“Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell. About three bad brothers you know so well. It started way back in history. With Adrock, (M.C.A.) and me (Mike D.)” Bet you didn’t know I could rap. Don’t worry, I only attempt it when I hear those boys. My boys. The Beastie Boys. Yes, those boys, the rap-rock, hip-hop, punk-funk trio I jammed to in my youth. My BB era was the 90s, the Check Your Head/Ill Communication era, the Lollapalooza, Quadraphonic tour era (I saw them play live 3 times) but these game-changers made music together for almost thirty years. BBB is a memoir/band history/discography/tribute written by surviving members, Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond, and it is sublime.
These days, their music makes me feel old and young at the same time, which I am finding is a delicious space to surf.– p 469 Amy Poehler, Beastie Boys Video Review
Listening to the audiobook took me right back to my teens as Mike and Adam recount their past, they are natural storytellers. Spanning their beginnings playing gritty dance clubs on the lower East Side and making minor hits with prank phone calls on Polly Wog Stew in ’82-all the way to their final album in 2011, and all the debauchery in between. I loved learning about their early days, the ways they were influenced by and owe major credit to Run DMC (it was DJ Run who wrote that opening lyric above to Paul Revere). Some stories I already knew; their regrets over the macho sexist antics committed on stage during the Licensed to Ill tour (they’ve made public and lyrical apologies) and dismissive treatment of founding member, Kate Schellenbach. Other anecdotes were new–getting weirded-out by Bob Dylan at Dolly Parton’s birthday party. I laughed/cried my way through chapter 15’s photo captions of the low-budget Sabotage video written by Spike Jones.
This inclusive vibe by many collaborators and friends is reason to listen to the audio, with chapters narrated by Jones, Jon Stewart, Amy Poehler, Roy Choi and others. But I have to recommend reading the book too, for the incredible photos and NYC street map, listing all the locations mentioned. The tale of how this inventive trio went from raucous rap caricatures to punk-hardcore hybrids to human rights advocates, is beyond infectious. I felt a witness to their rise and their stumbles, growing up along with them. Their creative abilities and fun-loving friendship is humbling to read about. It’s all a nostalgic goldmine, but the passages devoted to Adam Yauch and AdRock’s heartfelt tribute to their one-of-a-kind ‘Wild Card’ friend pushed this to my most satisfying read of the year.
Did you listen to the Beasties? What other band histories would make a magical read?