Beastie Boys Book- review

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?

5 thoughts on “Beastie Boys Book- review

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  1. My sis has this book and I’ve been meaning to read it. Love the Beasties!! MCA has always been my fave. RIP Too tragic.
    I’ve never listened to an audio book, but I’m thinking this one would be so fantastic from how you described.
    I read so many musician and music group, band biographies and autobiographies in high school. I really got away from it since then.. I gotta get back at it. So many ones written in the meantime. ❤

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    1. You must read/listen April, it is truly kinda special. I don’t think I would have had the same reaction if I hadn’t been able to hear Adam, Mike and others’ voices. You can hear the heart in the telling, which made it magical, plus it’s pretty funny. The only section I didn’t relate to was the intro? describing a late 70s music scene in NYC, otherwise it was gold.
      I had never read a band bio before, but now I feel more attuned to them.
      It’s ironic, I never appreciated MCA as I should have; I was always more into the boyish AdRock-what a goofball. After reading, I realize how incredibly creative and unique MCA was-and so much more mature and good-looking- he was the heart of the group<3

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  2. Ill Communication was my end-of-high-school-jam. NOTHING screams suburbia more than a bunch of white girls packed into some unfortunate parent’s Lincoln cruising down the street to Sure Shot. 🙂 Ah, memories. I think I need to hear this rap for myself, though – I bet you do a fine Get It Together.

    The most fascinating thing I ever saw about musicians was a Behind the Music about Aerosmith, who I’m fine with – not a favourite, but damn if I don’t get very excited when I hear, say, Love in an Elevator. But THEY – as in the guys in the band – were just totally insane in their early days. Probably still, but I’m guessing as you age into your senior years you lose that zest for drugs and gun play and strippers and dying on stage. I knew they were wild, but I didn’t comprehend exactly how wild. I’d totally read more about them.

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    1. I’m heavily nostalgic for those Ill Communication days rn, but I couldn’t truly rap Beasties style unless I had backup vocal on every third word, it was their signature. Maybe I could scratch out Paul Revere, because they certainly broke all over the place with it.
      Sweaty spandex is most def not my jam, never been into screechy Aerosmith except with a brief flirtation posing as Alicia Silverstone in the Cryin’ video. (ppl used to say I looked like her bc my hair used to be that glorious, :'{
      I am only now interested in band bios, I will keep my eyes peeled.

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      1. You’ll still FRY me in your WOK? I’ll be your third word emphasizer (also, wok-based cooking comes up more than once or twice in the Beasties’ work. Not sure if you’re a Wu fan, but the RZA was a great one – still is – for rapping about cooking. Yup, Shaolin warriors, cooking and role playing games. Weird dudes.)

        Alicia Silverstone’s hair was FANTASTIC in that video – I’m jealous of your ’90s coif twin. My hair twin was “Whose chopper is dis?” from Pulp Fiction, which is unfortunate, because she – we – had a full on bowl cut. I remember thinking that the Cryin’ video was so grown up – like, this is what really dramatic young people do, right? Get dumped, get a tattoo removal, get an ill advised piercing and then pretend to throw yourself off a bridge in your Docs just to get away from Stephen Dorff?

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