The first time I saw this
album CD cassette cover it was hot off the presses in the fall of ’86. I was a high school junior listening to it in the little red (was it a Datsun?) pick up truck of a senior who I had a mad crush on. It was basketball season and he was a basketball star and so it was working out for me (JB would taunt me endlessly on the days we went to AP Calculus, sitting behind me: “N.I, N.I., N.I., N.I…” he would hiss) that aside, I remember being absolutely enthralled by every song on the cassette that would play on repeat as N.I. and I sat in that inconvenient little truck. One more reason to put up with N.I., I suppose. That “relationship” made it through the basketball season, about all one could have hoped for, but me and the Beasties lasted much longer.
We were white kids in the suburbs, stuck in a decade whose music would go from entetainting early 80s music to the shittiest era of music known to man. (I think our prom theme song was White Snake, or it could have been Bon Jovi – which has a little more retro-panache, but either way: Ouch.) I was always trying to find the next cool thing (or the next cool-all-over-again thing), musically speaking (well, with regard to boys too…) Some of my favorites at the time included The Cure, The Violent Femmes, Run DMC, The Rave-Ups, OMD, the Beatles, the Stones, and maybe a little Madonna.
Remember those? Not a bad sampling relative to what we were dealing with (and I still listen to almost all of of them – True Blue requires alcohol), but geneerally speaking, we were ready for something new.
The song I liked the best right away was “She’s Crafty” and then my next favorite was “Girls” (hey, it was 1986.) Then it was “Paul Revere”. Eventually I loved every song on the record except for “Fight for your right” – don’t know why, I just never liked that one. The whole album was a riot. And by riot I mean the entire denoted meaning: a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group,a government policy, etc., in the streets, a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes, violent or wild disorder or confusion, a brilliant display, something or someone hilariously funny. I recall my dad saying that it was a joke record. “They don’t play instruments,” he said. “I hope they are in on the joke,” he commented.
I think so.
License to Ill was hardly their best work. Paul’s Boutique and Hello Nasty may be my favorites. But then again, Check your head and Ill Communication are pretty awesome too. Suffice it to say, I just love the Beastie Boys.
In 2009 I won tickets to see them headline at Street Scene in San Diego thanks to a Twitter contest – it was the best prize I ever won. But then they had to pull out of the tour because MCA (Adam Yauch) was too sick to play. I was terribly disappointed, but mostly just relieved to know that MCA seemed to be pulling through by the fall of that year.
The Beasties would come up time and again in my life… last year succumbing to popular demand, a colleague and I lipsynched “Paul Revere” for our freshman, there is a video of it somewhere floating around YouTube. One of my seniors in AP Lit chose “Brass Monkey” for his song analysis as part of his culminating assignment for our unit on poetry analysis. I think he was trying to stick it to the man – the man being the teacher – by choosing the most nonsensical song he could. Who was laughing when I could school him on all the finer points of not only the album it come from, but the general evolution of the Beastie Boys, and their influence on hip hop? Well, really, we all were, but score one for the teacher. Most of my friends and I still make Beastie references with regularity: Hey Ladies!!
So on a sunny spring day when I hear that MCA was finally taken away by Cancer, I am overwhelmed with myriad emotions. One of the authors of the soundtrack to my high school and college years, MCA is indelibly imprinted on my musical heart and soul (probably my parents’ too as they had to listen to the music on constant reply for at least the last two years we lived together) is gone. It makes me a bit sad, somewhat nostalgic, totally Intergalactic, overly pensive, yell Hey Ladies, wonder Watcha Want, and overwhelmed with Gratitude.
But mostly it makes me wanna take a Slow Ride.
Thank you MCA. You made so many things so much more fun.
RIP Adam Yauch