I remember when I first heard the Beastie Boys. It was 1984, and I quickly memorized “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, my then-favorite track on the album. These guys were hilarious, I thought. They mixed metal, which I was into (Led Zeppelin, especially) with rap and it was joyous, but with a little bit of a mean spirit to it. I remember the controversy about their live shows with gogo dancers in cages and huge dildos on the stage. But to a 14 year old, that didn’t really matter.
Later that year, I saw them on Soul Train, which I watched each Saturday morning on DC20.
I was as baffled as you and the dancers. “Who are these guys somersaulting around the stage?” I wondered. But I quickly got way, way into them. After college, I moved out West to San Francisco and my new roommates were serious fans, as well. By now, I was a hip hop head. I loved Public Enemy, De la Soul, Black Sheep, and many others. I was way into reggae and dancehall, but the evolution of the Beastie Boys also felt something like my own. They had gone from jokey party music that seemed almost mocking to being actual b-boys. My favorite album of theirs of all time is Paul’s Boutique.
The Boys were dropping references to Sadaharu Oh and Vincent Van Gogh, still joking, but cleverer now and still having fun. To this day, I find myself murmuring some of these lyrics to myself from time to time: “Makin’ love in the back of my Coupe de Ville.” Or “Tom Thumb, Tom Cushman, or Tom Foolery. Dating women on TV with the help of Chuck Woolery.” Just a fresh song. The rhythm in the lyrics is classic and melodic.
While I lived out in SF, Ill Communication came out, along with the video “Sabotage.” I went to the record store and happened upon a vhs tape of the videos from the album, which I snapped up. My roommate and I went and saw the Beastie Boys at Lollapalooza that year, leaving after their set and before the Smashing Pumpkins started. I bought all their albums and some of the stupid compilation albums that come out just to make money.
Nowadays, I don’t listen to their albums as much (I’ve got Paul’s Boutique on vinly, Aiglio e Olio on vinyl, a few others), but the news of MCA dying really struck me.
It struck lots of other people, too, and recently, there’s been lots of online stuff in memory of MCA. This video really stood out as capturing the fun and insouciance of the Beastie Boys.
So, I guess the connection to the Manifesto here is severalfold. One is that I want to share good music with the boy and have him like it with me. That didn’t really work with my dad; he’s way into classical and I’m not. Two is that I enjoy the fun of the video. The dad and the kids obviously very much enjoyed making the movie. That didn’t really happen with my dad too much, either. We did have some fun projects and we certainly had great experiences together: camping, canoeing, rafting; fishing; all sorts of great travels together. We didn’t do much creation of art together. And that doesn’t really matter, I guess, the end result of the interaction. It’s just that we interacted, and that the boy and I will do so, too. Finally, I guess there’s some sense of mortality overcast on all of this. MCA is basically my age. Have I done enough in the world or, more importantly, in my family? How can I do that? It’s probably an unanswerable question. I have somewhere in my files a letter my father wrote me when I was 5 about him and about me and acting as a note of advice in case he wasn’t around to talk with me. One thing that has stood out was his idea that we value macro level accomplishments and actions more than micro level ones, but that we are doing ourselves and thoise microlevel actions a disservice in not holding them in enough esteem. I don’t have to change the world; I need to change me and make my family better.