Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tunesday: My thoughts on MCA, Beastie Boys

Timeless talent playing a sweet-ass mid-70s
Jazz Bass and wearing a dope-ass early 60s suit. 
Credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns
Don't let my posts from a few years ago fool you (The Day the Music Died and Remembering Michael Jackson) — I don't like writing about famous people's deaths. I'd much rather comfortably listen to their music and appreciate their artistry instead of listen to their music and ponder the immense loss.

But here I am, facing a futile objective — saying precisely why I will miss Adam "MCA" Yauch and The Beastie Boys. 

As a child who couldn't get enough of MAD magazine and Three Stooges humor, the silly lyrics on "License to Ill" and its goofy videos appealed to me. Fast-forward to 1989, when the brilliant "Paul's Boutique" came out — I was way-way-way too interested in thrash metal and hardcore to even give it a chance. Preoccupied with Metallica and D.R.I., I was unaware that the group was evolving and pushing the envelope lyrically and sonically. 

"PB" (the template for Girl Talk's work) has over 100 samples — most worth investigating. If someone put a loaded egg to my head, I'd say it's my favorite album. You can get super geeky like me and explore sample-by-sample and track-by-track right here. There's hours of entertainment that will expose you to the brilliance of The Commodores (main sample for "Hey Ladies") the old-school flavor of 4+1 ("Shake Your Rump" sample credited to the Dust Brothers, producers of "PB") and Gene Harris & The Three Sounds (main sample for "What Comes Around"). And that's just a fraction of the awesome music lessons on the album that introduced me to groups I otherwise would have never heard. 

I didn't become a full-out Beastie Boys freak until "Check Your Head" came out in 1992 — about a year after the music industry was turned on its head by alt-rock. At the time, I was a skateboarding teen who played bass (poorly) in a punk rock band; so I gravitated to Yauch, who along with the other Beasties, picked up the instruments they played back when they were a punk band in the late 70s and early 80s (fun facts: Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson was the original drummer; and Ad Rock joined the group last and they soon shifted their focus to hip-hop). Yauch played bass, I played bass. His simple lines were the glue to the group's punk tracks ("Time for Livin'" "Gratitude") and jams ("POW" "Live at PJ's"). I learned them all as I cobbled together my technique. In 1994, when I heard that Yauch was bustin' his ass to learn how to play upright bass ("I may be a hack on the standup but I'm workin' at it")  I was obsessed with learning to play, too.

Throughout high school, if you hopped in my Jeep, there was a 98 percent chance I had "Ill Communication" in the tape deck. During my college years, f you hopped in my other Jeep or popped into a party at my place, there was a good chance "Hello Nasty" was in the CD player. If you strap on your ear goggles and listen to my iPod Shuffle, 1 out of 5 songs you hear will be a B Boys track. Seeing them in the round for the Hello Nasty tour's San Antonio stop still ranks among the best concerts I've attended. The energy on each song — rapping or playing — never wavered. True performers.

MCA had great lyrics and delivery (the only B Boy whose voice couldn't shatter glass), smooth style and he was a helluva guy — the thinking-man's B Boy (Buddhist, vegan, took up Tibet's cause). I never met the man or his band; but the Yauch and the Beasties seemed like family, like the older brothers I never had (funny, my sister purchased the "Licensed to Ill" cassette that started it all). They helped me form my taste in music. There's no chance I'd like hip-hop as much as I do without them.

I know I'm never going to stop listening to the Beastie Boys. Ever. 80 years old and listening to "The Mix-Up"? Bank on it. 

1 comment:

That Pink Girl said...

Well, well, well, Mr. T, your faithful readers, confident that the Beasties would once again be the topic of Tunesday, have been waiting not-so-patiently for this post. Trust me, we had a meeting.

Upon arriving back home this weekend, I actually busted out my old CDs (but no cassingles) since the sound quality is far superior to the AAC format. My very favorite is Check Your Head, purchased Tower Records all those years ago. Or maybe it was a used record shop on Greenville. No telling. (Remember those things called record stores? Endless hours of entertainment)

It's like watching a part of your adolescence die. Too young to actually be mortal, yes?

"As the Earth spins into a brand new day
I see the light on my horizon's not fading away
Gonna shine from within like a bright white sun
No need to hide and no place to run"

Shine on MCA, shine on.