was naked flesh and it was naughty and exciting. I still remember that tingly feeling of not wanting my parents to walk in and see me watching the video. Even though that’s a feeling that returned often in my teenage years, I guess I can say that seeing “She’s On It” was one of my first childhood sexual experiences.
When I was 13 the promo for Check Your Head‘s opening track “Jimmy James” was a staple on late night European cable music channels, the kind I would creep downstairs and watch on low volume while my parents were asleep. It was hard to keep the volume on this one down, and the visuals themselves were a hypnotic template for everything I thought rocked in the world at the time - New York subways, vintage go-go strippers, dope looking rappers filmed in fish-eye lenses, burning 8mm film, Jimi fucking Hendrix. At this point the Beastie Boys were a bit of an unknown quantity in the UK press, as their reputation stemmed largely from the License To Ill “frat” period (Paul’s Boutique was still being seen as a costly, if interesting, flop.) Still, “Jimmy James” (and “So Watcha Want”) was THE SHIT, and helped spread the word of mouth amongst listeners and the journos alike about how great Check Your Head was.
Early 1994 saw the release of “Sabotage”. Sure, the clip was directed by Spike Jonze, but Yauch’s fingerprints were all over it. I don’t think I need to write much about this video, only to say that it really was a cultural milestone for people my age. Almost single handedly it ushered in a new era. Out went heroin-chic and woe-is-me grunge, and in came a new sense of fun (with a healthy dose of irony.) Here was an appreciation of pop-culture’s bargain bin that tied in nicely with Tarantino, some new looks that were equal parts vintage and street, and most importantly of all an incredibly broad musical palate where anything went.
Beyond the stone cold classic video, “Sabotage” pushed boundaries musically. Yeah, so it may be a straight forward punk song, but how many ‘rap groups’ had ever done something like that? In fact, me and my friends didn’t really perceive the Beasties as strictly a ‘rap group’ per se, even though (obviously) they rapped. They were more than that. Presumably because they were white and played actual instruments on occasion, they weren’t talked about in the same hallowed tones as Cypress Hill or Public Enemy. But they were very much a gateway to those bands, and the more commercial hip-hop that followed, and their blessing of the above mentioned acts with tours and remixes made it feel ok for middle-class white kids to define themselves as “rap fans.”
Last year’s video for “Make Some Noise” brought the band back in to the limelight, not least for the starry cast list: what other modern act would be able to convince Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Elijah Wood to play them in a clip AND THEN rope in Ted Danson, Kirstin Dunst and Will Ferrell for additional cameos? But the real fan treat was the clip for “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”, which featured G.I.Joe-style puppet versions of the band doing battle underwater, on ice, and even at a music festival.
Adam Yauch was a visionary, and should be remembered for his film work just as much as his music. In fact, he brought music and film together better than anyone else up to that point, and for that has to be counted as a huge influence and inspiration on the artistic endeavours of myself and my peers. I probably wouldn’t do what I do now if it weren’t for him.
And he did it while wearing a ginger wig and lederhosen. Here’s a strange (and strangely touching) short film of Yauch David Cross [? - what’s going on here?] as Hornblower, shooting the shit on a NY Street and engaging in a game of chess with a labrador:
Adam Yauch, aka MCA, aka Nathanial Hornblower (August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012.)
Rest In Peace.
After the jump, videos for the above mentioned Beastie Boys songs, and a 1992 interview with the band featuring Yauch (yes, definitely Yauch this time) in full Hornblower attire…
Footage from the 1989 record release party of the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique album on the rooftop of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Hard to imagine that this iconic building is being converted into condos!
I sent this clip to my old pal Sean Fernald, who was a marketing exec at Capitol at the time and he wrote back saying that he “remembered that day well.” They really were beastie boys back then. Now they’re beastie men...
For its 20th anniversary in 2009, Paul’s Boutique was remastered in 24-bit audio that significantly improved upon the murky mastering of the original CD.
Before Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City hit the markets in the late ‘80s, New York culture maven Michael Holman first made the move to put hip-hop culture on TV with the show Graffiti Rock.
In 1984, Holman—who played music with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent Gallo in the legendarily obscure band Grey—got a bunch of banker friends to put together $150,000 to shoot the pilot for the series at Madison Ave. and 106th St. It screened on WPIX channel 11 in June 1984.
Holman turned the show into a seminar on the culture. Alongside future superstars Run D.M.C., Kool Moe Dee and Shannon—and cameos by “Prince Vince” Gallo and Debi Mazar—he featured his own crew the New York City Breakers, pieces by graf artist Brim, and hilarious slang translations. For the time, the show is pretty slick and ready for prime-time. Holman picks up the tragic story from there…
So the show airs and actually does much better than people thought! We got great ratings and aired in 88 syndicated markets, nationwide. But when we went to Las Vegas to sell the show at NAPTE (National Association of Producers of Television Entertainment) we hit a wall. First, the station managers (the people responsible for purchasing new shows in their markets) didn’t understand why “Graffiti Rock,” and hip hop was different to what Soul Train was offering. Secondly, certain stations wouldn’t take the chance to buy “Graffiti Rock,” unless other, larger markets did first. Chicago was waiting on L.A. to bite, and L.A. was waiting on New York. But the major New York syndicated stations at the time, were controlled by unsavory characters, and they wanted money under the table to put the show on the air! My main investors refused to deal with these forces (I of course would have done whatever I had to to get it on the air, and am still pissed they didn’t play along!)...
Graffiti Rock proved a legendary snapshot into what hip-hop TV was about to be. What a shot in the arm it would have been for the culture. Gnarls Barkley would later lovingly spoof Holman and the show for the video for their 2008 hit “Run” and before that, the Beastie Boys sampled Holman’s excellent little seminar on scratching in pt. 2 on their tune “Alright Hear This.”
I’ll leave part 3 of the YouTube of Graffiti Rock off this post in an appeal for you to reward a culture hero like Holman by buying the DVD.