Friday, May 4, 2012

The Death of a Beastie Boy

Judging by the many positive Facebook posts concerning the passing of Adam Yauch (MCA), I’ve decided to publish this post sooner than later. So, please excuse the type-os and grammar mistakes.

Back in 1986, my brother, his girlfriend and my good buddy Bill Jarvis were driving over to the Wheeling Park to go ice skating.
“Check this out,” my brother said tossing a cassette tape into the back seat. “This is awesome, you gotta hear it.”

I grabbed the cassette box and stared at the image. A smashed airplane on the cover. Licensed to Ill. The Beastie Boys. WTF?
Sure, I had heard ‘Fight for Your Right to Party’. Who hadn’t. It was a national rock/rap anthem for our generation. A call to arms to stand up and party ‘til you puke. I had even seen the video on NBC’s Friday Night Videos – our only outlet for fresh, new videos waaaaay before our family signed up for cable and Mtv.

My brother tossed in the tape. I was hooked.
“Who the hell were these three white guys,” I thought to myself. “Rapping like black guys and doing a kick-ass job at it, to boot.”

Paul Revere. Slow and Low. Rhymin’ and Stealing. Brass Monkey. The New Style.
This music was new. This music was fresh. This music was different.

I bought the tape myself a couple weeks later. Matter of fact, I had that same cassette tape with me in 1990 when I headed off to Columbus. By the time, I moved to a CD, the cassette tape was completely worn off. I had to take a black Sharpie marker and etch ‘Beasties’ on the side of the tape.
Along with my other two buds - Matt Dieter and Chris Vermillion - we performed ‘No Sleep Til Brooklyn’ during our sophomore year dressed as The Beastie Boys in a lip-sync contest. It was one of the ballsiest things I had done at that point in my life.

Then, in 1989 - 18 days after my 17th birthday - Paul’s Boutique was released. I bought the cassette at a mall in Myrtle Beach with my buddy Brian Zupko. This was an insane album, sampled to the nines with music from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan. It was another musical masterpiece, which catapulted these guys to another level.

Egg Man. Hey Ladies. Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun. The Sounds of Science. Shadrach.
This music was new. This music was fresh. This music was different.

Three years later, with the Beasties a distant high school memory, during my freshmen year at Ohio State, there were small murmurs and whispers from Rolling Stone and other high-profile entertainment magazines that the crew was releasing a new CD.
To my surprise, during Spring Break of 1992 in Daytona Beach, it was announced that The Beastie Boys would be premiering their new video and single ‘Pass the Mic’ from their upcoming album ‘Check Your Head’.

We bought cases and cases of beer and drank, and waited, and drank, and waited until 5 p.m. (or was it 6 p.m.) constantly checking the clock in anticipation of the video premiere. As the hour turned, the video came on, the jambox volume turned down and the TV volume cranked up.Pass the Micplayed and, three and half minutes later, the Beasties were back on the map.
A couple weeks later, my buddies Benny Dewitt, Jim Nipple and myself hung outside the local CD store during a midnight sale; anxiously awaiting our copy of Check Your Head. The line wrapped around the entire parking lot. After buying a couple 40-ouncers, making a quick stop to White Castle for some burger, we drove to Benny’s apartment and listened to, quite possibly, one of the best rap albums ever produced. We were in awe.

Funky Boss. Something’s Got to Give. Professor Booty. So What’cha Want (prophetically proclaimed by my buddy Tom Hawk as one of the best songs from the Beastie Boys after hearing it only once).
This music was new. This music was fresh. This music was different.

“If these guys tour,” Benny said. “We’ve got to see them no matter where they go.”
I nodded my head in total agreement as I sipped the last drop from my Mickey’s Malt Liqour.

Which, leads me to the first time I saw the Beastie Boys.
It was spring of 1992. Two carloads of guys drove down to Bogarts in Cincinnati. We met up with Matt, who was attending UC at the time. I was pumped. Firehose and Basehead opened up. And then, in all their glory, my three heroes popped up on stage. Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D, in the flesh.

And they played everything.

