It all started with the album Check Your Head. I’m sure I heard some earlier songs, but it all began with that album. I got the CD and flipped through all the photos as if maybe during one of the many times I looked through them, secrets would be revealed. Slipping the CD into my car deck, I went to pick up my two best friends and blasted “Funky Boss” as we drove past the kosher burger spot where I worked. We were moving so hard to the song, I completely forgot that I was driving. From that point on, the three of us saw ourselves as beasties. Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence (which is what it stood for). We learned their instrumental tracks (that the Beasties compiled on an album called In Sounds From Way Out). We would hit my basement – I on drums, my friend Jacob on bass and sometimes vocals and our friend Daniel on guitar. Once “Sabotage” hit MTV, it was over; they owned our attention at that point. In that music video, Spike Jonze brilliantly parodied old cop shows – from the outfits to the exaggerated slow motion close up shots to the low budget machismo. “Sabotage” was probably the song we liked jamming and screaming to the most. The Beasties and this album in particular blended everything we loved into one silver compact disc – punk, rock, and hip hop and to sweeten our intrigue, they were Jewish just like us.
The image on the cover of the new Beastie Boys book dates two albums prior to Check Your Head. It looks like the License to Ill days when they were still with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons’ Def Jam trying to do their version of RUN-DMC, and the story behind how they became rappers after being punk rockers is how the live book event kicked off.
Throughout the night both emcees and the audience felt the loss of the 3rd Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch (MCA). He was very much a part of every aspect of the story, but his absence on stage was felt throughout. The night’s stories and skits were broken into Chapters and Mike D and Ad-Rock kept to the teleprompter and projector to keep the night moving. There was endless ground and epic tales to cover and it was already evening on a Sunday night. The first chapter told the story of punks and outcasts who would go to fringe shows that were only attended by 12 or so people. They were all bound to meet up and become friends. A young Michael Diamond fronted the first incarnation of the Beasties in 1981, with Kate Shelabach on drums and John Berry on guitar. As Diamond and Shelabach got more into hip hop, Berry left the band, and as Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) described it tonight, he joined the band as the guitarist because he happened to be standing there and there was no one else. This is how it all began, and the book covers bits and pieces before and way after that moment.
The book is a panoramic experience that describes the story of the Beasties, which includes contributions from Amy Poehler, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson, and more. The audio book includes narration by Steve Buscemi, Bete Midler, Nas, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Jon Stewart, and approximately 40 more celebrities who are without a doubt fans themselves.
The book event brought the stories to life while chronicling the bands’ albums. They focused mainly on the first few LPs, where Mike D and Ad-Rock took turns taking the lead on a story, while the other changed his costume readying himself for a skit. Often times, they both went off stage as a video played or Mix Master Mike did a scratch routine to a bit from the Beastie catalog. Despite being 52 years old, both emcees have maintained their high pitch youthful voices and wit. The way they riff off each other and crack themselves up as they run through the stories and skits, for what is now their 4th night, reminds me of all the interviews they would do back in the day. I tried to catch every one of those interviews back then, so much so that I had my VCR set to record anytime they might be on MTV. I simply had never seen any rock stars like them before – they were so goofy, but in the coolest way and they had always played with the interviewers. They did not make fun of them in a malicious way, but in a way that almost made fun of the whole process, but in a Beastie Boy way, a way that can’t be described and can only be experienced. The Beastie Boys Book event was certainly live and direct, but also an opportunity to experience it all over again!
– by Erez Safar