Tag Archives: The Beastie Boys

Guest Blogger “BK”: The Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

16 Jun

BK is the first in a series of Guest Bloggers who agreed to share their thoughts after following along with my blog via BoardGameGeek.  I may never have met BK in person, but he nonetheless feels like a friend.

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By 1989 the luster had slowly began to rub off of my copy of Licensed to Ill.  I had sung along to “Slow and Low” for the last time and had retired my well used cassette to the box of leftovers.

Enter Paul’s Boutique and suddenly a group that I had seemingly outgrown, decided to grow up a little bit with me.  To this day, I have not had a car that did not have a well-worn copy of the Beastie Boy’s Paul’s Boutique in it.  It remains one thing from my sometimes misguided youth that I cannot leave behind.

After departing from Rick Rubin and Def Jam, many had written off the Beastie Boys as a One Album Wonder.  But with the help of the Dust Brothers, the Beastie Boys cemented themselves in the minds and ears of America’s youth with Paul’s Boutique.  It was experimental, it was fun and most of all, it was good.

Most of the backing tracks were samples, something that would be impossible for someone to do today.  104 songs sampled through the 53 minutes of music, most of it legally.  Even though by all accounts this album wasn’t successful when compared to the over 9 million copy selling License to Ill, what it allowed the Beastie Boys to become in the future meant it was far more important.

It allowed them to keep recreating themselves, keep growing as artists.

The slow organ intro dedicating the album to “All the Girls” leaps deftly into the sampled drums from Harvey Scales’ “Hot Foot” to introduce you to the new Beastie Boys sound.

“Shake Your Rump” was a breath of West Coast fresh air from these seemingly mindless middle class party animals.  The groove was deep, the sound was funky.  It was something no one expected from them and it was near perfect.   They still had their silly moments;  “Egg Man”, “The Sounds of Science”, “High Plains Drifter” or “Hey Ladies”, but for the most part this was a coming of age.

And for all the silliness that was “Hey Ladies”, the song was layered so densely with samples from Sweet, P-Funk All Stars, Deep Purple and nearly a dozen other artists it could have been a jumbled mess, but it came out just as smooth as the rest of the album.

The second half of the album kicks off with the strange “Three Piece Chicken Dinner” leading right into the driving guitar sounds and booming bass from Yauch and Horovitz on the track, “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun”.  It’s the beginning of that Beastie sound we would hear in the years to come, they become more and more comfortable with their own instrumental sound.

The kicker for me on this album has always been “Shadrach”.  The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendnego from the Book of Daniel tells us of when three Princes who refused to bow before the statue built before King Nebuchadnezzar, the King then ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace.  The three princes believed that their God would save them and thusly were cast into the flames only to survive.

“Shadrach” to me, was about the Beastie Boys throwing down their gauntlet, they weren’t going to make another album like all of their predecessors.  They were going to make their own way.

And they most certainly did.

—–

BK says:

I’m just a happily married guy in Middle America, raising two kids as best my wife and I can with games, music and as much fun as we can pack into their youth. Through all of my hobbies as a kid and an adult, my music collection has always been the one constant. What started out as vinyl Abba albums, K-Tel and listening to ELO, Norman Greenbaum and T-Rex in my Uncle’s room in the early 80s has turned into digital albums instantly downloaded to my phone, what a strange technological world it is, but it’s all music to my ears.

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[62] The Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

13 Jun

Twenty years ago this month I first arrived at the summer camp that has become both career and second home, and the soundtrack of that summer was The Beastie Boys’, License To Ill.

Paul's Boutique

Paul’s Boutique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost everyone I met, campers and staff, were Jewish kids from Brooklyn or Queens and they all thought they *were* Beastie Boys (even some of the girls.)

It didn’t matter that the album was already almost ten years old – License To Ill was in every Walkman, on every Jukebox, on every bus ride, and on everyone’s lips.

The pairing of comfortable rock riffs and attitude with cartoonish rhymes and tongue in cheek mischief was irresistible to me then, and the same is true two decades later of the follow up album, Paul’s Boutique.

The energy and playfulness is all encompassing, and the childish boasting of crime and violence is done with just enough of a wink that you don’t actually believe a word.

And those words! They just keep on coming, rapid-fire and relentless so that with each listen there is another reference to catch.  And another, and another.

Like Love/Hate who called themselves “the stoopidest band in the world” a few years later, The Beasties cram their frat-boy nonsense full of unexpectedly powerful social commentary, right alongside the sex and drugs and ultraviolence.

Snuck in amongst miles of lyrics designed to upset parents are shining moments of clarity, shattering the clown act, for it was clear even before the Boys spelled it out years later that it was an act.

Moments like the one midway through “Egg Man” where we hear

“You made the mistake judge a man by his race / You go through life with egg on your face.”

The juxtaposition of a line like this with the seemingly puerile near nonsense that proceeds it can’t help but catch your attention.

The album is littered with references to scientists, artists and all manner of pop culture, but it is not just the lyrics that provide a never-ending feast of “Where’s Waldo” (“Where’s Wally” if you’re English) moments.

There are entire websites devoted to documenting the hundreds of pieces of music sampled here to provide the soundscape over which the rapping occurs.

The most casual of listens reveals Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, but *everything* sounds familiar, and it turns out with good reason.  Every genre, every sound has been coopted, cut down and shaped to the needs of the song – dozens and dozens of tiny pieces for each track. They even sample License To Ill!

The result is musically stunning.

It is amazing to think that Paul’s Boutique at once took making music to another level, while at the same time garnering just enough attention to ensure that laws were soon passed (or at least enforced) meaning that no one could make music in quite this way again.

For that reason alone it would be well worth a listen in the scope of “recordings to hear before you die.” That it still sounds fresh and frisky, embarrassing and infuriating, important, ridiculous and catchy as hell all at once even twenty-five years later is way beyond gravy.

Next Week: The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

Owned before blogging? No. (3 of 62 = 5%)
Heard before blogging? No. (5 of 62 = 8%)
Recommend? Yes. (49 of 62 = 79%)

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