The played most of their licks from the Licensed to Ill album, choice raps from Paul’s Boutique and virtually all the songs from Check Your Head (or so it seemed).

Not lying. This was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life, with Faith No More’s Angel Dust performance at Newport Music Hall a distant second.
Another road trip three months later in the dead of winter with two carloads of guys (and girls) to the Agora in Cleveland to see them with opener L7.

Three or four months passed and I got another call from Benny.

“Dude, Beasties are in Dayton,” he said. “We have to go.”
I didn’t have the money. But, utilities be damned, I went anyway. Thus, another road trip to the Hara Arena to see the trio with Rollins Band and Cypress Hill opening.

Three Beastie Boys concerts in under one year’s time. Life was good. Life was grand.
Two years passed and I had the opportunity to see the Beasties during their Ill Communication tour when they co-headlined Lollapallooza – a slot that they were supposed to share with Nirvana.

Once, in Columbus, where the sod flew. Then, again in Indiana, where the acid and mosh pit took control.
I didn’t see them live again. Not that I didn’t try.

I had a chance to see them in Cleveland during their Hello Nasty tour, but couldn’t scrounge up the dough.

I bought tickets to see them again - with about 20 friends – after their announced American tour with Rage Against the Machine. However, Mike D broke his collarbone in a biking accident in New York and all of the shows were cancelled.
And, finally, I had a chance to see them when they released ‘To The Five Boroughs’ and shot ‘Awesome I fucking shot that’ in Madison Square Garden. Alas, the tickets didn’t’ come through.

Fast forward to 2009. I heard Yauch had acquired some sort of cancer. Something with his salivary glands. Something that both he and Ad Rock made light of during a five-minute video on Doing some research, I also found out that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Almost like getting the ‘Good Type of Hodgkins’. Operation. Chemo. Radiation. New Album. Ready to Tour.

I held out hope that Yauch would get well- that, selfishly, I would get a chance to see these guys one more time. That I would call all my buds and we would rekindle our college years one more day and scout out a concert location like we did when we saw Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction a couple years back in 2009.
I was hoping for one last weekend with The Beastie Boys and my friends. One more trip down memory lane. Hanging out with my best friends and listening to the music that defined us and created so many memories.

Last year, I took a day off of work to celebrate my birthday (July 6). On that very day, the first thing that I did was travel to Target and purchase the Beastie Boys new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. With my wife in Singapore during my big day, I traveled Northeast Ohio blaring the beats and rhymes of The Beasties, who kept me company throughout that day.
And that’s why I’m writing this.

To me, this group was more than a group. They shaped the very fabric of who I was, who I am, how I think and how I act. They pushed the limits of their music and their capabilities. In turn, they motivated me to take chances with my drawing and my writing career and my life. If three white boys from Brooklyn can climb to the top of the charts as rappers, imagine what I could do?

For the past 25 years, these guys were constantly by my side via my headphones, my VCR, my DVD, my computer, my car stereo, my jambox, my CD player, and my iPod – everywhere and anywhere. The beats, the silly rhymes, the camaraderie, and the fun still seeps through me, motivates me and inspires me through the years.

Hell, this group will be with me until the day that I die.

Now, with Adam Yauch’s passing today, it has all come to an end. Done to soon.

I severely doubt that The Beastie Boys will tour again. There’s no point. The three made up the group. MCA’s raspy voice cannot be duplicated. And, what’s the point in diluting the band that was and always will be three MCs and one DJ?

In a way, the passing of MCA and the ultimate end of The Beastie Boys as we know it is truly sad, truly devastating. But, viewed another way, I’m just happy that I was able to live almost three decades with these rappers, these performers, these rockers, these merry pranksters and musical creators.
Kurt Cobain’s death was a tragedy. An unnecessary death by an unstable man.
However, I must say that Yauch’s loss is different in the sense that he had a lust for life, a zest for creation and innovation. He was a talented entertainer who didn’t necessarily want to leave this Earth at this moment. Or so it seemed.

Rest in Peace MCA.  It’s been a helluva ride, with a helluvalot of memories.
Your music will live on.

However, it was much nicer having you on this planet knowing that you were making music with your other two partners in crime.

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